One of the biggest misconceptions I see is that leadership and management are inter-changeable terms with the same meaning. I think each of us aspires to become a leader, and when managing a project it is assumed we become a leader by default. However, it is possible for someone to exhibit high-quality management skills without truly displaying any traits of a successful leader. So I know what you're thinking now, What is leadership, and what are a few quick ways that I can exhibit leadership on my project?

Leadership goes beyond ensuring that the deliverables of the project are delivered in a timely fashion with high quality. Leadership starts with developing those who follow, motivating those inside and outside the project to believe in that message, communicating effectively, and exhibiting honest and ethical behavior. The following actions can help anyone improve their overall leadership abilities:

  • Empower – It's amazing the effect that empowering those around you can have on the overall morale and development of a team. When a leader empowers their team they are showing trust in them which plays a major role in confidence. An empowered team is free to think creatively about problems which allows for an influx of potential solutions, and shows that the leader has trust in the team.
  • Promote cultural importance – As the world becomes more flat, and teams become increasingly global it is imperative that a leader understands and promotes cultural understanding. If a leader takes the time to learn the various cultures embedded in the team, it will show a level of respect that will enhance the overall productivity of the team.
  • Remain Positive – If a leader remains positive even during times of great stress, that positivity will have a calming influence on the team. We have all been in stressful situations, but when the leader keeps that positive attitude it provides that feeling that we'll get through the stress and succeed.
  • Motivate – Motivation is one of the greatest influencers of productivity. A motivated team will likely produce higher quality work at an accelerated pace. A leader who takes the time to encourage their team, get them excited about their work, and about each other will be on their way to success.
  • Be Honest – The team places its trust in their leader and it's vital that the leader places importance in honesty. The effects of the attributes above will be negated if a leader does not value honesty. A leader should exhibit transparency with their team in order to ensure that everyone remains on the same page.

The actions listed above help to ensure that a leader is playing a "socioemotional" role in the eyes of the team. The "socioemotional" role, according to Dr. Richard L. Daft, is "the leadership role associated with facilitating others' participation, smoothing conflicts, showing concern for team members' needs and feelings, serving as a role model, and reminding others of standardss for team interaction." (Daft) In my experience when a leader makes the effort to care about the needs of their team, they get a higher level of performance than one who doesn't think about those "socioemotional" needs. The next time you're in a role on a project that affords the opportunity to show leadership start by exhibiting the attributes listed above. While this isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a comprehensive list of leadership qualities, these qualities will allow you to improve your overall leadership quality. By exhibiting these qualities in conjunction with proper management techniques it will put you well on your way to a successful project.

Daft, Richard L., and Patricia G. Lane. The leadership experience. 4th ed. Mason, Ohio: Thomson/South-Western, 2008. Print.