Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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Making The Decision To Lead

I’m currently working with a large government agency to help them evolve their delivery culture. Our monthly sessions focus on the leadership skills required to be successful every time and we’ve had some great results so far.

However, at the end of one of the sessions, one of the attendees approached me and said, ‘Colin, I love these sessions, but what I’ve come to realise is that I don’t want to lead a team. I prefer working on my own and love the detail of what I do. So I just wanted to say thank you!’

Now don’t get me wrong, my programs and speeches aren’t telling people that they can’t be leaders, if anything I’m imparting my knowledge because I believe anyone can make the choice to lead. However, I want those who choose project management as a career to fully understand what they’re getting themselves into, as it can be a lonely business.

When I started my career I certainly didn’t have all of the skills necessary to lead, nor had I made the decision to.

What I did have, however, was the ability to be flexible and the desire to learn from those around me. To be relentless in my quest to be professional and to never stop looking for better ways to get things done.

With that kind of drive comes mistakes and with those mistakes comes learning. This learning leads to improvement, but only if you are able to be resilient and not make the same mistakes again.

Given that project management is a relationship business, you have to decide very early on if you want to expend your daily energy understanding and managing the emotions of others, whilst capturing and managing the information necessary to keep the project on track.

It’s a multi-faceted role that demands certain personal qualities and, to be truly successful, you have to be a role model for others.

In short, you have to choose to lead. You have to look at yourself in the mirror, acknowledge what works and what doesn’t, then actively change some things.

Before you make the choice to lead, consider your answers to these 10 questions:

  1. Will you put the time and effort into building relationships?
  2. Are you willing to change your communication style depending on who you are talking to, or the situation you are in?
  3. Are you prepared to question ‘the way we do things around here’ and be open to trying new ideas and ways of working?
  4. Are you excited at the thought of bringing a group of (potential) strangers together to build a plan to deliver something unique?
  5. Will you be able to manage poor performance without compromising your own mental wellbeing?
  6. Will you actively dedicate time (often during weekday evenings and at weekends) to improving your skills and/or invest in external mentoring?
  7. Will you be able to avoid getting dragged into the detail of the solution being built but ensure you have enough knowledge to ask the right questions?
  8. Can you build harmonious teams and trust them to get the job done?
  9. Are you prepared to let go of your methodology language and speak in a way that your stakeholders understand?
  10. Are you excited about projects and how they can help the organisation achieve its goals?

If we are to improve the perception of our profession and demonstrate to the next generation of project managers that they can succeed too, then we need more people to make the choice to lead. Are you in?

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