Project Management

Customizing Your Leadership Style

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by Peter Tarhanidis

I’ve served in various leadership roles throughout my career. In one role, I worked with engineers to build and deliver a technical roadmap of solutions. In another, I was charged with coordinating team efforts to ensure a post-merger integration would be successful.

All of my leadership roles ultimately taught me there’s no-one-size-fits-all style for how to head up a team. Instead, the situation and structure of the team determines the right approach.

Traditional teams are comprised of a sole leader in charge of several team members with set job descriptions and specialized skills, each with individual tasks and accountability. The leader in this environment serves as the chief motivator, the coach and mentor, and the culture enforcer. He or she is also the primary role model—and therefore expected to set a strong example.

But, this traditional team setup is not always the norm.

Take self-managed teams, for example. On these teams, the roles are interchangeable, the team is accountable as one unit, the work is interdependent, the job roles are flexible and the team is multi-skilled, according to Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development, written by Robert M. Lussier, a professor of business management at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.

On a self-managed team, each person’s capabilities support the team’s overall effectiveness. While these teams do need to have their efforts coordinated, they spread leadership accountability across the group.

Members each initiate and coordinate team efforts without relying on an individual leader’s direction, according to Expertise Coordination over Distance: Shared Leadership in Dispersed New Product Development Teams by Miriam Muethel and Martin Hoegl.

Effective leaders adjust their style to the needs of varied situations and the capability of their followers. Their styles are not automatic. Instead, they get to know their team members and ensure their teams are set up to succeed.

How do you pick the right leadership style to use with your teams?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: December 22, 2016 03:13 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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Exactly, "there’s no-one-size-fits-all style for how to head up a team". I also experienced it in my professional journey sometime, resources skilled in same domain at same career level, leadership have to define a different ways to manage them for a successful delivery.

Ashish thank you for your comment. In some cases, it could be based on the situation. Awareness of the situation and the skill level of the staff will determine whether a leader needs to directi and coach versus manage and train. This will benefot the team to get the project completed and enhance their skills.



Very vital point. Leadership is a virtue that is imbined in a professional, however, unless one can make some changes, to practises specifically, rather than principles, the rigidity could pose quite a few challenges to one's career as well as the teams one leads.

Good reminder

Great insights! A leader cannot be in the same style for guiding his team to success he should change according to the situation and up on the behaviour of the team. He should be in such a way that he should keep on motivating and rewarding. he should identify the ability of member of the team and keep him motivating.

totally agree. Even working with the same team with good performance there are times where procrastination takes place. During this situation leaders might need to swap among the leadership hats.

Chanu, MIa and Jorge, Thank you for the clarifications and comments. Great points and adds good value to the topic.

Best Regards,


I will quote the Prince 2 Principle " Tailor to suit the Business Environment " that is applicable to Projects, but is very relevant when applied to leadership within projects as well.

The utopia would be a self managed/ self motivating project team however, the reality always has some team members that require to be managed/guided differently to the others to achieve project success.

Often we just start working on the projects without thinking about how our project team will work together to achieve the common goals though effective leadership.

1) Some people like to take the initiative . So give it to them.
2) Some think outside the square. So encourage them more to innovate.
3) Others like to follow and only do what they are told and struggle to be innovative. Give them clearly defined pieces of work and specific instructions on how to complete them.
4) There are always team members that will talk about the negatives. They could offer valuable ideas on Risk and Issue Management on your project. Ask them what they think can go wrong and pick their brains on strategies to mitigate them.

When the team is starting to form on the project, you could conduct a Myer's Briggs Assessment to find out the individual personalities of your team members.

You could even take assistance of Maslow's theory, Herzberg's theory, Mclelland's theory, to find out what will actually motivate the staff to perform on your project.

Hi, I had an article on the topic in the December issue of PM World Journal:

I recommend to typify projects in order to better lead in and manage project diversity.

Excellent ..

nice points "do not bark at your employees" of course,a leader could adopt different leadership mix

Great article! I agree wholeheartedly.

Dear Peter:
Interesting your perspective on the theme: "Customizing Your Leadership Style"
Thanks for sharing

We agree that the most appropriate leadership style should be chosen according to the maturity of the team members and the decision-making / work processes

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