Leading from below

Ants On A TwigYou don’t have to be in charge to be a leader. You can demonstrate leadership skills at any level.

In Thomas Juli’s book, Leadership Principles for Project Success, he writes about being a quality manager on a six-month project to develop a new software product which the company required for regulatory purposes. The project delivery date was delayed three times, and while the team did eventually deliver the software, it did not include all the original requirements.

This delay was down to the stakeholders having different views about the scope and the project manager failing to get the group to gain consensus. There was poor collaboration with a team, and a project manager, who were not committed full-time to the project. Attendance at project meetings was poor, and information sharing, especially about risks and issues, was practically non-existent.

Juli was not in a position to make sweeping changes to the project but he did demonstrate ‘leading from below’. He worked with the project manager to tune the project objectives. He prepared project policies and procedures. He started his own crusade to improve communication through an online ‘team room’ and found that when he shared activities and information transparently, others joined in.

While all of this made a difference to team morale and no doubt contributed to the project achieving something, it was a ‘truly frustrating experience’. However, Juli recognises that it was an opportunity to learn – if only to know what not to do in the future.

This example is taken from the Managing Project Teams section of our project management in the real world book. Author Elizabeth Harrin explains that there is an overlap between management and leadership, and you should aim to develop a leadership attitude and set of behaviours that runs through both activities, predicated on:

  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Trustworthiness
  • Integrity

If you’d like to read more, Managing Project Teams is available as an ebook-only download. Otherwise, you can order the full Shortcuts to Success book - use promo code S25 before 30 June 2015 to get 25% discount.

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