Six Attributes of LeadershipDoes leadership have an effect on success? Is there a difference between management and leadership? Can leadership be learned? The answer to all these questions is yes. In this article, I will look at six attributes of project/program leadership. This is certainly not a complete list, just a start - one that I believe can help leaders achieve success.
1. Lateral thinking
The first attribute, lateral thinking, covers a variety of methods to get us out of the usual line of thought. It is this kind of thinking that cuts across the instilled and predetermined patterns we all too often employ when working on a problem. With this type of thinking we try different perceptions, different concepts and different points of view, as well as consider multiple possibilities and approaches. This does not mean that we automatically forget the way things have been; it means that we make sure we consider all options: the simple to the complex, the direct and indirect, and the straight and the circular path, leaving no stone unturned. Many problems we face as project and program managers and leaders require different perspectives to solve them successfully.
Often, there is little or no recognition for people who spend time on elementary problems - it's the big problems that receive all the attention. Yet, big problems usually start as minor problems. Because of personal and interpersonal attitudes of the leader, participants may develop the habit of ignoring problems until they explode, at which time they become big problems. Then, leaders want to go on record for being a problem solver. Heroics like this not only tend to be self centered, they can take away from the work of members. Empowered project teams correct this attitude. They focus on getting the job done while solving or preventing problems while they are still minor.
The ultimate paradox of leadership power is that to be an effective leader, one must turn all team members into leaders. In this way, relationships and the issues of leadership and empowerment become important. Successful leaders are able to motivate, to energize and to empower others by giving the team the authority, responsibility, tools and resources it needs. When people are excited and empowered, it affects both their task initiation and task persistence. That is, empowered people get more involved, take on more difficult situations, deal with issues as soon as possible and act more confidently. Empowered people expend more effort on a given task and are more persistent in their efforts.
The third attribute is optimism. Leaders are optimistic. They think positively. They extend this attitude from the present to the future. Positive thinking is more than just avoiding negative emotions; there are actions and forethought involved. It is an attitude, a view to life, an orientation. It manifests in the successful leader's words, actions, relationships and values. When negative events happen, excellent leaders purposefully look for something positive. Instead of feeling that they can't do something, they look at the problem as an opportunity for their and the team's development and growth.
4. Demand better
On-going self-assessment and self-evaluation are critical for ensuring growth for an individual and the team. It helps the leader and the team to meet objectives and have a positive impact. Demanding better is actually a simple idea; all one has to do is ask, "What are we doing now and what can we do even better?" Humans actually need to grow, it is vital to life! The process is based on feedback, self-awareness, openness and trust. Essentially, that's all there is to it. Asking the question over and over again focuses leaders on challenging themselves and team members. Further, it sets into motion an on-going self-evaluation and a focus on the development process of achievement. In return, this focus on the process brings positive results and eventually becomes a normal part of everyday life.
5. Encourage delegation
Delegation is one of the most important roles of a leader's job; the excellent leader's job isn't 'to do,' it is to gain or accomplish things through team members. The leader's time should be spent on such things as visioning, motivating, controlling and goal setting, and not on trivial jobs such as fighting fires or responding to interruptions and correcting errors.
Delegating relieves time-pressures, it provides the time to vision and create. It provides team members with an opportunity to expand their own skills in decision making and problem solving and encourages their creativity and initiative; it gives them the necessary ingredients for growth. At the same time, it motivates them to become what they are capable of being.
It forces the leader to spend time with team members, thus developing interpersonal relationships and skills. The feedback and attention will encourage team members on to greater things. It helps set performance standards based on member's accomplishments or results rather than purely on their activity and helps to increase results by releasing the leader from some day-to-day activities. Delegating allows the leader to step back and take a look at the bigger picture rather than get caught-up in the internal activities of the organization. The leader will then be able to think outwards for the better of the organization and not lose sight of the real goals.
6. Reside in the future
To meet future challenges, leaders must reside in the future. Only then can leaders set a vision with reasonable goals and promote the process of developing effective strategies to achieve them. Considering the future enables leaders to think constructively about it and, along with team members, do the things that contribute to achieving visions. Proactive future-oriented thinking can lead to greater team and organizational success. The future will happen, no matter what we do. If one wants a successful future, one needs to work at it.
A successful organization has a successful leader who demonstrates these traits:
- Lateral thinking
- Are optimistic
- Demand better
- Encourage delegation
- Reside in the future