The 7 deadly sins of project leadership

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Project team leadership is an even more important skill in today’s tight economic times making it even more of a shame when new, and even some experienced project leads fumble the ball in the name of their muddled agendas.

While doing more with less is quite a mantra these days, there are seven deadly sins of project leadership holding back once successful project teams from continuing to thrive.

Granted some team leads get caught in tremendous political binds but there is power in a great project team especially if their umbrella organization is facing challenges from the economy and other related elements.

These sins are:

1. Putting themselves ahead of the project

Leaders putting themselves ahead of the team is perhaps the most deplorable of the sins because the project leader is putting themselves ahead of the overall project. It can happen when the project leader makes themselves the focal topic of meetings; doesn’t stay informed about the project; delegates off all the scut work but puts themselves front and center of the glamorous work while the more mundane tasks they should be performing go undone.

2. Over dramatizing minor things

There is enough to worry about in the workplace these days and when a project lead over exaggerates project issues without focusing on resolutions they can take away from value. It’s a drag for the entire team to see the project lead have no grasp of the project issues and be on the verge of a near melt down the moment things don’t go as planned. It’s even worse when they over dramatize issues to the customer and management. The loss of credibility that comes from this sin can be impossible to recover from

3. Poor management of expectations and the customer in particular

Putting yourself into the lead position means having control over setting expectations and managing the customer in particular. Customer management can be a definite balancing act for project leads in these times since some companies are more risk averse. When a project lead is so drunk on becoming a project lead, they lose sight over this part of the project they are committing a sin.

4. Becoming an attention whore

While this is strictly related to the first point, people in project lead position are there to provide project leadership not become the center of attention for the team, the customer, or anybody else. Attention whores drain morale and productivity making them another project leadership sin.

5. Requiring too much hand holding on the technical stuff

While technical knowledge no longer seems to be a requirement to be a project lead or manager, it can be a productivity black hole for teams to have to educate their leadership on the technical elements of the project. Project leads that have a customer-facing role who don’t understand the technical elements of the project run the risk of not explaining something to the customer correctly in a rush to keep themselves in the spotlight.

6. Blowing off team member questions and meetings

Project or team leads can have a busy role, but when they blow off team member questions and meetings on a regular basis, they are committing another sin. Such actions contribute to the team lead as being an obstruction and not a leader. It’s also a leading reason to inspire team members to work with you instead of with you.

7. Pretending to know more than you do

Faking it until you make it is not respectful to the project or the team. Answering the right questions and listening is the more appropriate action but can steal some of the spotlight from attention whore type project leaders. There is no better way to fracture a project team than a project leader pretending to know more than they do because it destroys credibility.

Are there any other deadly sins of project team leadership?

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Published by

Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a technical writer living and working in the Washington, DC area. After years of contracting, he returned to full-time corporate job in 2016. He writes thought leadership content around cloud, enterprise mobility, and cybersecurity topics. Will's has written for Samsung Business Insights, Tom's IT Pro, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and other sites. Earlier in his career, he wrote technical documentation for end users, developers, and operations teams. His current areas of interest include multi-cloud solutions, mobile security, and managed services. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.

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