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According to Chrismon Nofsinger, there are 4 steps on the journey to being a great leader, but most people only get halfway.
“Leadership is about facilitating the output of others and giving them recognition,” he writes in his new book, The Shift from One to Many: A Practical Guide to Leadership. This is a great way to define leadership, and this short book explains how you can be better at it.
It’s not about you
Leadership, whether you are leading a project, a sports team or a group of volunteers, is not about you. That’s where the title of this book comes from: it’s the journey of giving up the need for it to all be about you and starting to think about your impact on others and what you can do for them.
Nofsinger’s 4 step journey encompasses:
Me: “People with a Me focus are concerned with knowing exactly what is expected of them,” writes Nofsinger. It is characterized by using the word “I” a lot, and not using other people’s names. People who are at this leadership stage have ownership of tasks and often perform very well, but because they concentrate on their own contribution they struggle to listen and don’t take other people’s views into account. I expect you know some project team members, or even some project managers, who operate like this.
Us: This stage is where leaders use the language of “we” and it is all about teams. I think that many project managers display this type of leadership, and if they don’t, they should strive for it. It’s demonstrated by collaboration, recognition for the work of others and through beginning to delegate appropriately.
Letting Go: The shift to full-time coach. You look for the strengths and weaknesses in each of the team members. You are objective, and allocate work based on skill and ability. I think this is where effective program managers should be. You have to trust others to do their jobs, as program managers can’t be involved in the detail of every project. The role is about overall direction, setting the vision and enabling others. You are not part of the team any more.
Transferring: this type of leadership is where you risk sharing your secrets. You can be a project, program or portfolio manager and fall into this category. It is about being that guru in the office and sharing your wisdom with others, but in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing or that you are dishing out unwanted advice. Nofsinger believes that to operate at this level you need to spend 50% of your time developing others.
Nofsinger says that only exceptional leaders make it to Transferring, which is where you spend most, if not all, of your time, facilitating the output of others. Less than 5% get to Letting Go, so if you are on your way to setting expectations and holding people accountable to them, delegating and forgetting about your need for personal recognition, then you are doing well.
A quick read and a simple idea
The Shift From One to Many is a straightforward idea, and it doesn’t take many pages to explain it in depth. The book is also straightforward, with examples that are easy to understand and instantly relevant.
It avoids superfluous language and management speak, in favor of clarity of concept. At fewer than 60 pages of content, it’s a perfect commuter book, especially as you could read it on the way to work and then put some of the principles into action immediately when you arrive.
Project leadership remains a hot topic for professionals and it looks like it will continue to be on the radar for project managers for the foreseeable future. People who are already leading projects know that this stuff is hard, which is why it’s of interest to the project management community. Anything that can make our lives easier has to be good, and Nofsinger’s ‘one to many’ is a simple model.
“The leadership journey is hard. It’s hard not to want personal recognition for your work. It’s hard to have people reject you when you move beyond daily ordinary tasks. And it’s hard to give away your best ideas in order to facilitate the output of others. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”
Where are you on your leadership journey?