How To Lead

February 13, 2017





As a project leadership coach, speaker and trainer, my primary job is to help project managers improve their performance and well-being. I work with PMs so they can manage their projects more efficiently; build stronger relationships with their stakeholders; motivate their team and increase individual confidence.


And invariably, we end up talking about the differences between managing and leading. One of the biggest differentiators between an average and a high-performing project manager is around the degree to which they lead a team versus just managing it.



Most project managers I come across are managing the project, not leading it. This means that they are very rational and task-oriented. They focus on events and processes such as calculating effort, estimating duration, allocating resources, reporting progress, etc. And the way in which they manage the team is one based on authority, to the tune of: “As the project manager I have authority over my team members. They should do as I tell them because that’s what they get paid for.” This is a “push” approach. Managers generally tell people what to do.


Leadership, on the other hand, is quite different, mainly because it’s more people focused. Leaders don’t typically tell people what to do. Instead, leaders motivate team members by appealing to them at an individual level and by inspiring them to contribute to the overall vision. We call this a “pull” approach. Leaders understand what it is that makes each person tick and can show individuals how their strengths fit into the bigger picture. Leaders are more visionary and inspirational, and not so focused on being skill-centric.


Another way of looking at the comparison is that management is very finite and definite. There is often a right and a wrong process to follow, and the manager upholds that. Leadership, by contrast, is much more open. Leaders ask questions, and listen to and empower people instead of just telling them what’s expected of them.


Your values are the soul of your leadership, and they drive your behavior.  Before you can grow and mature as a leader, you must have a clear understanding of your values and commit to living consistently with them-since they will shape your behavior and influence the way you lead.


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