5 Steps To Leading When You Have 100% of the Responsibility But No Authority

I was speaking to a group of Project Managers recently. Before speaking to any group, I interview a cross-section of attendees to see what they want to get out of my session. To a person, the pre-event interviewees wanted to learn more about leading teams of peers.

As Project Managers, it is a fundamental part of their role to lead teams people of different pay-grades, levels of responsibility, authority and roles to achieve success with whichever project they have been asked to achieve.

That said, we know the ‘iron-fist’ or the ranting & raving like a lunatic leadership styles does not work even when there is a clear line of command. They certainly won’t work when there is a dotted-line or matrixed relationship like a project team.

The only difference between you and your colleagues on that team is that you’re in charge and someone is holding you accountable for the project’s success. To accomplish your goals, you’ll be expected to motivate, facilitate, encourage, communicate effectively, build trust, and resolve conflict with the disparate members of the team.


1. Set a positive foundation click here to read more on relationships 

  • Establish a relaxed environment, where everyone is encouraged to share opinions and ideas.
  • Ask for input from everyone, and encourage quieter members to speak up.
  • Use active listening skills, like paraphrasing and asking questions for clarification.
  • Insist on respect for one another and, for tasks taking a lot of time and effort, consider developing a team charter to define your team’s goals and how the team will work.
  • Use participative decision-making tools, and try to ensure active involvement and commitment from the team.

2. Empower Team Members

  • Leaders who give power to others can be very influential and motivating.
    • Give praise wherever it’s due.

3. Be Flexible click here to read more about courage

  • A heavy-handed approach can cause resentment and non-compliance in a team of peers.
  • Adapt to the changing environment.
  • A flexible leadership style can deal with changing circumstances without compromising your leadership role.
  • You need to help your team adjust to changes in direction, circumstance, and priority.
  • When you’re open to change, your team will see that, and they’ll be more likely to accept change.

4. Set Goals click here to read more about setting goals

  • Having a clear direction is essential.
  • If there’s no central direction to follow team members will have their perspectives that could lead your team down very different paths.
  • It is much easier to keep people working together effectively if objectives are clear.

5. Support and Protect Your Team

Each team member may have their regular job to do in addition to the team’s specific tasks. This means that commitment to your team may be a secondary priority. As the one who is ultimately accountable, concentrate on getting the support and resources your team needs to do the job well.

Focus on these three key areas:

– Obtain resources – Your team may quickly lose momentum if it encounters resource shortages. If you get your team what it needs – when the team needs it – your status, influence, and ability to motivate can increase significantly.

– Manage stakeholders – Many people outside your team may strongly influence the team’s success. First, you may encounter outside resistance from various sources.

One way to gain the respect of your team is to protect it from negative outside influences so that that team members can produce great work.

– Obtain management feedback – Ensure that management knows what’s going on and that your team knows what management thinks. This can be a delicate balancing act because you don’t want to run back and forth with too much information. Figure out what each side needs to know to remain satisfied, and then provide it.