The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

A final bonus post on Great PMs – notes on the leadership persona

I have come to believe that leadership is really about what you do and influence others to do, rather than primarily about a particular outward charisma..   However, I do believe that how you come across to people CAN significantly add to or substract from your effectiveness.

We ask people to do hard things – work hard, meet tough deadlines, operate in the midst of uncertainty and pressure.  It is certainly helpful if the way we lead makes it easier for them to follow and contribute and get it all done with a positive attitude.    I have looked back at times to say, who did it seem easiest to follow, who made me feel confident in the tasks and the chance of a great outcome, what project leaders instilled in me a sense of confidence and trust and desire to push through the hard stuff?

I’ve actually found some words that express it, paint a picture, better than I had been able to.   
On a vacation I happened to read 1776, a Pulitzer-prize-winning book on George Washington and the Revolutionary War, covering the time leading up to the famous crossing of the Delaware and the turning of the tide toward victory.  The book painted a frank picture of George Washington as a person and as a leader.    I was so struck by how the book continually brought out his particular leadership persona, I ended up taking down all the passages that really hit me.  I thought I’d pass them along as a parting post this week.  They certainly paint a picture for me – a picture of a person whose bearing inspired confidence and support and trust, a bearing I can personally strive to consistently display with my teams.    I hope you’ll find these quotes interesting and thought-provoking as well.  

From the book  1776 by David McCullough

“It was the look and bearing of a man accustomed to respect and being obeyed. He was not austere.  There was no hint of arrogance. 

“Amiable” and “modest” were words frequently used to describe him, and there was a softness in his eyes that people remembered.  Yet he had a certain distance in manner that set him off from, or above, others.”

“Be easy, but not too familiar, lest you subject yourself to a want of that respect, which is necessary to support a proper command.”

“… [He] has so much martial dignity in his deportment that you would distinguish him to be a general and a  soldier from among 10,000 people.”

“…[He] expressed himself to me in such terms that I thought myself bound by every tie of duty and honor to comply in his request to help him through the sea of difficulties.”

“Washington was a man of exceptional, almost excessive self-command, rarely permitting himself any show of discouragement or despair.”

“It was Washington who held the army together and gave it ‘spirit through the most desperate of times’.  He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual.  At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness.  He had made several mistakes in judgment.  But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience.  Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up…… ”

“..called for perseverence and spirit….. patience and perseverence….. unremitting courage and perseverence….”

“It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting effects upon the history of the world.”

“But troops properly inspired and animated…by a just confidence in their leader, will often exceed expectations, or the limits of probability.”

So very very well said… 

Cinda Voegtli


About the Author

Cinda Voegtli, Founder, President, and CEO of ProjectConnections, has over 20 years of project management experience in start-ups, rapidly growing companies, and large corporate environments. Her portfolio includes a wide variety of activities: developing products; managing projects; building organizations; and implementing and improving project management, portfolio management, and development processes. Her project experience includes communications and medical systems, IT application and infrastructure, industrial automation, desktop software, facilities construction, biotech drug development, and aerospace/government programs. Cinda has held director and VP-level positions managing budgets of up to $50 million across large portfolios of projects in technology development companies, and has provided senior management consulting to clients such as Hewlett Packard, Lam Research, Pacific Bell, Dow Chemical, NASA, FAA, Nellcor, Aviron/MedImmune, and Mobil Corporation. She is a Past President of the worldwide IEEE Engineering Management Society, an author and speaker on engineering and project management, and co-author of a Fortune 500-targeted book on rapid product development. Her specialties and project loves include projects involving technology development (high tech and IT); applying PM to short iterative web and marketing projects; adjusting PM and development processes to work on everything from simple, small projects up to large messy complex projects. Why she's still in project management : "Because there is nothing more satisfying than getting a bunch of incredibly different people rallied around a business goal to successfully execute a messy uncertain complex project together." Best project advice she has ever received: "Make the process work for the people, not the other way around."
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One Response to “A final bonus post on Great PMs – notes on the leadership persona”

  1. Looks like I found a book to read. Washingtom was a great leader and motivator, otherwise he would not have surived Valley Forge.

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