My friends and I will sometimes debate whether Superman or Batman is the more interesting superhero. Technically, I guess Batman isn’t a superhero at all, he’s just a very disturbed guy who has the ability to create some incredible crime-fighting gadgets that make him appear to be a superhero (he’s my choice for most interesting superhero, by the way).
Superman, on the other hand, has a number of very incredible superpowers that make him more than a match for the average villain. The “Man of Steel” is too squeaky-clean and unbeatable to be really interesting in my opinion. Give me a flawed, kind of messed-up superhero for real “interesting” potential.
A couple of years ago I came across a list of PM superpowers that if added to your “utility belt” can help make you appear to have super powers. I wish I could remember where I first came upon the list, but these have the potential to make your colleagues believe that you are “super”.
- The gift of foresight: I’m not suggesting that membership in the Psychic Friends Network is required, but being able to look down the road and make some reasonable predictions based upon practical assumptions is an important skill.
- Organization: I don’t think this needs much explanation. Keeping information, schedules, and team members organized is critical. Fortunately, most project managers I know are very organized and detail oriented people.
- The ability to lead: Although there are some people who are natural leaders, basic leadership skills can be learned, practiced and improved. You might not read about it in the PMBOK, but there are mentors, leadership training and books you can find if an honest evaluation of your leadership skills finds you lacking. Leadership and people skills are, at the very least, as important as methodology and tracking tools. I happen to believe that they are more important.
- Exceptional communication skills: It’s important to be able to communicate with everyone involved in the project from peers, to team members and stakeholders. Everyone needs different information presented in different terms. This is a skill that is vital to a project leader’s success.
- Pragmatism: A pragmatic approach to problem-solving is a skill that is essential for a discipline that faces the regular adjustments and changes that face project managers.
- Empathy: In order to lead people, you need to understand them and what motivates them. Everyone is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership is seldom the most successful approach. I’m not suggesting that project managers need to get all “touchie-feelie” and start tearing up in romantic comedies (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the old saw about “walking a mile in another man’s shoes” might apply here.
In some respects, you’d have to be a little “disturbed” to work in a project environment in the first place—so you’re already part way to being more interesting than Superman.
Oh, by the way, Superman or Batman?