Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP, a past
PMI chair, is the director of the Infrastructure and
Project Management Group at the United Nations
Office for Project Services in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Look for three traits to determine who
has the potential to take charge.
BY RICARDO VIANA VARGAS, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP
There is no science in the world that will identify
leaders in your team. There is, however, a pattern
of behavior you can recognize that will increase
your chances of finding a person who can motivate, inspire and lead.
I do not believe one size fits all, but the
following three general pillars help me identify leadership:
People with exceptional levels of commitment strive
to push the envelope, surpass their own boundaries
and motivate others. I believe it’s impossible to be a
true leader by working 9 to 5. Think about the people
you admire the most and why. Be it a project manager, an actor, a musician or an athlete, they are all
committed to what they do and all go the extra mile.
2. PERSONAL DRIVE
People with a clear professional objective not only
get the job done, they also inspire and lead the
group to follow suit. Their drive is not limited: They
have personal and professional goals that move
them forward, and they bring the team with them.
How did Usain Bolt beat the 100-meter Olympic
record in 2012? It was his drive.
If people see you as honest, reliable and trustworthy, you will motivate them to follow. If what you
are saying and doing does not come from an honest
place, it will be hard to inspire others and have
them recognize your leadership.
I have been able to trust these pillars to help
identify key players in my team. For example,
when I first met one of the managers currently
on my team, she was working for an office that
had rejected a technical component of one
of my proposed projects. She was assigned to
discuss the case with me. I did not agree with
the reasons behind the rejection, but she was
so assertive and committed to her decision that
I understood I was dealing with someone with
strong leadership skills. She had a sense of purpose and drive, and I trusted her judgment.
Of course, sometimes your instincts might be
wrong. A trait that has tricked me in the past
is charisma. Being nice, popular or likable does
not make you a leader. If you are charismatic
but fail to set direction, the team will not be
inspired. Confusing charisma with leadership is
especially tricky in the interview process. I was
recently looking for a manager to lead a work
stream. One candidate seemed a perfect match,
but as soon as he joined the team and I saw him
in action, I realized we had made a mistake.
His charisma did not translate to commitment,
drive and trust.
Leaders inspire people to follow in their footsteps. Project managers need to understand the
type of team they are managing and look for the
proper leadership to inspire them. PM