Do you have a project or initiative right now that is not really going anwhere? If you were to ask others in the organization who the project lead is, would they have a name on the tip of their tongue? If they don’t, or if they give your name, which is even worse, the project is not really alive. Every project, no matter how large, small, or the type of project, needs a leader. They either naturally come forward because of a fit, or they are assigned. A project takes on the characteristics of an organization in that mulitple people will be involved. Some will be champions and contribute, some could care less, and some will seem like they are doing everything possible to derail the effort (usually not their intent). There is much psychology in leading a project – understanding how and when to motivate and influence others is crucial, and this is where leadership is necessary. At the highest level, internal politics and a high level of business acumen are necessary as well.
Project leaders must understand and never forget their role. Others depend on the project leader to keep things on track, on budget, manage scope, eliminate indecision, and to put their ego aside when necessary (no more egos are needed in a room full of people). Project leaders understand that there will be many different personal agendas and personalities involved in the project, and depending on the project there can even be some turmoil between team members (more often when working on external projects). We cannot always control who we work with or what their mission is, but we can undersand it from a psychological standpoint and act accordingly. It is when we choose not to understand it that we forget our role. The easiest thing to do is say “If they are going to be like that, forget about it” or “I don’t really like how they conduct themselves, so I am just going to win over this one side of the team and forget about them”. Guess what happens? The project fails. The mission of a project leader is to finish the project successfully and to lead in a way that even the toughest hurdles and/or people are more than satisfied by the outcome.
And when it comes to higher level projects, we have to take some time to understand the landscape and internal politics before we kick-off the project. Not only must a project leader know their role, but they must know the roles of the individuals involved, especially when we are working on a project for a client and a project leader is assigned on that side as well. In these situations it is our job to make them shine, even more so than ourselves.