Leadership is the ability to influence others, to gain their confidence, and to direct their tasks with their goodwill. Developing effective leadership skills and a leadership style that others will follow with confidence is a fundamental pillar to successful project management. Leaders create a vision, convince others that the vision is the right one, and coordinate disparate activities into a common cause through motivated commitment. I always imagine a project leader as a symphony conductor, responsible for making a wide breadth of instruments work together in harmony to produce pleasing music. A good leader knows how to coordinate the talents of many into harmonious collaboration. One’s leadership style is a function of personality, experience, and mind-set. Years of experience suggest that project managers are born and not made. Certainly, anyone can learn the essentials and practice the discipline to achieve a project manager position, and perhaps become very successful. However, not everyone can elevate the practice to new levels of effectiveness, efficiency, and leadership in a given organization. In the 1945 film Rhapsody in Blue, Oscar Levant, a contemporary and friend of George Gershwin, and a very accomplished musician himself, contrasted the early success of Mr. Gershwin with his own by saying they displayed the difference between genius and talent. Project management requires a mixture of skill and talent. (Of course, genius doesn’t hurt.) No matter how thoroughly you master project management methods, if you do not have the proper personality to deal with people, often at very chaotic times, then you will fail to coordinate them to act in harmony toward a common goal. Instincts play an important role when dealing with people, because so often the motivational factors that drive them and their behavior are already defined. The job of the project manager—or any leader, for that matter—is to uncover those motivational factors in order to create the best environment for individuals to succeed. Every leader must develop his or her own management style, and that style is rooted in one’s personality. There are many approaches and philosophies (McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, Ouchi’s Theory Z) that can assist with better and more effective management. The approach you choose, however, will have direct bearing on how people interact with you and whether or not they will take your call at five o’clock on a Friday. There is a saying, “You can judge the character of a man by the size of the things that make him mad.” This highlights the virtue of keeping focus on the most important things. Wisdom lies in knowing what to overlook and realizing that how you treat people is far more important than any project or deliverable.
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