Project leadership is about helping your team to overcome obstacles. A good project leader takes her responsibilities seriously and, as a result, is actually made better. When I was an Army cadet I was assigned to a basic training company for five weeks to assist the drill sergeants in training the new recruits and to learn from them with their vastly greater Army experience. Our unit was at the confidence obstacle course and one of the recruits froze up on the horizontal portion of an obstacle very much like the one pictured above. He wouldn’t move. On the horizontal portion you have to step from wooden beam to wooden beam and you can see the ground fifteen to twenty feet below you. The Hollywood drill sergeant version of standing on the ground and yelling at him would have been an ineffective strategy (actually that’s almost always an ineffective strategy). I said to the platoon drill sergeant, “I’ll go.”
I ran over, climbed up the first vertical segment and walked to the beam where the private was standing. I looked him in the eyes and calmly spoke to him for a few seconds and said, “we can do this together.” Then, side-by-side we proceeded one step at a time to the next segment of the obstacle and finished.
I’m not saying this to brag about my own prowess. Truth be told, I tend to be afraid of heights. But, up there, with somebody who depended on my leadership in that little matter on that one day, just being the leader made me better. I felt no fear – only interest in getting this younger man to do what I knew he could do – overcome his own fear and complete the obstacle.
Your project team will face many obstacles. A conscientious leader will be made better by the fact that the team depends on her leadership. And your team will be better for it.