Leading a team can be daunting. Some people are born leaders while others don’t think they really have what it takes. If you’re one of those people who thinks there’s no way you could ever lead a team, think again. In their book Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood identify four main behaviors that can help you establish yourself as a leader.
- Demonstrate Respect
Think of the best leader you’ve ever had. This can be anyone: a project manager, a boss, a team leader, or even a teacher or coach. How did this person treat you? Chances are, they had some semblance of respect for your abilities, ideas, and contributions. A good team leader knows how to gain respect by showing respect. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to be a hard-ass when the situation demands it. If someone isn't doing their job or working to their abilities, you should address that respectfully, but not passively. You might hurt someone's feelings, but you'll hurt everyone on the team by not addressing problems.
For any of you that haven’t been in a leadership position, I’ll give you a little secret: we don't know everything. In fact, we might know less than some of our team members. But we shouldn’t try to compensate by talking. Instead, good leaders need to listen. Listening identifies new ideas, uncovers potential problems, and incites good collaboration between team members. You can’t do this if you’re talking over someone.
- Clarify Expectations
Something I’ve noticed working in teams is when you tell teammates “Just do whatever,” you just end up with a mess. No one really knows what they’re doing to help, work is done sloppily, repeated, or not done at all, and everyone is just generally frustrated. When you give someone a clear purpose and explain your expectations, they have a goal and feel like they are placing a puzzle piece that fits into the whole.
- Practice Accountability
Accountability has two parts: being a role model and giving credit. As a team leader, your actions shape the team. If you don’t care, then your team likely will not care much either. Likewise, if you’re motivated to succeed, your team will likely also be motivated. Your actions and attitude as team leader should be the same as the ones you want your team members to display.
Good team leaders also give credit where credit is due and admit their mistakes. Good things aren’t all their doing and bad things aren’t only the fault of others. Let’s face it, it feels good to get credit for something you did well, while it’s annoying to have someone else take that credit. So why would you not offer that to the people you lead?
You might ask yourself, “What if I don’t have these traits?” Leaders don’t just sprout from the ground perfectly ready to lead. You just need to practice. Listen to and respect your team, set your goals, and be the person you would want as a fellow teammate, not just a leader.