Learning from Egypt: A Lesson in Leadership
History is in the making when you look to Egypt these days. It is fascinating and scaring at the same time watching the Egyptian people demonstrating against the Mubarak regime, demanding „their“ leader to step down. – This is not the place to comment on this political development as interesting as it is. Instead I want to gear our attention to Mubarak himself and the lack of true, tranformational leadership he exercises. AsKatherin Tyler Scott points out in her recent commentary in the Washington Post „President Mubarak has used his position to exercise authority, not leadership. His establishment and maintenance of control over his followers rather than control with them has resulted in an environment of fear and anger ripe for the unbridled expression of rage and violence.“
How often do we experience such „leadership“ in project situations? Way too often, at least this is my observation. True project leadership is not based external power, force, status. True leadership is based on the trust of and by the team. As little or as much as project managers strive for control, the most important foundation of control a project manager can and should seek is the team itself. It is not the single project manager running a project. The team realizes the project. The project manager is and should behave and act as a member of the team. Corollary, if you don’t have a
functioning team you are acting without a foundation of control.Teambuilding helps establish a foundation of control. Hence,effective project leadership always involves teambuilding. The project manager is nothing without the trust of his or her team. It may have the authority to control over its team, but not with its team. This has nothing to do with leadership, this is the abuse of power. Project leadership requires a functioning team, it calls for team building to ensure project success. This starts with the insight that a project manager first and foremost is always a team member, too.
More on this in my upcoming lecture at the 8th NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA, USA, Feb 9-10, 2011