You’re up one day and down the next. No problem—the people who work for you can just go with the flow, right?
“Wrong,” says Karen Wright, whose company, Parachute Executive Coaching (www.parachuteexecutivecoaching.com). Wright, the author of The Complete Executive: The 10-Step System for Great Leadership Performance (Bibliomotion, 2012), offers these five tips on creating a steady leadership persona.
1. Stay cool.
Your project team needs to know the difference between a mood swing and a major project issue. Help them out by staying on an even keel at least 90 percent of the time. When you’re down they’ll know it’s serious, and when you’re up they will know there is real cause for celebration. I always remember what a veteran project leader once told me: “It’s always going to get crazy—just don’t get flustered by it. Prioritize as you go, and that way you’ll get through the decision-making process.” It’s crucial to discern between a real emergency and something that can wait.
2. Walk your talk.
When you become a project leader, more people are watching—and the more easily you’ll be called out if your actions don’t match your words. Make sure you are a living example of the values you expect others to uphold. Back up what you say with your actions. Bring your beliefs to life; move beyond words to practice what you preach.
3. Get your story straight.
When you are a successful project leader, chances are the project team and your peers are going to want to hear about how you made it to the top. Don’t embellish or inflate. The more relatable it is, the better. Besides, the truth will always catch up with you. The most successful project leaders I know have built their personal brand by letting right thinking, right “decisioning,” and right acting serve as their guide. If you have to manipulate the truth to gain an advantage, the advantage is not worth the perceived gain, for any advantage gained in deceit will surely come at a very high cost…the sacrifice of your honor and integrity.
4. Keep it real.
Never assume you’re doing fine, and never presume you know what others are thinking. Ask for feedback, whether directly or through a confidential survey process, and be open to what you hear. You can’t expect your teammates to accept feedback if you are not willing to do the same. Feedback provides project leaders with the information they need for sound decision-making. Indeed, it’s important for project leaders to stay in touch with their project teams – that’s where many winning ideas come from. As well, feedback acts as a kind of early warning system about potential problems with the project, people, and processes.
5. Stand for something.
You are in a position to inspire the project team and lead them toward something important and exciting. Don’t be shy. Let your passion show. Your authentic excitement will be infectious. And if you are not a naturally comfortable public speaker, get trained and practice, practice, practice: Few skills are as important in a leader as the ability to energize a crowd. The project team likes to follow; they just want to follow someone who leads and gives them something they want to follow.