Leadership Isn’t For Cowards

October 28, 2013


Mike Staver on a conference screen

This past week I had the honour of participating in the PMI Leadership Institute Meeting in New Orleans. It is a gathering of Chapter and Community of Practice volunteer leaders to grow their skills, network, work with the PMI on initiatives and plan next year’s events for our Chapters/Communities. We were fortunate to have Mike Staver as the opening keynote, presenting Leadership Isn’t for Cowards.

With his hilarious “tell it like it is” attitude, Mike got the audience of over 1000 project managers to list all of the excuses we have ever heard (or used ourselves). We quickly filled the flipchart page with excuses ranging from “no time”, “no resources”, “too tired” to simply “I forgot”. To get past these and lead, we need to accept the presence of these circumstances and deny the power of them to rule our lives. Instead, we should invest our energies in ways to get a massive return on our investment.

To do that, we need to acknowledge what “season” we are in. Every person, team and organization, naturally goes through four “seasons”:

  • Spring – the time where we plant our ideas
  • Summer – when things heat up, we are working hard with lots of things going on, but the payoff is delayed
  • Fall – the payoff has arrived and we celebrate
  • Winter – the time of insulation and isolation

Even if we are in one of the other seasons, we must always prepare for winter because it will always come. That’s where we should invest our energy to maximize our ROI.

Mike went on to describe the three fundamental needs that are barriers to great leadership and how to cure them:

The need to be right

The cure: develop a genuine sense of curiousity

The need to be in control

The cure: let it go

The need to be all things to all people

The cure: just say no.

Everyone in the audience could identify with at least one of these barriers.

As Mike said, every consultant needs an acronym so he concluded with the six things to ATTACK:

Accept your current circumstances

List out everything you need to deal with in your life and face it. Don’t judge it. Simply accept that these exist.

Take action

Do it quickly, which is different than fast. Make sure you act on these circumstances sooner rather than later, but spend the time you need on them.

Take responsibility

Building a culture of responsibility is a culture of repair, not blame.

Acknowledge progress

Celebrate your wins and develop a sense of gratitude

Commit to lifelong learning

Leadership is not something that is learned in a day. It is something we continue to learn throughout our life.

Kindle your relationships

Life is about relationships, but they need care.

Leadership Isn't For Cowards Book Cover
Mike’s book Leadership Isn’t For Cowards goes into more detail. I picked up a copy in the PMI bookstore set up for the conference and look forward to reading it.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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