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Leadership: Would You Follow You?
By Charlotte Franck

When I first started my project management career, I expected that simply because I held the position of project manager, people would naturally “obey” my orders concerning the projects.

Wow, was I wrong! I came to discover that, in many cases, project managers do not have much formal power to make stakeholders do anything. Even when the project manager has formal power, such as the ability to hire/fire or give performance reviews, it is not enough to make people do what is necessary for project success.

So what does it take?

I discovered the answer starts with leadership. While project managers manage, they must also be effective leaders. In the article “Connect Then Lead” Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger determined that warmth and strength are critical to leadership success. Warmth is the ability to be open, communicate well and create trust. Strength is the ability to successfully carry out intended actions. While both traits are needed, studies indicate that if a leader cannot generate warmth, the probability of being recognized as effective is less than one in 2000 (2013).

Clearly capability is needed in effective leadership, but without trust and connection, people will not follow.

Think of situations where you have been a follower. If a leader demonstrates amazing skills, but you cannot trust the individual, how much energy do you devote to ensuring you are not harmed in some way versus doing your tasks? When a leader’s competence (strength) is fused with warmth, you know that individual is capable and you can give your best because you will be supported in your efforts.

Becoming a warmer person doesn’t involve a conversion of your personality style, nor does it mean you must learn how to bake cookies for your stakeholders. However, it does mean that you need to take the time to recognize and appreciate people as individuals as opposed to considering them merely as “resources”. It means considering how your attitudes and actions affect others and asking how your behaviors illicit or thwart trust.

Project management competencies are important. Project management processes can improve effectiveness, but project success lies with the stakeholders and the relationships project managers have with them. Strength is important, but trust is critical!

Cuddy, A., Kohut, M., & Neffinger, J. (2013 Jul/Aug). Connect then lead. Harvard Business Review, 91(7), 54-61.

Charlotte Franck, PMP runs InSite Solutions. InSite Solutions, Inc. provides a guiding compass for project management success by applying the right amounts of project management knowledge, experience, training, process development and coaching to meet your unique needs.

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