Project managers can help ensure the efficiency of systems and processes to achieve the goals of any given project. However, it is the responsibility of the project leader to build, strengthen, motivate, and encourage the team to ensure the successful production of final project deliverables. Managers focus on the tactical management of project activities. Project leaders focus more on harnessing the strengths of people and converting their weaknesses into constructive efforts.

Leadership and Team Performance

The success of a project hinges on how well the different team members can bring their act together to achieve the goals of the project. It starts with the formation of the team until they have learned to trust in each other’s capabilities that they can already perform as a cohesive unit.

The composition of the team presupposes a mixture of intertwining motivations, proficiencies, and personalities. People of different cognitive levels, behaviours, and motivations have to set their differences aside and work towards the achievement of the project objectives.

Effective project leadership facilitates the more efficient transition of project team members through the different stages of team development. Leaders help team members grow, while moulding the team into a cohesive and productive unit. How each team member values his individual role in the project team can contribute to the project’s collective success.

Leadership Qualities of a Project Manager

Project managers can ensure the success of their projects if they also possess the qualities of a good leader. These qualities can include the following.

  • Visionary

A leader knows what he wants to accomplish. He is also capable of articulating or communicating his vision to others. Leaders empower other people in the creation a vision for themselves, the project, and the organisation.

  • Excellent Communicator

Having very clear goals, role expectations, performance, responsibilities, and feedback are essential to ensuring the success of projects. This is possible only if the project manager also shows excellent communication skills.

  • With Integrity

Leaders are role models. They set the ethical standards that become the blueprint for the whole team. Integrity builds trust, which is crucial in helping others to move in one direction.

  • Passionate and Enthusiastic

The can-do attitude of a project manager can help motivate team members to work together for the achievement of the project’s goals. Enthusiasm fosters dedication and commitment, while also building on the team’s passion to deliver.

  • Compassionate and Empathic

Fostering positive interpersonal relationships can help in the growth of the team. Leaders have to show empathy and understanding without attaching any emotions to such actions.

  • Competent

Team members expect a leader to be competent. He serves as a guide, a mentor, and a facilitator. Leaders must also be able to inspire, encourage, model, and enable competence in each member of the team.

  • Effective at Delegation

Delegation is an important attribute of effective leaders. They can only be efficient at delegating if they know the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the project team.

  • Composed under Pressure

There will always be instances when things turn out unexpectedly. Leaders should be able to keep their composure, regardless of pressure. True leaders often see unexpected events as opportunities, the outcome of which they can influence.

  • Team Builder

An important leadership quality of a project manager is the ability to build a cohesive team. He serves as the glue that holds everyone together and keeps esprit de corps alive.

  • Problem-solver

This goes hand in hand with a leader’s competence. He should be able to solve problems or issues that may present at any point in the project life cycle.

Motivational Theories of Leadership

One of the ways a project leader can bring out the best in each member of the team is by knowing each member’s motivations. There are two popular leadership theories that emphasise motivation. These are the theories of Maslow and Herzberg.

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow developed his Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 as a tool for describing five different levels of needs. The satisfaction of one need can lay the foundation for the achievement of the other needs in the higher tiers.

Maslow’s model classifies the five levels of needs into three distinct categories. These include the basic needs for physiological integrity and safety; psychological needs for love, belongingness, and self-esteem; and the self-fulfilment need for self-actualisation.

Project managers can use Maslow’s theory to identify the ‘needs’ of each member of the team. Facilitating the meeting of these needs can help team members feel better about themselves. This can motivate them to give their best to the project.

  • Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Frederick Herzberg developed the Two-Factor Theory or the Motivation-Hygiene Theory in 1959. The focus of the model is in the sense of satisfaction of people in their respective jobs. It proposes that job characteristics can lead to either job satisfaction or job dissatisfaction.

Herzberg identified motivators as job characteristics that can encourage employees to perform at their best. Hygiene factors are those that can lead employees to feel unmotivated if such factors are not present. The employees lack the encouragement.

Herzberg’s theory is helpful in project management. Project managers can ensure the presence of both motivational (job-related) and hygiene (environmental) factors to help improve the motivation of project team members.

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Situational Leadership Model

Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey introduced the Situational Leadership Theory in 1969. This model assumes that there is no such thing as the best style of leadership. It proposes that situations require different styles of leadership.

The theory identifies four leadership styles.

  1. Telling – The leader provides people with the information on what they need to do and how they need to do it.
  • Selling – The leader shares information with his followers in an attempt to influence the followers into ‘agreeing’ or ‘buying into’ the ideas of the leader.
  • Participating – The leader encourages the members of the team to come up with ideas as well as make decisions for the whole team. The leader still offers direction and guidance.
  • Delegating – The leader observes a hands-off approach, allowing members of the team to make the decisions. Responsibility falls on the team members.

Successful leaders are those who are able to adapt their style of leadership to the ability and willingness of the people they are leading or are attempting to influence. It also depends on the level of competence of the team members.

Effective leaders bring out the best in each member of the project team. Motivating and empowering team members are crucial in ensuring the success of any given project.

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