Principle Four – Leaders must act

Leaders must act

Have you even been in a series of meetings where leaders would talk, debate nonstop rather than delivering results? No, this does not only happen in Congress, it happens daily in many organizations. This validates Benjamin Franklin saying “Well done is better than well said.” There is a time to talk. There is a time to act.

We all know that action speak louder than words. Leaders cannot content to tell others what to do. They must also get their hands dirty and be part of the action process.

“Take action: Think like a person of action and act like a person of thought.” This is a great recommendation that I have embraced and many other leaders, project managers should. Project managers must grasp the notion that often nothing happens until they do something.

This is more prevalent during issue resolution or when a project deliverable is running late. Here are some practical recommendations:

Leave the dictator coat at the door. Leaders must act, but also be mindful of their actions. Too often, I notice managers elevate their voices when facing issues they cannot comprehend. They attempt to veil their incompetence behind anger towards the same team they ask to collaborate to bring about a solution. This method does not inspire, it disheartens the team, and deflates all enthusiasm. Some teams have smart members. They will come up with a solution in spite of rather than because of their leaders.

No one can demand for project managers to know it all. Yet, they ought to possess a certain level of technical knowledge, and demonstrate technical and functional proficiency. This is helpful in maintaining credibility with others on technical matters. It also helps rally the team effectively during the brainstorming process.

Work the problem and inspire. Successful leaders work to initiate actions and competently maintain their teams engaged. This is important to group processes, build commitment, and motivate. When facing a tough issue, leaders should rally their team, explain the problem effectively, and gather the data instead of guessing what is wrong.

The team will not mind helping if they see their leaders invested in the resolution of the problem. This is an opportunity for leaders to create an environment that motivates the members toward goal accomplishment, and adjust their leadership style to team dynamics.

Forget the clique. Project managers have the tendency to identify with clique. The clique tells them what they want to hear, and what to do. They tend to value the opinions of the in-group over to the real expert advice and recommendation. This is dangerous.

Rather, focus on effective communication by expressing the facts succinctly and facilitate an open exchange of ideas, ask for feedbacks from everyone instead of proposing an ill advice solution for the rest of the team to justify. Effective leaders know how to approach these scenarios and empower the whole team to contribute towards the common goals.

Know yourself. Experiences are never at the mercy of arguments. Experienced leaders recognize their tendencies in tough situations, what to do, what to say, when to jump into the discussion, when to stay out and let the team debates, and so forth. They know it is important to balance their thoughts, when to think, solicit expert advice, brainstorm, and take action. At the end of the day, whatever they do must require thoughtful consideration, accountability, consistent balance of thought and feeling.

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Principle Three – Establish clear goals

Establish clear goals

There is a valid reason why project managers cannot be successful without a legitimate project management plan. Often, many refer to such plan as a project scope, or project schedule from Microsoft project, or excel. This could not be further from the truth. A project management plan is the master comprehensive document approach capturing the whole project from initiation to closure.

Such document contains the entire underlying documents that depict clear strategic goals. It enables leaders to understand the purpose of the project, why they are doing it, where they are leading their resources, what the course of actions should be, and by when to deliver.

The lack of such plan creates confusion. Resources do not understand why they do what they do. It is impossible to evaluate the project successfully. It is challenging to prevent scope creep. There is often lack of consensus and volition to get things done.

Therefore, establish clear goals are an essential value that leaders should embrace. People should not have to wander around and speculate on the deliverable and their directions. There must be clear and succinct goals.

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Principle Two – Value and empower others

Value and empower others

This principle may be the most fundamental to the success of a leader. It is the realization that every member matters, valued, respected, and acknowledged. There is no such thing as an army of one. Project managers cannot be the business analyst, the developer, the engineer, the tester, and the QA analyst. This support the argument, it takes a team to implement a project successfully. Project managers must value and empower their teams and constantly invest in them. They ought to delegate effectively and manage the human resources with the inherit complexities that each  harbors.  The plans, the objectives will take care of themselves if the people are treated well

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Define principles for your leadership compass

A broad accepted definition of leadership is attaining goals and objectives effectively and efficiently. It is a dynamic process, irrespective of title, position, that thrives on interaction among and between people. Project leaders must exert leadership skills to create stability, influence change, set direction, and most importantly deliver results. Project milestone results, as short-term accomplishments, are often the basis for evaluation and success. This situates project leaders in a conundrum balancing both tactics (leadership skills) and strategies (direction). They can evade such challenge by developing key principles that will improve their critical thinking, espouse strategic and tactical approaches, and enhance their leadership compass.

Some consider principles as a major component that makes project leaders outstanding. Leaders may have the greatest understanding of project management. However, the lack of principles will soon lead to their demise. This paper outlines ten important core principles of leadership that any project leaders can adopt to enhance their compass. Visit this blog frequently to read these principles.

Principle One – Know your purpose

Leaders must know their purpose to lead successfully. Leaders who embrace leadership for the title, the glory, and the status without evaluating the cost and implications will discover eventually hardship to excel or the ability to lead effectively. They must conduct a self-evaluation. Is it the right thing to do because it is right, or is it right to build the curriculum vitae? Such evaluation generates confidence in leaders, and broadens their base for support. Otherwise, the team will assess them as leaders of “show business”, lose respect for them, experience frustrations, aggravations, and may even quit mentally.

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Know Your Leader’s Compass

"Know your Leadership Compass"

Why Study Leadership?

Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers (Proverbs 11: 14 NLT)

Anyone in charge of a household (wife, husband), an organization or venture (small or big), or a group, soon has to face with the phenomenon of leadership.  While many are familiar with the concept, it is as popular and controversial as the word peace, love, and democracy.  Everyone intuitively understands its meaning; however, its meaning differs for everyone.  There have been diverse empirical studies, and classification systems to define the dimensions of leadership in the past years.  Business leaders such as executives, project managers, change/program managers, portfolio managers frequently comprehend the phenomenon of leadership as the process whereby a leader influences followers to achieve common organizational objectives through change.  It involves directing, controlling, motivating, and inspiring staff towards the achievement of organizational goals (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2009).  This article inculcates opinions and insights of various scholars who specialize in the field of leadership.  It argues the conceptualization of leadership, its application domestic and abroad, raises the awareness that an individual should outline his own leadership compass within the realm of the traditional model of leadership

Traditional model of leadership

“Great Leaders plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in (Translated Greek Proveb)” (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2009, p. 132).

Many scholars have proposed their definition of leadership due to the fact the concept has been the center of many debates.  The term leadership is abundant in the academic, research, and the business world due to its important role in human groups.  The traditional understanding of leadership revolves around the perceptive that (Northouse, 2007, p. 3):

a)      Leadership is a process

b)      Leadership involves influence

c)       Leadership occurs in a group context

d)      Leadership involves goal attainment

Leadership is a process

Business leaders have spent resources on leadership development for their employees.  They understood there is a bi-directional transaction that takes place between leaders and followers.  This solidifies the notion that leadership is a process and leaders are made and not born.  There may be several approaches to this process such as the analysis of leadership traits and characteristics.  Nonetheless, rest assured that one could improve his leadership skills by following some proven techniques.  Blanchard (1995) argued, in the bestseller book “Leadership and one-minute manager” a method (figure 1) that organizations can leverage to improve their leaders’ skills in managing their direct reports.

Situational Leadership Model

Leadership involves influence

The leadership process facilitates a transactional event that requires influence.  This situates leadership in a social environment; which creates interaction among people.  Therefore, there must be influence to achieve a particular goal.  There must be decision-making, acceptance, and refusal.  It is almost unarguable to affirm that Google, Facebook, and Apple have influenced the consumers in some fashion in the technology industry.  These companies are well respected as leaders.  Business leaders must execute influence on their followers in order to achieve results.  Otherwise, there will be a void, an absence of leadership.  This is also true in households and other arenas.  Chaos often arises when leaders fail to influence.  Consequently, there is no leadership without influence.

Leadership occurs in a group context

Although there are many school of thoughts that promote self-leadership, one can assess leadership more effectively in a group context.  The group interaction may be the quintessential element of leadership.  In such setting, the leaders’ behaviors and those of the followers reflect their core values, culture, and ethics.

This section is not an in depth analysis of culture, ethics, and leadership, rather their correlation and importance.  Many interesting studies highlight the impact culture and ethics have on leadership.  Some recommended ones with great insights are the work of Geert Hofstede and the GLOBE (Global Leadership Organizational Behavioral Effectiveness).


Leadership appears to be such a complex phenomenon because it encloses notions like culture.  Sociologists, human resources have debated feverously the meaning of the term culture.  Similar to leadership, many have their own definition of culture that differs from others.  How does one lead a group without a basic common understanding of such an important concept?  This article will advocate culture as the norms, values, and beliefs that a group of people shares.

Why is culture so important?  Globalization currently plays an important role on the world’s economy.  Organizations are mostly global.  Business leaders interact with individuals domestically and abroad; thus, have to deal with multicultural employees and diversity.  It has become imperative for business leaders to be competent in cross-cultural awareness and five cross-cultural competencies suggest Adler and Bartholomew (1992).  First, they ought to understand business, political, and cultural environments.  Second, they must learn other culture perspectives, and trends.  Third, they need to work with employees from other cultures and embrace the fact they are co-workers.  Fourth, they need to adapt to communicating in other cultures.  Fifth, leaders need to be mindful of ethnocentrism and treat other cultures as equal as theirs.


The group context of leadership places leaders in a quandary situation if they want to be successful over the long term.  The 2008 financial crisis has propelled business leaders, even Congress, to talk about ethical behaviors.  Some powerful leaders took advantage and abused their powers, and lost the concept of right and wrong.  Consequently, their firms went bankrupt and they lost the trust factor.  There is an obvious social need to understand what business ethics is.  Instead of diving in the abyss of cynicism, business leaders ought to ask the tough questions: Why do they need ethics?

Business leaders are obliged to practice what they preach.  Ethics has become a de facto standard for all leaders.  Others in their organizations demand their leaders to exert the highest moral standards and ethical behaviors in their decision-making, their behaviors to create and sustain trust.  Organizations and any groups need trust to function effectively.  Leaders that do not inspire trust have a hard time to achieve results consistently.

Leadership involves goal attainment

What is the main true reason to study leadership?  The answer to this question varies depending on the responder.  Some business leaders will refer to leadership studies and sustain that leadership is all about setting up goals, strategies, and motivate the worker bees.  True seasoned insightful leaders will state firmly leadership is all about achieving results.  Leaders should aspire to goal attainment.  The next question is how to do so?  This paves the way to effective leadership.

Effective leadership appears to be a subjective concept.  The current studies highlight conclusions, experiences, and inferences on leadership traits, and styles, but no quantitative data to demonstrate which style brings about results.  Therefore, business leaders must embrace the leadership styles: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching to create the right recipe to lead their followers.

Leadership is a combination of art and science.  The various scholars and studies reveal unequivocally that leaders should embrace emotional intelligence competencies to lead effectively.  It is an art to empathize with others, self-motivated and motivate others, self-regulated, awareness of strength, weaknesses of self and others.  Effective leaders accept leadership as a process.  They know what style to use, what combination of styles to use with whom, where and when.  This is important because they work with people they tend to influence.  The adoption of the wrong styles may create resentment with followers exponentially in a group context.  The adoption of the right styles will lead to what most effective and insightful leaders sought after, a compass to achieve sustainable results.


Adler, N. J., & Bartholomew, S. (199). Managing globally competent people. Academy of Management Executive, 6, 52-65.

Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P., & Zigarmi, D. (1985). Leadership and the One Minute Managers: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership.

Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T. (2009). Managing & Organization: An introduction to theory & practice (2nd Edition ed.). London Sage Publications Ltd.

Munley, A. E. (2011). Culture Differences in Leadership. IUP Journal Of Soft Skills, 5(1), 16-30.

Northhouse, P. (2007). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sage Publication, Inc.

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