The Importance of Executive Leadership in Successful Projects – Part II
Part II of a two-part series on the role Executive Leaders play in successful projects. Written by Don Pagel, Vice President, Public Sector Services at Kronos.
Leadership requires knowledge, trust, influence, faith and vision. In Part I, Knowledge and Trust are highlighted as two of the major factors that need to be considered with any project implementation. Now, Don will dive into Influence, Faith, and Vision, also important aspects for leaders to follow.
Influence requires vision and is born of trust and personal reputation. In order for a project to be successful, a leader must address fear in the stakeholders. Often projects may dramatically change the level of control a particular stakeholder has in a process. Senior stakeholders must feel that the executive sponsor has trust and faith in the product and project. The level of trust a stakeholder has in the executive sponsor is directly proportional to the influence you have. Often, this influence is built over years of relationship building but can also be done in a shorter period of time if the leader shows a solid conviction to the vision balanced with thoughtfulness of addressing stakeholders’ objections. Selecting an executive sponsor that lacks influence among the senior stakeholders will cause lack of trust in the project that will manifest itself with internal power struggles and politics.
Faith is not the same thing as trust or belief. Faith is an action word that acts on trust and belief. A leader shows faith when they take risks. The leader also shows faith when a risky decision resulted in a negative outcome and the leader accepts responsibility for it but still shows trust and vision in both the product and the project by correcting the problem quickly.
In my early 20’s, I was a full-commissioned sales rep for and industrial supply firm. I had to develop strong relationships with my clients because I saw them every month and needed them to place an order from me each month. Often when troubles arose with an account, the weaker sales reps would shy away from the problem stupidly thinking that either the problem would magically go away or someone else would solve it for them. I couldn’t do that. I felt honor-bound to take care of their problem. What I later realized was that by addressing the problem head-on, the customer almost always placed an additional order from me! I always felt that my success in that company was due primarily to that one principle.
Having trust in your team and in the product will allow you to have faith that each bump in the road will be smoothed out and that you can feel confident in keeping the stakeholders apprised and yet comfortable. Lack of faith produces diversion and misdirection by stakeholders that ultimately leads to a less-efficient project with many delays.
Of all of the principles of leadership, vision is the most critical and yet is built on the backs of knowledge, trust, influence and faith. Vision is never equated with mediocrity nor is it risk-averse. Vision is what leads nations to justified and triumphant battles. Vision led man to the moon and back. Vision was at the beginning of every successful company that started in a garage. Vision is required for complex and far reaching projects. Lack of vision is like a ship that sails from port with no plan, no direction and ends up in trouble in open water.
Failed projects are often due to a lack of knowledge, trust, influence and vision. These are the essence of organizational change management. There is more to it than this, but these principles are the guiding force that leads a project to a successful conclusion.