Project Management Institute

Leadership

Colin Howard, Director of Embedding Centres of Excellence, office of Government Commerce, London, U.K.

Colin Howard, Director of Embedding Centres of Excellence, Office of Government Commerce, London, U.K.

Leaders are able to take charge of a situation and find a way forward. True leadership is “instinct,” which is why some people are regarded as born leaders and it is deemed difficult to train others to be leaders—although they may be excellent managers.

This instinct manifests itself in several practical ways. Leaders have the skills to set strategy, think laterally and lead the activity by example, while giving the team the responsibility to carry out its tasks and motivating it through personal enthusiasm and charisma.

My own leadership strength is the ability to communicate and work with other people in a positive, energetic way while thinking on my feet in quickly developing situations. Over the years, I have demonstrated other attributes of a leader—having a measured tread and avoiding panic, but at the same time knowing when to apply pressure to achieve results. In the context of my current employment—directing change in Central Civil Government in the U.K.—all of these attributes help influence a large number of departments and encourage the sort of culture change necessary to achieve stated aims.

This sort of leadership obviously needs to be applied within a framework to be effective, and the disciplines of project management provide this methodology. Project managers have the ability to provide clear responsibilities, controls and structure, so the team understands its goals and objectives.

Project managers who want executives and their team to regard them as better leaders must gain respect by developing vital attributes. They must have key knowledge of their domain area but also be capable of innovative thought. They must develop concise planning capabilities combined with a flexible approach to developing situations.

To motivate your team, you must communicate both up and down channels. Strong communication skills allow you to motivate senior management in order to gain their support. At the same time, you must be ready to challenge senior management's thinking and have the charisma and respect to be able to discuss difficult issues with them openly.

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PHOTO BY CHARLES SHEARN

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LEADERSHIP / 2005 / WWW.PMI.ORG
LEADERSHIP / 2005

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