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Authentic Leadership in Project Management

    December 16, 2019

Project Management has been there in the world of human existence since the ages. It plays a significant role in the success of the project and of the organization (Meredith and Mantel, 2010). Over the last few decades, this has become a profession, just like finance, marketing, etc. In the management literature, leadership has accepted as an influential source for organization success; however, in the project management context, there is a lot of further work that needs to done yet.

Project leadership perspective: The projects are becoming popular across the globe in different parts of the world in varied sizes of the organization

The essence advice of authentic leadership is that thou, as a leader, should not perform a task but be genuinely yourself. It doesn’t imply you can do anything you desire or that you can shout at your team. Bill George defines the authentic leadership role quite considerably: “Authentic leaders control their statements and idioms carefully to be harmonized to their readers and to enroll their co-workers and teammates. They do so because they are susceptible to the impact their comments and behaviors have on others, not because they are “messaging” the claim talking cases.”

What’s the connection between project management and authentic leadership?

Leadership in project management is an undervalued area, which should get more recognition. There are a lot of various leadership behaviors – situational, transformational, transactional, assistant, etc. But in my belief, authentic leadership is the judgment of opportunity for project managers. The sense of possibility because I wouldn’t call it a technique but rather a choice which type of leader you prefer to be.

Authentic leaders are people with extraordinary integrity who are willing to live by their core values. They have a strong sense of purpose and understand the motives that drive them. It is an insight they have developed through introspection, observation, feedback and years of experience

As per Daniel Goleman, an emotional intelligence expert, and his colleagues, researchers Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, the following are the four types of authentic leaders.

Visionary (or Authoritative) Leaders – they have an ambitious vision, and they inspire others to pursue it.

Coaching Leaders – they know how to further development, and get the best out of those around them, and they usually do just that.

Affiliative Leaders – these leaders are well-versed in applying and enhancing positive affect in the workplace, and they can bring harmony and conflict resolution to a team.

Consensus (or Democratic) Leaders – they thrive on collaboration, bringing together a diverse range of viewpoints to gather information and make decisions (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).

How much of this can utilized to convert a PM (Project Manager) to Project Leader (PL), depends on various factors

  • Culture of the organization
  • Individual culture of the PM
  • Size of the organization and hierarchy
  • Types of leaders at the top management levels
  • Environmental factors influencing the project outcomes

Research on various business leaders leads to Bass’ transformational leadership style, which is characterized by:

  • Idealized influence: the leader is liked and respected by their followers and serves as a role model.
  • Inspirational motivation: the leader motivates and inspires their followers.
  • Intellectual stimulation: the leader promotes creativity and innovation through open-mindedness and non-threatening questioning of ideas.
  • Individualized consideration: the leader treats each follower as a unique individual with unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs (Bass & Riggio, 2006).

Some of the findings from research on authentic leadership later in this piece, including ways to implement positive leadership tools and techniques and it says that an authentic leader should have the following characteristics

  • Positive affect
  • Mindfulness
  • Hope
  • Confidence
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-efficacy
  • Locus of control

Emotional stability (Carleton, Barling, & Trivisonno, 2018; Hannah, Woolfolk, & Lord, 2009).

The research also suggests the following seven behaviors of authentic leaders

Self-awareness (asking for feedback)

Relational transparency (having a clear leadership philosophy)

Balanced processing (using active listening)

Ethical behavior (following through on what you say you will do)

Trustworthiness (treating others with respect and keeping your word)

Supportiveness (giving appreciation and support to followers)

Empowerment (giving your followers freedom and choice; Wong & Cummings, 2009).

To ensure you are modeling good leadership behavior, recommended are few tips:

Model your values behind the actions, not just the works themselves.

Promote self-determination in your followers by showing them how it can do.

Encourage positive emotions and positive social exchanges in the workplace.

Set high expectations and live up to them.

Make sure you deliver on the commitments you make.

Value your followers (and others) and be sure to nurture relationships as well as skills and professional development.

Work well with others and promote (and engage in) teamwork and collaboration.

Try to resolve the inevitable conflicts that will arise in the workplace as quickly and effectively as possible.

Be open about your desire and willingness to help, support, and develop others

(Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Mariama-Arthur, 2014; Woolley, Caza, & Levy, 2011).

6 Ways to Deliver Positive Feedback:

Leaders generally find that delivering positive feedback is much easier than giving negative feedback, but that doesn’t mean you can kick back and relax; there are right and wrong ways to do it.

Here are some essential tips on how to deliver positive feedback most effectively:

  • Try to identify with the recipient of your feedback and imagine how he or she would feel if they were to receive this feedback.
  • Explain your purpose in giving feedback; is it to merely congratulate them, to help them see where they should focus their efforts, or perhaps to encourage them to build on their existing skills?
  • Focus on the future and help your followers figure out their next steps.
  • Make sure to keep a positive facial expression, avoid expressing judgment, and remember to smile and nod!
  • Keep your tone friendly and uplifting.
  • Keep your focus on the positive and avoid slipping into the negative (Porath, 2016).

The Work of Kim Cameron:

Kim Cameron is one of the biggest names in the positive leadership realm—you might even call him a “founding father” of positive leadership—and his work has proven to be a significant source of knowledge about positive direction.

For example, Cameron’s description of positive leadership has widely used to define the boundaries of the subfield; the three connotations of positive direction, according to Cameron, are:

It facilitates positively deviant (extraordinarily positive) performance.

It features a positive bias, meaning that it oriented towards the positive (strengths instead of weaknesses).

It fosters the good in people (e.g., virtuousness, moral integrity, Cameron, 2008).

 This simple but comprehensive description of positive leadership perfectly captures what sets it apart from all other types of leadership. Cameron’s work has made a positive direction more accessible to everyone as well as adding valuable findings to the literature.

Recommended Articles:

For further reading of the academic variety, give these first positive leadership articles a try:

Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership by Bruce J. Avolio and William L. Gardner

Positive direction: Meaning and application across cultures by Carolyn M. Youssef-Morgan and Fred Luthans

Positive global direction by Carolyn M. Youssef and Fred Luthans

Psychological capital: A positive resource for combating employee stress and turnover by James B. Avey, Fred Luthans, and Susan M. Jensen (not publicly available, but check your local library!)

Positive leadership and employee well-being by Kevin Kelloway, Heidi Weigand, Margaret McKee, and Hari Das

Recommended books:

The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World

Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance

Practicing Positive Leadership: Tools and Techniques That Create Extraordinary Results

Positive Academic Leadership Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work

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