I’ve seen quite a few articles recently on the qualities to be a good leader, manager, and Project Manager. Most recently, I read an excellent article by Liza Wood on “Should you become a Manager?”. Highly recommended.
I thought I’d add my opinions to those already out there on what I feel are the top four qualities to be a leader or manager.
1) You are a competent team member already
I’m big fan of leaders and managers needing to be competent members of the team prior to expecting to lead or manage. If you are going to lead and manage people, I think you need to understand the issues your team is dealing with at a detailed level. I know not everyone agrees that this competency is required. I frequently see groups proposing that Software Development Project Managers don’t need to be technical. Let’s just say I must agree to disagree with those groups.
Although I think I’m an OK Project Manager for Software Development teams, I would never think I could be equally efficient managing a team of doctors or truck drivers. What do I know about those areas? How could I possibly help them in the issues they encounter.
2) You don’t want to make decisions for other team members and you don’t want to “manage” people
It is a red flag for me immediately when I hear someone say they want to manage. I wonder what their drivers are and whether they want to “manage” people due to the perceived status and traditional career path. Sometimes people will even confess that they want to be managers so they can make decisions.
I find the best managers are those team members that don’t want to manage. They also don’t want to make decisions for their team mates.
They grudgingly accept being a manager because:
- They are good at it
- They have the respect of their teammates
- They recognize it is probably the best way they can help the team and client
3) You enjoy working with clients and team members and helping to facilitate decisions
This point is connected to the previous item. Great leaders and managers love working with people and helping to facilitate decisions.
They love building relationships and helping people to grow in their careers.
Most importantly they love helping the team to solve problems by facilitating. They realize that the team must solve the problem and their role is to help the team build consensus as a group. Great managers always are careful to not offer solutions for the team. This would be the easy thing to do as the team is looking to the manager to make these decisions. But the really great leaders and managers will always defer to the team. (even though they have the preferred solution already decided in their head)
This deference to team decision-making can sometimes be perceived negatively by team members. I remember thinking this about one Project Manager I worked with. I thought that he wasn’t doing his job because he never decided anything, he always just deferred to us. Only in retrospect did I appreciate his masterful skill to facilitating team decisions.
4) You are always perceived as calm and professional and never blame anyone
Probably one of the most overlooked characteristics.
I feel that the job of a leader is to always build confidence in the team.
Great managers and leaders are always calm, never blame anyone, and just work the problem. Doesn’t matter how the problem arose – lets just resolve it.
And it never hurts to have a great sense of humour…