Association for Project Management
How can project professionals achieve the perfect leadership approach?
Blog posted by: Susanne Madsen, 03 Aug 2021.
What the best leadership approach is with your team. Should you be soft or challenging, or somewhere in between? How do we achieve the perfect balance?
The quick answer is that your leadership approach should be flexible enough to adjust to the person you are leading in any given situation on any given project. When leading a person who lacks confidence and skills, you need to display more of your softer side, whereas someone who is very confident and knowledgeable would respond better to a more challenging approach.
Serve, command or both?
Most team members fall somewhere in between. They need a healthy mix of support and challenge from their manager to perform and generate the best results. This means you should provide all the support and nurture your team needs to deliver and grow, while simultaneously setting high standards and expecting the best. In other words, you must learn to access your empowering yin-style of serving others, and at the same time access your commanding yang-style.
Yin symbolises the feminine elements such as listening, supporting, coaching, maintaining stability and praising people for a job well done. These characteristics are hugely important when establishing and leading a team, especially in the early days when people don’t yet trust their own abilities. You can use your supportive yin side to build your team’s confidence and develop skills that are lacking.
Yin to enable, yang to challenge
Using your yin style, you would want to understand what drives and motivates each member of the team and what type of help they each need. Connect with people one-to-one, understanding their position and assisting them in growing and developing. At a team level, encourage collaboration and provide a safe environment for team members to work together and come up with their own solutions.
Yin leadership is enabling and is concerned with making it possible for others to flourish and contribute. Yang, on the other hand, symbolises the masculine element, which is challenging, demanding and factual. This side of leadership sets a high standard and expects the team to deliver to it. To access your yang side, provide the team with a strong sense of direction, set the bar high and encourage action and results. Ask probing questions regarding assumptions, solutions and schedules, and hold your team to account. Be assertive when needed and challenge your team to deliver to the best of its ability. The more confident and able your team is, the better it will respond to your challenges.
Imbalances in yin and yang
Most project managers have a preference for either yin or yang. They have developed a style where either the yin or the yang element has grown to dominate. If you end up with too much yang, and very little yin, you will create stress around you. You will demand a lot but not give the team the security, confidence and space it needs to perform. On the other hand, if you only use yin, you run the risk of being too soft and nice and ending up with a team that’s underperforming.
In summary, your team needs a dynamic tension of both yin and yang to perform and thrive. Adjust how much of each element you use relative to how confident and able each team member is. In general, your leadership approach shouldn’t be ‘either/or’ but ‘and’. You must be enabling and demanding; flexible and tough; supportive and challenging. When you combine yin and yang in this holistic way, you become a results-oriented project leader who cares about people and who involves them in the decisions that affect them. Then you become a leader who challenges the team to continuously improve and innovate while stepping back and enabling them to do so.
Do you have a question for Susanne? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also be interested in:
- What is project team management and leadership?
- Leadership skills for successful projects (🔒)
- Evolving project leadership – from command and control to engage and empower
About the Author
Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Prior to setting up her own business, she worked for 17 years in the corporate sector leading large change programmes of up to $30 million for organisations such as Standard Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. She is a fully qualified Corporate and Executive coach and a member of the Association for Project Management (APM). Susanne specialises in helping managers improve their leadership skills so that they can gain control of their projects and fast-track their career. She does this through a combination of training, coaching, mentoring and consulting. Read more on: www.susannemadsen.com
Latest News from
Association for Project Management
APM responds to Autumn Statement 202324/11/2023 14:05:00
Andrew Baldwin, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at APM responded to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement this week
APM Volunteer Achievement Awards 2023 - Winners Announced20/11/2023 13:20:00
The winners of the APM Volunteer Achievement Awards have been announced at the Volunteers’ Forum taking place at a special awards ceremony in Manchester on 16 November.
Launching Projects in Prism, Q&A with APM Fellow Roselyn Unegbu17/11/2023 13:20:00
Roselyn Unegbu has over 20 years working in project, programme and portfolio management within construction and leadership, and is founder of Projects in Prism, an inclusive and accessible networking initiative that supports the enhancement of females from a global majority within the project profession.
Q & A with Lorraine Bellinger, Head of Legal Project Delivery at Bird & Bird09/11/2023 16:20:00
Bird & Bird is an international law firm with over 30 offices in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Africa working across multiple sectors and supporting organisations being changed by the digital world or those leading that change.
APM wins at Association Excellence Awards 202307/11/2023 10:20:00
APM is celebrating after Project – the official journal of APM – scooped the award for Best Association Newsletter or Magazine (circulation 6,000-25,000) at this year’s Association Excellence Awards, which took place at a prestigious awards ceremony in London on 3 November.
International Project Management Day03/11/2023 14:20:00
International Project Management Day (2 November) is a celebration of the social value and economic impact of projects, as well as the incredible work done by those who deliver them.
Revealed – APM Fellows’ views on the future of sustainability in projects02/11/2023 14:20:00
Some of the project profession’s most senior experts shared their views on challenges and opportunities around sustainability in projects, as part of a discussion led by leading academics at the APM Fellow’s Forum.
Celebrating 20 Years of the APM’s Governance Specific Interest Group31/10/2023 10:20:00
On Wednesday 29 October 2003 a group of eleven project professionals met in Oxford at the SAID Business School to discuss how OECD’s principles of corporate governance could and should apply to project governance.
APM event simulates major stadium build project in a single day30/10/2023 13:20:00
Project professionals seeking to develop experience and knowledge were given the opportunity to deliver a simulated major football stadium project from concept to completion with the support of APM Fellows all in just one day.