5 Profiles of a Poor Project Leader

5 characteristics of poor project leaders

The quality of a project leader means the difference between a project that runs smooth, efficiently and on-time … and one that goes over-budget, over-deadline or, even worse, doesn’t get completed at all.

Over the years, I’ve observed great project managers — and not-so-great ones.

Here are 4 profiles of the not-so-great project leaders:

1) The Analysis Paralyzer

Good project teams are made up of members who each are specialists in their own field, who can provide counsel in their specialties to the team and the project leader.  Good project leaders are those who can take that counsel and make decisive decisions based on that advice.  Then there are the project leaders who, despite the best counsel of their team members, are too afraid to make a decision.  Sometimes they hem and haw; sometimes they put it to committee vote; sometimes, they just plain fail to make the decision at all.

2) The Rubber-Stamp Seeker

Some project leaders will ask the team members for their counsel on a specific action-item, even though the project leader already has his or her mind made up the direction that will be taken.  Instead of just forging ahead on his or her decided action item based on the courage of his or her own convictions — the project leader will continue argue or debate with the team members until they cry “uncle” and sign off on the direction, even if they disagree with it.  This “rubber stamp” provides cover to the project leader if the you-know-what-hits-the-fan because of his or her bad decision.

3) The Instigator

Nothing can kill progress like internal workplace turf wars. Some project leaders, however, like to instigate and foment such territoriality either because they play favorites among the project team members, or because they fail to tell the left hand what the right hand is doing.  Some project leaders think this instigation leaders to better quality work, but there’s a difference between letting the best cream rise to the top — and just plain making for inefficient work.

4) The Faux Expert

A good project leader doesn’t to be an expert in every facet of the project — that’s why he or she has team members.  And good leaders know what they don’t know.  Bad project leaders, however, don’t admit what they don’t know and pretend to be experts in areas they shouldn’t. Leader should be able to take the advice/counsel of experts, digest it, make a decision and move forward decisively.  But faking it can lead to disastrous results.

5) The Over-Meeter

As I mentioned in this post, there are some project leaders who just love to address questions on conference calls by suggesting or scheduling new conference calls to address those questions. The same applies to meetings. Thanks, but no thanks. There is simply no need for your existing conference calls to spawn new conference calls (which could, in turn, spawn additional conference calls). A neverending cycle of conference calls. You may laugh, but I’ve lived through this experience. It’s unproductive, inefficient and leads to missed deadlines. A good project leader should be able to keep conference calls and meetings focused.  Better yet, a good project leader knows when not to have a meeting with a quick call or email will do.

Do you agree with these characteristics? Have any you’d like to add?  Let us know in the comments!

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