“The person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job. The person who knows ‘why’ will always be their boss.” Diane Ravitch (author and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education)
In the first three blogs in the Project Leadership Success series, I focused on the Responsibilities of a successful project leader. They are: 1) aligning vision and goals, 2) coaching, and 3) managing change.
In Parts 4, 5, and 6, I addressed Competencies. The following participative competencies are exhibited by successful leaders: 4) communicating collaboratively, 5) making effective decisions and 6) applying Emotional Intelligence (EI).
The Project Leadership Success series concludes with the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th installments – the Behaviors project managers need to embrace as part of the RCB approach to successful project leadership. These four parts will focus on the behavioral aspects that successful project managers have incorporated into their leadership style to motivate and inspire their staff. Included will be blogs on 7) embracing integrity and building trust, 8) showing consideration and caring, 9) working with difference and 10) establishing a “servant” leadership role.
7) Embracing Integrity and Building Trust
Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, surveyed over 54,000 people and asked them to identify the essential qualities of a leader. More than 15,000 respondents rated integrity as first on their list. Even more to the point, the celebrated management guru Peter F. Drucker said, “Leaders in an organization need to impose on themselves that congruence between deeds and words, between behavior and professed beliefs and values that we call ‘personal integrity.’” (from Cohen, William A., “The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership”, pgs. 1–2, Longstreet Press, 2001.)
Along similar lines, project leaders who exemplify integrity will exhibit behaviors that are consistent with organizational core values and take actions to correct those behaviors that do not, no matter what it takes. They do what they feel is right and—perhaps more importantly—do as they say they will do. Rather than blaming others, they openly admit mistakes, live with the consequences and commit themselves to doing better by taking ownership of problems and correcting them. By doing so, they show others that mistakes should not be feared or covered up but are instead critical to an individual’s learning and professional growth.
Project leaders often have to make difficult choices to maintain a project’s values or achieve its goals, so they must utilize team members who do so as well. They will position individuals who have the courage to speak up in roles where this characteristic is critical. It is essential in team settings to have people around who will be honest and tell the truth, regardless of how painful that may be. When Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, was asked to name the secret to success for the organization, without missing a beat he said, “Candor.” It is a wise leader who teaches the team to tell the truth to each other—even when it is bad news—rather than just to share feelings and opinions. Ultimately, truth telling should be an organizational norm that delivers the following message: “It’s safe to tell the truth around here, but it’s not okay not to tell the truth.” (from Bodaken, Bruce, & Fritz, R., “The Managerial Moment of Truth: The Essential Step in Helping People Improve Performance”, pg. 16, Free Press, 2006.)
Project leaders enhance their influence by being trustworthy. That includes keeping one’s word and honestly disclosing information without “spin.” This has a further benefit as well: it allows team members to acknowledge their strengths and limitations, so they feel free to ask for help when they need it without fear. It also provides a secure, guilt-free environment where team members can admit when they’re wrong. Ultimately, when it comes to matters of integrity, just “talking the talk” isn’t enough. A successful project leader needs to “walk the walk” as well by behaving with honesty, fairness and making sure actions and beliefs are consistent, predictable and believable.