“”I planned each chartered course, each careful step along the byway, but more, much more than this,I did it my way.””

For me those words written by Paul Anka and immortalized by Frank Sinatra, sum up great project leadership.

If you want to sharpen your project management saw, study leadership.

Here’s how some of the great leaders have mentored me:

The more chaotic the situation the calmer you need to be. This from Rudolph Giulianni who attributes his handling of the 9/11 catastrophe to advice given by his father who instilled in him that you must to assume an aura of calmness and control in the face of adversity if you are to lead others. On a more insignificant scale, you will face moments when others are panicking because things are going awry. You will remain calm while you chant to yourself that there is a way out of the situation. Others will be inspired by your ability to navigate through trouble. As project leaders we know Murphy’s Law is a fact of life; things will go wrong at the worst possible time. When this happens I think of Giulianni’s mantra: remain calm and be the example of controlled leadership.

Damn the odds and just do it. This is the battle cry of Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, a global company that he started in the late 60’s. Branson built a billion-dollar enterprise by focusing on the belief that success will come in the end, despite the incredible odds along the way. Branson went head-to-head against British Airways by starting his own airline, in spite of the fact that every attempt in the past by others to compete against BA had failed. Nevermind that his business partners abandoned him and he had to go it alone. The next time someone hands you a really difficult project, just keep reminding yourself that when you do make it happen you will have done it against the odds.

Exercise your power. Ronald Reagan ended an air traffic controller’s strike by examining the facts and then invoking his power. Reagan realized the 20,000 controllers had no legal power to strike because, as civil servants they had all taken an oath not to. Ironically even his army of lawyers had overlooked a no-strike clause in the civil servants employment contract. By relentlessly looking for solutions and possibilities, Reagan was able find the solution that enabled him to order everyone back to work. One common complaint that project managers frequently voice is they have no real power, no real authority. Nonsense. You have the power and responsibility to find the best solution to every problem.

Take it one day at a time. My final inspirational example of leadership comes not from any world leader, but a friend of mine, Jennifer. Diagnosed with cancer a year ago, she faced an uphill battle of treatment, drugs, and the fight of her life. I am ecstatic to report she is now declaring victory, and her battle was won one day at a time. She managed through the last 300 days with the simple philosophy that “”today is tough, but if I do my best, tomorrow will be better.””

When I think I am having a tough day with project foibles, I think of Jennifer, and my issues become insignificant and quite solvable.

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