The image that comes to mind when you hear the word "Leader" is a military
general, CEO or President of the USA. As an IT Project manager you are able
to lead projects. You are expected to lead projects, often without formal
authority over the team members who are going to deliver the results that you
are responsible to deliver. You are also able to demonstrate your leadership
skills in various IT project management situations, even if you are not the lead
This is where I observe a distinguishing factor for IT project managers
that I work with in my coaching program. Some IT project managers take the lead
when the opportunity arises and others hold back, waiting for permission to
proceed. Don't wait for permission - take the lead. You will be rewarded more
often than you are punished for taking the lead.
WIIFM? Why should you take a leadership role when the opportunity presents
1. It is sometimes the only way to move your project forward. Nobody wants
to be part of failed projects. Take the initiative and the lead when it is
obvious a leader is needed.
2. Senior managers, and peers take notice of demonstrable leadership skills
and may think of you first when they need a leader in the future.
3. It is easier to look in the mirror when you have taken the lead in a
situation than if you chose to be a victim in a leaderless situation.
Here are tips to help you demonstrate your leadership skills in the
trenches, without formal authority.
1. When you are on a teleconference all and hear words like "I asked Joe
for this information last week and he did not respond", then don't accept it.
Ask "What is the hold up? When do you expect to hear back from Joe. What can you
do to help Joe get the information to you?"
2. When you hear someone on your team say "I think Sue will take care of
this", then be ready to jump in with "I will swing by Sue's office and confirm
the status in case we missed something." Proactively make sure that nothing
falls through the cracks, if you could have prevented it.
3. Don't hesitate to find creative ways to reach your goal. As an IT
project manager, I have worked more weekends than I care to remember,
implementing IT systems while the system users are enjoying the pool or ski
slopes, depending on the season . On one weekend I managed a release
implementation and needed to contact a key operations support person. He did not
respond to any of the phone numbers that we had on record. Rather than allow a
delay to the implementation schedule, I found his home phone number for an
Internet search and we made contact. Leaders don't wait for permission to find
alternative paths to reach the goal.
4. Make sure that you continue learning and understand issues. When you
hear that system ABC has trouble with module xyz due to SP3b, find out what
these acronyms mean and the impact to your project. If you don't make the effort
to understand the issues, then you can't present them to your project sponsors
or your managers with any credibility. In researching my next book Beyond
the Certification, seasoned IT leaders confirmed over and over again that
the ability to understand a problem and get it resolved, is critical for IT
project management success.
5. Be polite, and grateful. Say "Thank you" when your team is called in to
work a weekend, at short notice. You don't need formal authority to thank
someone for helping you and your project. For example, I was once called in at
lunchtime on Saturday to support a project that I was only remotely involved
in. It wiped out my family's plans for the weekend as I worked until late
Saturday night and most of Sunday to resolve issues created by someone else's
lack of planning. I felt much better about the situation when the program leader
said "I understand that none of us planned to work this issue this weekend and
I Thank You for supporting us through this inconvenience."
6. Learn from others. Take note of leadership actions from project leaders
around you that you notice as being effective or ineffective. Are you motivated
or demoralized after meeting with your IT Program leader? Why? Is there a lesson
that you can learn from this situation? Does your manager choose words that
inflame or defuse situations? Observe and adapt your observations to develop
your leadership skills.
These simple steps are actions that you can take to demonstrate your
leadership skills in the trenches. You don't have to be a victim of poor IT
project leadership. You can and should take the lead when necessary,
and contribute to making your projects the projects that you want to work on.