Precepts on Project Management Leadership
By Robert Prieto
Leadership is about many things…having a vision, demonstrating high focus on goal achievement and driving this to success. But true leadership goes well beyond this. It is about honesty and teamwork. It is about conscience and context not just results. True leaders generate results because they understand what leadership is about. It gives them the ability to weather storms and out perform when times are good.
As our emerging professionals move towards becoming the industry’s next leaders, I thought I’d suggest some precepts to guide them. They are not all encompassing, and are based on personal observation and experience. They are a beginning but each emerging professional must complete their own list.
The project management industry needs the next generation of leaders more than ever before and that leadership path is never too early to set out upon.
Some Precepts on Leadership:
1.Trust is earned slowly, but lost quickly
Trust is the sine qua non of a leader. It is the basis for all meaningful relationships and is necessary to develop the industry, client and internal team relationships that are a mark of leadership. In its simplest form it is about keeping your word. Honoring commitments you make no matter how painful it is to do so. It is about dealing fairly and never operating unilaterally. Leaders who lose the trust of others or who do not bring their clients or other employees “along” before making needed changes do not remain leaders for long.
2.Communication must be continuous and honest and complete
Leaders communicate, especially when it’s hard. They communicate continuously, up, down, and sideways. They tell all they know as fact. They identify the gaps in their knowledge so no false impressions are created. They paint a complete picture and own their opinions. One leader I know taught her staff, and her boss and peers, to “tell, tell, tell.”
3.Dignity is a human requirement
If you start from the perspective of seeing the best in people, you will. And if you do, you will trust them with the dignity that all humanity is entitled to at birth. Dignity is not something you can give, only diminish. The power of any organization, whether it is a company or project, is in its people. We are truly empowered when we feel we are valued not dismissed, appreciated not scorned, and applauded for the differences we bring not persecuted for them. In marketing we strive for differentiators to set us apart from our competition. I will suggest that they are all around us, and we are them.
We must believe each of our peers is operating with the best intent in mind, even if we may have done it differently. See the best in humanity, because it is truly there.
4.Always lend a hand
The offer to help, especially when the situation is bad, is a high risk personal decision. But the reward, which is trust earned, is worth it. Your kindergarten teacher’s admonishment to “hold hands when crossing the street” is still valid today.
A helping hand extended, or received, imbues trust. Help make those around you be successful and you will enhance your own success, and in the process become a leader.
Go out of your way to be helpful, that’s what the word “always” means. Go the extra mile. Help your peers be successful, they are not your competitors but your future colleagues. “Growing up together” builds bonds that cannot be bought. Support each other directly and indirectly.
Share your experiences, good and bad. What have you learned? What would you do differently next time? Communicate proactively not just when requested.
5.Deal with the hard stuff
Don’t ignore the hard-to-do pile or avoid the difficult or unpleasant decisions. Denial is not a strategy.
Put your trust on the line. Be honest in your communication. Be respectful of all people and seek help whenever it may be found.
Resolve disagreements, don’t let them fester. Accept the outcome and move on.
Be a contributor. Truly own that opinion. Step forward. Make the unpleasant observation but offer a constructive alternative. Take personal risks…remember you are responsible for your own success.
Remember the laws of inertia and momentum. A body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Be a mover and a doer.
Contribute professionally and personally. View ethical behavior as your only alternative. Build the knowledge of our industry, your firm, your project, your peers and most importantly, yourself to contribute to continued leadership and development of your own leadership abilities.
7.Be a leader
You learn by doing. The talent and ability is already within you. Follow the precepts above, develop them in those around you and you will truly become the leader you desire.
Robert Prieto, Senior Vice President
Robert Prieto is senior vice president for Fluor, where he leads strategy for Fluor’s Industrial and Infrastructure group. Mr. Prieto focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide.
Prior to joining Fluor, Bob served as chairman of Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. As head of PB’s board of directors, he was responsible for overseeing management performance, establishing top-level policies, and ensuring the firm’s continued long term success.
He is a member of the executive committee of the National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a member of the board of directors of the Business Council on International Understanding, a member of the board of the Civil Engineering Forum for Innovation, and co-founder and member of the board of the Disaster Resource Network. He currently serves on the National Research Council’s committee framing the challenges on Critical Infrastructure Systems. Until 2006 he served as one of three U.S. presidential appointees to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and served as chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of The World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the board of trustees of Polytechnic University of New York, and was previously selected as alumni of the year by its New York Chapter.
He has had an executive sponsorship role in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub; West Coast Rail Modernization; Train Protection and Warning System; Level 3 Communications Long Haul Network and Superconducting Super Collider.
Prieto holds a master of science in nuclear engineering from Polytechnic University of New York and a bachelor of science in nuclear engineering from New York University.
Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR) provides services on a global basis in the fields of engineering, procurement, construction, operations, maintenance and project management. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Fluor is a FORTUNE 500 company with revenues of $14.1 billion in 2006. For more information, visit www.fluor.com.
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