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Leadership vs. Positional Authority in Project Management

"Everything rises and falls with leadership", according to John Maxwell.  Does this include our projects?  Of course it does.  I would say it is especially important in project management.  Why?  Because project managers often do not have positional authority.  In other words, they are tasked with managing a project without a "position" that actually has authority over the people working on the project.  And yet it is vital that the people working on our projects follow us.  Say again??

What's the answer?  Leadership.  Leadership does not require a position.  It simply requires that you lead well and that people are following you.  If someone is not following you, you are not leading.

Here are some interesting points that John Maxwell made at the leadercast event I attended last week:

1.  When you lead because of your position, people will follow you only because they have to.  Even if you do have the right "position", you want to go beyond this...way beyond this.  Project managers rarely get this authoritative position anyway.

2.  When you develop relationships with people, they will follow you because they want to.  Sincerely building relationships with people, in my experience, is one of the best ways to begin to develop good leadership with your team.

3.  If you are achieving results and being productive, people will follow you for what you have done.  If you, as a project manager, are achieving things and helping the team win, people will follow you.

This is just barely scratching the surface.

When all is said and done, your position and level of authority in an organization does not matter.  What matters is your level of leadership.  Are you leading in a way that people will follow you?  Are you developing your leadership skills?  This is how you gain influence with those in your project organization.



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