Rising Above the Mechanics: The 6 Essential Skills of Advanced Leaders

You’re a PMP® with some experience under your belt, but you know there is more out there than just the mechanics of your job. You have ideas worth spreading that require a certain set of skills you have yet to master. The essential element to becoming a PM leader lies within your ability to see the links between strategy and execution.

These six strategic business skills will take you from being a tactical mechanic to a PM leader:

1. Managing Alignment – Managing alignment requires understanding how to move your project, team, products, and organization in concert.

For example, an IT system implementation project requires a change in behavior by both the end user and management. The advanced leader learns how to initiate the alignment and understands that it needs to begin at the start of the project.

2. Becoming an Interpreter – Interpreting is the ability to pull disparate pieces of information from various sources to see the picture from different perspectives. The advanced leader must interpret the subjective data by taking in all the perspectives, convert the information to have meaning from his or her perspective, and then interpret it for someone else who may have a different perspective.

3. Learning to Innovate– Learning to innovate means knowing when and how to bend or conform to the rules to pursue an innovative idea that is aligned to the overall business strategy.

For example, a headphone manufacturer decides to test their products with celebrity musicians instead of using the traditional scientific approach. As a result, the company receives not only celebrity endorsements, but also develops a great product that is based on real-life experience. The advanced leader knows when to go out on a limb – while managing risks – to achieve better business results.

4. Thinking Ahead – Anticipating trends and how they might impact the business is a crucial skill for any leader.

For example, a linens manufacturer identifies the impact of shifting cotton prices in China. The advanced leader will closely monitor the market to anticipate what will happen in the next six months and how to minimize collateral damage as a result of that trend.

4. Leveraging Networks – The advanced leader needs to learn how to leverage the networks he or she has already built.

For example, a veteran nurse is assigned to implement a new medical billing system at the hospital where she works. Because she has spent years building rapport and trust with the entire team of doctors, she is able to leverage her network to introduce the new system within a few weeks. The advanced leader knows how to lead change from the middle.

6. Making the Right Decisions – Business is about making money. If you don’t understand the market drivers, you can’t make smart business decisions. The advanced leader understands how to take action based on a deep understanding of both local and global financial trends. This skill assimilates all five of the above skills. The advanced leader makes informed, innovative decisions that are aligned to the business strategy, interpreted for the appropriate audience, based on anticipated trends, and executed through the right channels.

For example, a major technology component company had a need to engage with a younger generation, making the decision to acquire a hip headphone manufacturer rather than creating the next best thing. The advanced leader can identify the alignment between the two products, interpret the market trend for the short- and the long-term, innovate to acquire rather than create, and leverage their networks to have the courage to make the right business decisions.

Mastering the six essential skills will allow you to continually monitor and improve your performance, regardless of the circumstances. The advanced leader should always work to identify the alignment between the organization and the project; interpret the market trend for both the short- and long-term in order to validate the purpose of the project; innovate to adopt the “best way,” rather than stagnate or simply create for the sake of creating; leverage his or her networks to include the right people; and have the courage to make the right business decisions.

PMI® is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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Joe Czarnecki
Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, MSP, SCPM, is vice president of product & sales support at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution. Joe's in-depth knowledge allows him to align client needs with course offerings, guide the contextualization of courses to client's cultures and processes, and bring insights from clients to the development of new courses. Joe has more than 25 years of experience in instructional design, with a focus on portfolio and program management for financial services, aeronautics, manufacturing, energy, and technology companies.