Being an Effective Project Leader
In my personal view project managers can become project leaders, if project managers exhibit/demonstrate following skills:
Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.Robin S. Sharma
Influencing others mean influencing their ideas, judgments, sentiments and actions. In current business environment, project leadership to be effective has to influence others more tactfully than ever. Today work culture is influenced by global culture; team members, customers, vendors/partners are located in different states, countries, continents. Influencing global workforce in highly collaborative companies is even more challenging. Of course project leaders have to overcome other challenges like influencing people who don't even report to you (directly or indirectly). That where the effective project leader is successful in influencing all section of stakeholders (not just who report to them but also over whom, s/he has no authority).
Effective project leader not just influence his subordinates or peers or customers/vendors, but also senior management in his organization as well as outside his organization. When I say influencing, it does not mean just impacting their opinion or ideas but also impact their actions to drive their support for project success, aligned with leader's vision. Influencing styles may differ but its utility has the foremost importance to get the project on track for successful delivery
Political Awareness and Navigation
Project leader understands and is well aware of politics within and across organizations. S/he does not avoid politics but rather utilizes it in good way to realign it with his/her vision, seek and grabs opportunities to protect interest of his team and enablement of causes to drive project success.
Typically people are wary of office politics and especially worried about bad politics hence try to avoid getting involved in political affairs within organization or in client's organization. However true project leader is not shy of political mind games because s/he is aware of the fact that
Project Leader Makes Politics Work for him/her (of course for cause, in a good way)
First and foremost thing - that a good project leaders accept organization politics as a reality and does not shy away to make it work for greater good. In order to make it work, s/he has to be a great observer, listener; s/he need to build, expand & nurture network and also s/he need to have strategies to tackle positives and negatives plays of the politics.
Redraw the organogram (organization hierarchy)
Project leader should be aware of power centers in his and client's organization. Keen observer and listener skill can help him/her knowing
Grow Your Network and Nurture Relationships
Once you get sense of existing organization power structure, alignment/groups, cultural synergies, you need to strategize how you are going to approach different stakeholders, power centers, influencers, informers, etc. Approaching these people will help you build your own network.
Position Yourself for High Regards & Dampen Negative Forces
As you will keenly observe organization culture and you should be able to identify leadership traits and you, yourself should be able to relate those. There will be negative forces, moves/plays done by stakeholders, and you should be able to alleviate those forces and the impact thereof.
Being Assertive & Marching courageously
This is an important skill that will require you to make tough choices to move project toward success.
If you are working with team of individual diverse aspirations, skillsets, pace of work, affiliations -actions performed by them will not necessarily be aligned with project goals, objective and organization's vision. As a matter of perspective individual team member might look at the same thing quite differently. Project issues and risks will make it even unmanageable to move project forward. That's where project needs a leader who will lead courageously; who will make clear distinction between project success and failure.
Marching courageously means clearly knowing the right things to do, have strong conviction about it; convincing all relevant stakeholders (including senior management, customers) to act in your favor. It's about taking a strong position to resolve disputes toward logical conclusion aligned to overall project goal. It is about being assertive to get right things done as well as confronting wrong things immediately which can possibly lead to project failure.
This is absolutely what a project leader does - be decisive, gainsay others not doing right things, be assertive to make them tough choices.
Even in case of difficult situation, project leader does not let his focus move away from project goals, organization's vision, s/he remains persistent yet flexible to resolve roadblocks (i.e. project issues) and potential roadblocks (i.e. project risks) in the way of delivering project successfully.