Seven Ways to Show Leadership on Challenging Projects

Thanks to Danielle Smallwood for this post!!

Project managers need to be leaders. Leadership can be easy when things are going well; everyone will follow you then. However, when times are tough, leadership can be hard, but it is also more vital than ever. Here are some things to keep in mind to lead your team through the difficulty.

  • Keep your eyes on the big picture. When things get tough, everybody’s temptation is to become acutely focused on the problems. A leader stays focused on the vision of completing the project objectives.
  • Keep positive. When circumstances get tough, even the most loyal team members can be tempted to start blaming each other.  They begin to question each other and find many faults with one another. A leader must keep positive and act rationally and objectively.
  • Be the first to sacrifice. When there is pain to share, leaders should do just that – lead. If the team needs to work overtime, the project manager should work overtime as well. If the project team needs to come in on a weekend day, the project manager needs to be in as well.
  • Remain calm. Panic is a common human emotion and no one is immune to it. A leader, however, thinks the problems through and remains calm. Being calm will enable the leader to make the right decisions for the entire team. Panic only leads to disaster, while calm leads to success.
  • Motivate. In tough and challenging times, people are naturally down. They tend to be pessimistic. They can’t see how it is all going to work out. The project manager should focus on motivating the team and painting a vision for project completion and success on some level.
  • Create small wins. One of the ways to motivate is to create small wins. When things are bad, the team starts to wonder how they can win. The project manager should look for ways to win – even small, interim victories. With each small win, the leader will build a positive attitude.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Hardly anything in life can’t be a source of laughter. As the project manager you need to look for opportunities to instill fun, and laugh at yourself and the situations that present themselves.

A weak project manager is usually unable to get the team out of a large hole because he does not have the ability to lead the way out. When project managers show leadership, the team will follow – maybe not immediately, but eventually. The project manager is in the right position to lead the charge and get the entire project back on sound footing again.


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