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Special Episode: Leadership during Crisis and Turbulence (Free)

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The views expressed by Shyam Ramanathan in this interview are his own and not those of his employer

S. Ramanathan
Shyam Ramanathan, PMP, CSSGB, AINS, AU

We live in troubling times. We are facing a global pandemic with many of us following stay-at-home orders, and we see civil and political unrest erupting. There are some political leaders who are stepping up to the challenge, and others not so much.

But what about us project leaders? What can we do to help our project teams, colleagues, organizations and even our social circles face these challenges?

I have invited Shyam Ramanathan to the program today and discuss leadership during crisis and turbulence. Here is what Shyam writes:

In times of crisis like this, we look to leaders for inspiration, hope, and direction. The last word is the key as the first thing to suffer in a crisis is direction. Leaders have a guiding vision for the future and turn to hope when others can only see mud. Let’s hope in this time of enormous crisis it also unearths true leaders who can navigate the turbulent times and move us into a greater future however distant that may seem at this time.

Shyam Ramanathan

These are the opening words of his article 27 Traits of Strong Leaders in Times of Crisis and Turbulence that we explore in this interview.

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This interview is 29:31 minutes long. This means that you can only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.50 PDUs the interview must be 30 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the Shyam's article, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PDUs!

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Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we look at the leadership skills you need in times of crisis and turbulence.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. This is special episode that we titled “Leadership during Crisis and Turbulence.” I’m Cornelius Fichtner. I hope you are doing well.

We live in troubling times. We are facing a global pandemic with many of us following stay-at-home orders and we see civil and political unrest erupting. There are some political leaders who are stepping up the challenge. Others, not so much. But what about us, project leaders? What can we do to help our project teams, colleagues, organizations, and even our social circles face these challenges?

I have invited Shyam Ramanathan to the program today and discuss leadership during crisis and turbulence. Here is what Shyam writes: “In times of crisis like this, we look for leaders for inspiration, hope, and direction. The last word is the key as the first thing to suffer in a crisis is direction. Leaders have a guiding vision for the future and turn to hope where others can only see mud. Let’s hope in this time of enormous crisis, it also unearths true leaders who can navigate the turbulent times and move us into greater futures however distant that may seem at this time.” These are the opening words of his article “27 Traits of Strong Leaders in Times of Crisis and Turbulence” that we are going to explore right now.

Enjoy the interview!

Podcast

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Shyam and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!

Shyam Ramanathan: Thank you, Cornelius, for having me on again. It’s wonderful to be back with you.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yes! So what do you hope that our listeners are going to take away from our discussion today?

Shyam Ramanathan: Yeah! As they say, the troubling times build great leaders. What I want to showcase right now is the time for great leadership, and leadership is not something that’s only reserved for the CEOs or anyone else. It can be modeled by all of us and at the same time, this time is not an easy time. So I want to make sure that the people understand that there might be a lot of positive thoughts out there but still at this time, there is no question that we’re going through a very turbulent time and it might be like this for some time.

So that there are two ways to handle this. One is to say: “Hey! I’m going to be miserable for the next year or two if that’s how long it’s going to take for the economy to recover” or go the other direction and say that: “Hey! Yeah, I know this to be tough, but I have some strategies which I can navigate the tide and make it to the other side unscathed so to speak.” So that’s what my aim is to make sure people have some strategies to understand what leadership is and then try to implement some of these onto our own lives.

Cornelius Fichtner: What we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about an article that you wrote. It is titled: “27 Traits of Strong Leaders in Times of Crisis and Turbulence.” We’re not going to talk about all of them. We selected about seven or eight of them. Was there some sort of an inspiration, a moment in time when you said: ‘Okay, now is the time for me to write this. Here I am.”?

Shyam Ramanathan: To be fair, actually, I’ve written about 22 traits of great leaders I think some time in 2017 itself. But when these came up, I thought that, hey, that might be a good article to expand on and add some more things because after those two years, you always learn more. And two years elapsed so I learned a lot more about leadership and I read so many books. So I thought I’ll bring it all together and at this time, I thought to produce an article might be the perfect one for this particular time. So I actually, to be honest, that article is already there. I expanded it. I pulled together all the other information that I’ve learned over the last two years and then I’ve tried to bring everything into one place.

Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent! And now let’s bring everything to our listeners beginning with: Leaders are visionaries. Why do you say that?

Shyam Ramanathan: Yeah, actually you know, there has been a lot of talk about what is leadership, what is management, that it gets so confusing for people and there are so many people. I mean I think there’s some good joke that you know: “Nobody wants to be called a world manager.” World leader, yes, but not world manager.

That is something which I thought that hey, let’s just understand that of course managers are needed. So I want to make this very clear because people think that: “Oh I only want to be a leader. I don’t want to manage.” Then who will do the work and who will get the stuff done?

But why do the leaders separate themselves from managers is actually setting an audacious vision and the best example of a vision which I can think of is John F. Kennedy of course. Everybody knows this so it’s easy to understand. When he declared even before he knew whether it was possible that we’d be able to put a man on the moon by the end of the next decade. Now whether it was going to work, in fact, he lost his life in between but still the vision was achieved. Now that is a true vision. Now all of us are going to dream such big dreams but let me just give a personal example so that people understand.

Right now, we are in 2020 and I have a vision that by 2030, I am a recognized leadership expert. Now it may happen, it may not happen. But I might make some steps from here for the next 10 years and then eventually maybe I’ll be called a recognized leadership expert, maybe not. That’s what a vision is. You have something that you look forward to but there is a possibility that it may not happen. But that’s what is a vision but at the same time, you do everything to make sure that the vision happens.

So vision is something which is very important for all of us even our personal lives. One exercise which I found interesting is like imagine yourself in 2039. Now all of us want to get rid of this Coronavirus as soon as possible. But one way to induce some positive optimism into our lives is to project ourselves in 2039 and then understand where you want to be when you wake up on 2039. Someday in 2039:”Oh yeah, I want to be a recognized leadership expert. I want to have this much money. I want to be this level in my organization and I want to be a leader who makes a difference.” So that’s what a vision for me.

Cornelius Fichtner: You yourself said, you want to grow as a leader. But one of your 27 traits is actually exactly the opposite: Leaders grow other leaders. How does that fit in?

Shyam Ramanathan: It’s a good point but the point I’m trying to say is when we grow other leaders, we increase the scheme that others hold us in. Let me put them in a different way. People look up to people who actually influence them in a way that inspires them to be better leaders. So that’s what I’m getting at. Of course, I have to grow as a leader.

To be honest, you will not be able to grow other leaders unless you grow yourself. That’s a very important point. Unless you grow yourself, there’s no way other leaders are going to follow you, are going to get inspired by you. I think John Maxwell has five levels of leadership. Now, he says the fifth level is where you go to such a level in leadership that others just grow towards you. Now, that’s a very tough level for people to attain but that is the ultimate aim.

And the way with other leaders, and the reason I wrote this is not only for that. It is also for this particular time, right, with the Coronavirus in place and with so much uncertainty. You have to have a succession planned in the sense that if something happens to you, unfortunate event, the organization should still to be able to proceed without you and that’s what I meant by leaders grow other leaders. So there is always a succession plan.

Or like Jim Collins said in “Good to Great”: Level five leaders are always interested in the growth of others, are interested in the organization foremost more than their own ego. So that’s where I was coming at on this one for this specific time is that people have a succession plan in place. So if something untoward happens to them or unfortunate, there is always someone else who can lead even in their absence. That’s what I meant by leaders grow other leaders.

Cornelius Fichtner: The next one is: Leaders are optimistic. And I think that’s important in the best of times when everything is going well that you’re optimistic and you show that. But in particular now as we are in a bit more trying times, leaders have to be optimistic.

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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