Can you lead those who have trouble following?

Monday, January 13th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Famed World War II General George S. Patton was once quoted as telling those around him to "lead me, follow me or get out of my way."

If only it were that easy for project managers.

Sometimes, leaders are tasked with managing people who have never followed anyone before. This can make life difficult for both parties, especially when a major project is at stake. Your job as a leader is to show the team "how to be good followers and good team members."

A recent article on explains that, rather than "explaining the org chart," leaders should help their people "understand the power of directing [their]…creativity, hard work, and determination toward a few key goals." Your job is to set the team's direction and monitor their progress towards those goals.

The article warns against extolling the notion that the best idea should always win out. The problem, of course, is that many great ideas are impossible to implement, and it falls to project leaders to "squash" those impractical ideas. Project managers should make their role clear from the beginning so that team members are not taken aback by such decisions.

Perhaps the most important aspect of team leadership is "tone." Be ready to justify your decisions in terms of "the major constraints (time, money, technology, etc.)" and be transparent about "why  that path was chosen." Transparency lets your team see that you are keeping them focused on the goals you've already laid out for them.

In short, people follow leaders who are on the level. Project managers can learn these skills with New Leaf's online project management training programs and free white papers that let you learn while you earn PDUs for PMP recertification.

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