Every great project needs a great leader. Leadership is something that can greatly influence the subsequent success (or failure) of your project and the sad truth is that leadership is something that is assumed will just happen and is not actively sought out.
It’s often left to the Project Manager to take on the role of a team leader in addition to being responsible for the overall health of the project. In reality, not all PM’s necessarily always have natural team leader qualities and so there could be a better appointment.
Here are some of the fundamental attributes that a team leader needs to demonstrate in order to positively affect a project:
Not only must a leader be trusted by his team, but an effective leader should also work towards building trust between team members themselves. Trust is earned, of course, but can be encouraged by demonstrating leadership that simply makes things that need to happen, happen. Be open to new ideas coming from team members and consult frequently with them to build this trust and respect.
A team without an identity is fundamentally just another team. A good team leader will be able to distinguish the team from others and turn them into something special. Standing out from the crowd should be important as, officially or not, each team is competing with each other and wants to be considered the best at what they do.
Knowing what needs to be achieved is another key variable that is often assumed. Team members and leaders often know what they want to achieve individually and as a team and store this information in their heads.
Related to getting the trust of your team, having confidence will be a key driver in getting your team to look up to you, respect you and want to work for you. Having confidence in the decisions that you make, who you delegate work to and in your own ability are vital.
Understanding the company objectives and being able to work towards those within a project is what can separate an effective team leader from an ineffective one. Whilst an ineffective leader may understand the company’s vision, being unable to translate those goals into deliverable actions can cause problems.
It sounds like an obvious one, but without enthusiasm for the subject in hand, a team leader will find it difficult to engage and motivate their team. For example, a software developer may find it difficult to relate to a non-technical Project Manager who does not understand the challenges that they might face.
There are of course many other attributes that a good team leader should have, but these are the fundamentals.
Picking the right team leader is critical and it should not be assumed that the Project Manager is the best person for this job. Consider the attributes needed to be an effective team leader and appoint accordingly. Remember that your project needs to be managed and – independently from that – your team needs to be managed. Two different agendas that can often be equally as demanding.
Project Manager’s who can effectively manage both, however, have a significant advantage over their peers!