LavaCon Session Summary: Andrea Ames on Leadership

Day 1 of Lavacon 2011

The Edge for Project Success: Leadership Skills to Deliver Through Teams

Andrea Ames presented a practical session on the qualities and requirements of a great team leader. Rife with audience feedback, it was a lively session that could have gone twice its length.

Some key (tweetable!) points included:

  • A good leader also has to be a good team member.
  • Leadership is sharable and contextual.
  • Who leads on a team can shift as context changes.

So you might be the right person for one project, but someone else may need to lead a different project. As always, clear communication with team members is key. If you can articulate clear goals, you can then let the person who has specific expertise decide on the “how”. This is how you avoid micro managing your people.

Andrea’s overall message is that project success relies completely on the leader’s skills to draw on their experience/skills and get people headed in the right direction. A leader wields his/her people and resources to make the most of what they have. And if there’s a gap, it’s time to build capability and get resources trained in new skills.

A leader might not be the visionary, but the leader needs to watch outside his/her own project to see what’s coming next. They must see just far enough ahead, and beside, and behind, to know the ramifications of other projects around them.


  • Leverage the people like historians, who keep track of how things went wrong in the past.
  • Secret is hiring people who are smarter than you.
  • Raise the level of the team by helping them lift you up and helping lift them up.
  • Make sure there is team buy-in and recognition. They get credit and take responsibility.
  • Be willing to step out of your cubicle. That willingness makes you a possible great leader.
  • Curating your team. Think of them as assets, acquire the people/skills you need for the project.
  • You need to be the person everyone wants on their team. Which means also being a great team member. Help elevate your team leader. Own your concerns to help relieve the leader of that responsibility.
  • If you, as a leader, start doing the work you should be delegating, you are not building your team and you will set unrealistic expectations.

In the end, you need to invest in your leadership skills area. Participate in a program and find mentors who can teach you how they lead. And be passionate about your projects. You’ll be wildly successful only if you follow your passion.

Further reading:

  1. Wisdom of Teams (book suggestion): Doug Smith, John Cassenbolk
  2. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership


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