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Which planet? The project leadership expert’s opinion

Guest Editor Adrian Taggart asks: ‘Which planet do you come from?’ Below, project leadership expert Donnie MacNicol responds.

Adrian’s excellent piece gets to the heart of many of the challenges we face today in organisations – whether from an operational perspective where there is the need for continual improvement of the services and products offered or from the perspective of the people tasked with making the changes happen.

You could argue that it is an artificial divide, because without one the other would not survive, and in many cases they are the same person! If distinct then they must therefore learn to work as a single entity.

So what of the people who are expected to make change happen in an increasingly challenging environment – what makes them successful?

An all too traditional response comprises a list of defining characteristics, added to constantly through the deluge of thought pieces of one sort or another which I am equally guilty of adding to. These characteristics can be dangerous, because they often focus on the extroverted and pushy leader which can result in people believing this is the norm and discounting people who do not exhibit these characteristics but could be just as successful.

What is important to understand is that we are all different, have different styles and that it is the person’s underlying motivation that it is critical to understand because the behaviours may be different but the outcome the same.

Take as an example a core competence of ‘understanding customer needs’. How many different ways are there of achieving the same outcome? Options include careful research validated formally with the customer, building a trusting relationship with the customer and encouraging them to share, working with the customer (potentially in a group) to extract and capture information or working with them through formal channels to collate and confirm back.  A leader who is adaptable and is willing to modify their approach could choose any of these options to suit the context; some even do this unconsciously.

If you are one of these people I take my hat off to you. If you are not, you can still achieve the same outcome but you need to put a little more effort in and reflect before acting!

Donnie MacNicol, Director, Team Animation

Team Animation is a company that is passionate about energising project organisations and the people in them. Donnie MacNicol is the co-author of Project Leadership (3rd Edition), which will be published by Gower in late summer 2015.

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