To get ahead as a project manager, put others first


The true project leader serves people. He/she serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price. Truly project leaders believe in the projects they manage and inspire their people through enthusiasm, persistence, authenticity and integrity. The project leader should spend time with their team members explaining to them that he/she will serve them as a facilitator, telling them that he need them in his/her team, he wants their commitment and knowledge to accomplish their tasks and activities and he loves them, I mean he appreciate them as contributors and as human beings.

A true servant project leader should do the following:

  1. Puts others ahead of his own agenda: The first mark of servanthood is the ability to put others ahead of yourself and your personal desires. It is more than being willing to put your agenda on hold. It means intentionally being aware of your people’s needs, available to help them and able to accept their desires as important. Every project manager should be present, I mean when somebody from his/her team comes to the project manager to talk or tell him about a problem or issue, the project manager must stop all his activities and focus his attention on his team member conversation. Be ready to listen to and act.
  2. Posesses the confidence to serve: The real heart of servanthood is security. Show me some project manager who thinks he is too important to serve, and I’ll show you someone who is basically insecure. How we treat others is really a reflection of how we think about ourselves. The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbour as ourselves; we do into our people as we do unto ourselves. We hate tolerant towards others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. It is not love of self but hatred of self which is at the root of the troubles that afflict our world. I believe only secure leaders give power to others. It’s also true that only secure leaders exhibit servanthood.
  3. Initiates service to others: Just about anyone will serve if compelled to do so. And some will serve in a crisis. But you can see the heart of someone who initiates service to others. “Great leaders see the need, seize the opportunity, and serve without expecting anything in return”.
  4. It is not position-conscious: Servant leaders don’t focus on rank or position. They serve all project stakeholders without any difference or distinction. The project manager must talk to managers and upper managers, subcontractors, team members and rest of project stakeholders regardless the authority and power they have. The most important thing for the project manager is to do the best for the project success.
  5. Serves out of love: Servanthood is not motivated by manipulation or self-promotion. It is fueled by love and respect. In the end, the extent of your influence depends on the depth of your concern for others. That’s why it’s so important for project leaders to be willing to serve.

Every project manager must develop his/her servanthood skills. People do projects and we, as leaders, must lead people for project results. Practice is the key, but please be persistent and respectful dealing with people in projects. I have some best practices to share with you if you want to improve your servanthood as project manager:

  • Perform small acts: Find ways today to do small things that show others you care. For instance, ask questions to your team members frequently, not only project questions but also personal questions. Ask them for personal feedback frequently. Tell them you need them aboard.
  • Learn to walk slowly through the crowd: Take some small breaks with your people every day, have a cup of coffee and talk, understand their needs and issues. When your team is big you will not be able to talk to your team members every day but speak to your team leaders and spontaneously talk to different people frequently.
  • More into action: If an attitude of servanthood is conspicuously absent from your life, the best way to change it is to start serving.

Your team members need you, use reciprocity with them, respect them, show them how much you care and love them for project and business success. Put your people first and you will manage successful projects.

Alfonso Bucero, MSC, CPS, PMP, PMI-RMP, PfMP, PMI Fellow

Managing Partner

BUCERO PM Consulting

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