Leading without authority
„Even if they don’t call the shots, project managers can still have power over their teams.“ – This is the subtitle of a new article in the magazine „PM Network“, June 2010 issue.
The article explains why project managers ought to try to forge relationships with team members and uncover their motivations. It also outlines that rewards, recognition and appreciation are often overlooked tools for building credibility.
It is a very good article about a well known challenge in project mangement, namely, having to lead without authority. Ok, if there is one thing I don’t particularly like it is actually the subtitle of the article. It is not about having power over your team. It is about team leadership. In order to achieve this you have to understand and appreciate the dynamics of the team and acknowledge the motivations of each individual and become part of the team.
I am proud to say that I contributed to this article. My input is highlighted in the text. Click this link to read the article. Feedback is highly welcome!
I have read the article. Before I share my thoughts I need to explain the context I look at it from. I am leading virtual teams in a large multinational company. Team members do not report to me but to functional managers and spend small portion of their time on my project. It is one of probably ten projects they contribute to in addition to their daily work.
In such a setting many of the ideas expressed in this article are counter productive. Any notion of achieving power or making team members respect me by the way I dress and behave does not work. They don’t see me, we work in phone conferences and virtual online rooms. For these reasons this „macho“ project manager style depicted in the article is more than old fashioned. It does not work.
Your input to this article is different than general style of the article and it is closer to productive practices in my projects. I have to rely on relationship building, soft skills and flexibility before all. The thing that works is selling the idea of the project to team members – why it is important to them.
I wouldn’t call it a „macho“ style of project management. In virtual settings we have to translate „traditional“ styles of relationship building to the new environment. Winning the necessary respect in any role requires to be a role model to start with. This is not limited to a project manager. On this token I agree with your points that soft skills and flexibility before all. However, I think that calling the leadership style described in the article as a „macho“ style misses the mark.
Well, I must admit that objecting against generalizations, I have made generalization myself. It is not the whole article, it is part of it I find completely counter productive in the virtual project environment I described in my first comment. More specifically the following statements cause my objections:
„Even if they don’t officially call the shots, project managers can still have power over their teams.“ (sub-title) – So, it is all about having POWER OVER the team?
„Project managers have to show the right level of authority at the beginning…“ – I need to show authority? That is me, the PM, against the team? I am more special than the rest of the team?
They need to have a presence in how they dress and behave in those first meetings to have the team look up and say, ‘This person seems to know what he or she is doing. Let’s give him or her the opportunity to lead us… – Again, this sounds to me like opposing the role of the leader to a submissive team.
“It’s a real skill of understanding the fine line between being a leader as well as having a good, open relationship with the team“ – So, leadership and having open relationship with the team are mutually exclusive and we need to strike balance??
“If not, inevitably there will be a time when the team will ignore or not respect a decision you’ve made.” – This sounds like: “I decided so, you do it”.
To me, these are samples of old fashioned autocratic thinking which I called „macho style“. In an IT company’s virtual project environment which calls for servant leadership style and dissolving in the team, these ideas merely don’t work.
Having said that, this is small part of the article and the rest is fine.
thank you for sharing your thoughts. I couldn’t agree more. I, too, stumbled over the wording of the heading „having power OVER your team“. Project management and leadership is not having power OVER anyone. It is about leading and managing a project TEAM of which the project manager and leader is a member of. On this token, I am a strong proponend of the servant leadership style whenever possible. This holds true for IT projects and non-IT environments. For servant leadership is a humanistic and holistic approach and attitude of leadership. I am describing this style in my own book „Leadership Principles for Project Success“.