Question: Which is better, a team with great leader as project manager, or a team of competent leaders?
Answer: The results are not even close. Companies like Semco, Toyota, and W. L. Gore & Associates have demonstrated beyond doubt, that while it is great to have an outstanding leader as project manager, it is far better to have an entire team of individuals who are competent leaders.
In the book “How People Work: And How You Can Help Them to Give Their Best” Roderic Gray outlines nine ingredients that bring about a successful outcome at work:
1. I know what I am expected to do and why it needs to be done
2. I want to do it
3. I have the ability to do it
4. Someone who matters to me will notice if I do it
5. I know how well I’m doing it
6. Processes help me do it
7. I have the resources to do it
8. The environment is right
9. I can do better next time
It is easy to look at our jobs and criticize management if any are missing. Yet, as Michael Aucoin points out, it is far better to get a critical mass of the ingredients right and then give workers the green light to fill in what is missing. This is the essence of distributed leadership and the stuff of which exemplary projects and companies are made.
An example of this shared leadership in action is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (www.orpheusnyc.org). This full size orchestra has no conductor; instead they share and rotate leadership roles. So, what does this orchestra with no conductor sound like? Well, very good apparently, they have won two Grammy awards, recorded over 70 albums, and play worldwide to rave reviews, regularly performing at Carnegie Hall.
Teams do not need all 9 of the magic ingredients handed to them, but they do need to know that they have the authority and freedom add the missing ingredients from their mix. Empowered teams exhibiting shared leadership are the key to great performance. Project managers add value by illuminating and facilitating the process.