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10 Things Great Managers Do

Being An Effective Project Leader – Part III

Being an Effective Project Leader

In my personal view project managers can become project leaders, if project managers exhibit/demonstrate following skills:

  • Influencing others
  • Political Awareness & Navigation
  • Marching courageously

10 Things Great Managers Do

Influencing others

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” – Robin S. Sharma

Influencing others mean influencing their ideas, judgments, sentiments and actions. In current business environment, project leadership to be effective has to influence others more tactfully than ever. Today work culture is influenced by global culture; team members, customers, vendors/partners are located in different states, countries, continents. Influencing global workforce in highly collaborative companies is even more challenging. Of course project leaders have to overcome other challenges like influencing people who don’t even report to you (directly or indirectly). That where the effective project leader is successful in influencing all section of stakeholders (not just who report to them but also over whom, s/he has no authority).

Effective project leader not just influence his subordinates or peers or customers/vendors, but also senior management in his organization as well as outside his organization. When I say influencing, it does not mean just impacting their opinion or ideas but also impact their actions to drive their support for project success, aligned with leader’s vision. Influencing styles may differ but its utility has the foremost importance to get the project on track for successful delivery

Political Awareness and Navigation

Project leader understands and is well aware of politics within and across organizations. S/he does not avoid politics but rather utilizes it in good way to realign it with his/her vision, seek and grabs opportunities to protect interest of his team and enablement of causes to drive project success.

Typically people are wary of office politics and especially worried about bad politics hence try to avoid getting involved in political affairs within organization or in client’s organization. However true project leader is not shy of political mind games because s/he is aware of the fact that

  • Some people have more power over others irrespective of their position within organization hierarchy
  • There are always individual’s with vested interest (personal and otherwise) to seek more visibility, career progression leads to inevitable competition, thereby possibility of compromising team’s/project’s objectives and goals
  • Organizations always have limited resources, limited opportunities hence people within organization have to compete for those limited resources and career progression opportunities. Such competition potentially leads to conflicts and politics.

Project Leader Makes Politics Work for him/her (of course for cause, in a good way)

First and foremost thing : that a good project leaders accept organization politics as a reality and does not shy away to make it work for greater good. In order to make it work, s/he has to be a great observer, listener; s/he need to build, expand & nurture network and also s/he need to have strategies to tackle positives and negatives plays of the politics.

Redraw the organogram (organization hierarchy)

Project leader should be aware of power centers in his and client’s organization. Keen observer and listener skill can help him/her knowing

  • Understanding professional and social graph within organization/li>
  • Who are real decision maker, influencer?/li>
  • Who has authority but do not exert it?/li>
  • Who are the most respected & passionate about work, who aren’t?/li>
  • Who are resourceful, who are good in communication? Etc./li>
  • Understanding nuances interconnectedness, differences of power centers, influencers

Grow Your Network and Nurture Relationships

Once you get sense of existing organization power structure, alignment/groups, cultural synergies, you need to strategize how you are going to approach different stakeholders, power centers, influencers, informers, etc. Approaching these people will help you build your own network.

  • There will certainly be power centers, politically influential people in an organization – know them, approach them, don’t be afraid of approaching, communication with them, be prudent
  • Not everyone in your organization will have authority by designation, reach out to those who exert authority without designation, expand your network horizontally as well as vertically
  • Know your strengths, nurture your relationships with your network based on respect, commitment, trust and passion
  • It is mostly useful when you are not type-casted as part of single/couple of group. Your objective is to get sense of formal and informal functioning of your organization.
  • Be an information seeker so that you will have early access to information but avoid being gossip-monger
  • Position yourself for your trustworthiness, commitment, passion for work, showcase your achievements, and seek greater visibility for yourself, your team and your senior/boss.

Position Yourself for High Regards & Dampen Negative Forces

As you will keenly observe organization culture and you should be able to identify leadership traits and you, yourself should be able to relate those. There will be negative forces, moves/plays done by stakeholders, and you should be able to alleviate those forces and the impact thereof.

  • Position yourself for your trustworthiness, integrity, commitment, passion for work, showcase your achievements, and seek greater visibility for yourself, your team and your senior/boss.
  • Don’t be quetching/complaining or quick judgmental; ABP : always be positive. If there are conflicts, agree-to-disagree and do not drag argument so much so that it will affect your interpersonal relationship
  • You don’t need to isolate yourself completely from powerful guys or negative players (if that’s the word) but you should know them better, treat them carefully – with right choice of words, tone
  • Read between line, hear their pulse, get sense of their intentions, motivations and learn to alleviate impact of their veto’fying political moves


Being Assertive & Marching courageously

This is an important skill that will require you to make tough choices to move project toward success.


If you are working with team of individual diverse aspirations, skillsets, pace of work, affiliations :actions performed by them will not necessarily be aligned with project goals, objective and organization’s vision. As a matter of perspective individual team member might look at the same thing quite differently. Project issues and risks will make it even unmanageable to move project forward. That’s where project needs a leader who will lead courageously; who will make clear distinction between project success and failure.

Marching courageously means clearly knowing the right things to do, have strong conviction about it; convincing all relevant stakeholders (including senior management, customers) to act in your favor. It’s about taking a strong position to resolve disputes toward logical conclusion aligned to overall project goal. It is about being assertive to get right things done as well as confronting wrong things immediately which can possibly lead to project failure.

This is absolutely what a project leader does : be decisive, gainsay others not doing right things, be assertive to make them tough choices.

Even in case of difficult situation, project leader does not let his focus move away from project goals, organization’s vision, s/he remains persistent yet flexible to resolve roadblocks (i.e. project issues) and potential roadblocks (i.e. project risks) in the way of delivering project successfully.

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I am a co-founder of Zilicus Solution and I write about project management, collaboration, productivity, project management software, cloud computing, requirement management and business empowerment.