Paul Hodgkins is the Executive Director at Paul Hodgkins Project Consultancy.
What differentiates project leaders from the pack is the power of anticipation
Project leaders pay attention to the details, but they don’t live in them. They see and spot things in a different way to average project managers. They take every opportunity to adapt, observe and learn from things that went well or wrong; from every conversation they have and every person they meet. They reflect on how they can synthesize this information in the context of their projects and programmes and they use it to anticipate the next set of challenges, or how their team or stakeholders may react to a given situation. They are in a constant state of preparedness and as a result, they are always in control, rather than circumstances controlling them. This allows them to set the tempo, not respond to it. It allows their team to feel shielded from events when that’s needed or to be at the vanguard of making things happen when that’s called for. Anticipation does not mean that project leaders know everything. Nobody does. But it does mean they know what they don’t know and when to turn to others in the team. Coupling this ability with humility is, in my view, a key project leadership capability.
Project leadership is about having belief and confidence in yourself as a project manager and leader. If you remain authentic and true to yourself, if you can adapt and anticipate; then even if you do get something wrong, you are much more likely to be forgiven. Leadership in projects is about learning from every element and dimension of projects and recognizing that in a given situation or with a given set of challenges, it is not a failure of leadership to know, that at that moment in time, you are not the best person to move things forward. ‘Passing the ball’ to a team member is not giving away responsibility, it is taking it and knowing when to make the ‘right pass’ is also an attribute that sets apart project leaders. - Paul Hodgkins, Executive Director