How to Lead Successful School and Workplace Projects

Leadership refers to a person's ability to guide and inspire themselves as well as others to act. Learn about the core competencies required to succeed in self leadership and team leadership.    
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Leadership refers to a person’s ability to guide, inspire, and influence their own and others’ actions. This capacity is crucial in both school and workplace settings, where success often hinges on effective team coordination and direction. Leadership in team assignments in school or work settings comprises both self-leadership and team leadership behaviors.

Related Concepts: Critique; Mindset, Growth Mindset, Intellectual Openness; Professionalism & Work Ethic; Resilience; Self-Regulation & Metacognition

What is Self Leadership?

Self-leadership refers to the practices and mindsets people employ to guide their own thoughts and actions. It involves a certain degree of self-talk, self-coaching, and emotional regulation. When faced with complex rhetorical problems or critical feedback, self-leadership skills enable writers, speakers, and knowledge workers to respond effectively.

What is Team Leadership?

Team leadership is about directing, supervising, coaching, evaluating, and motivating the work of others. It requires an understanding of each team member’s strengths and skills, as well as an ability to foster a collaborative, inclusive environment. A valuable tool that team leaders can use is a team charter, a document that outlines the team’s objectives, individual roles, and mutual expectations. As the project progresses and circumstances evolve, leaders should revise these charters to maintain alignment and focus within the team.

Leadership Actions & Behaviors

Leaders are recognized by their actions. They independently or in consultation with others identify a vision of the future and inspire others to support and advance this vision. By effectively using communication tools such as Slack, Twitter, or Google Docs, they ensure that all team members are empowered to contribute to the evolving group vision.

Leaders are also skilled in identifying and securing personnel and material resources necessary to achieve a vision. They inspire and motivate others through ethical behavior, empowering diverse opinions, and making evidence-based decisions. This aspect of leadership is well-illustrated by figures like Steve Jobs of Apple, who was known for driving his teams with a clear vision and high expectations.

Leaders are flexible, adjusting and revising visions in response to obstacles and failures. This was seen in SpaceX’s early failures and subsequent successes in their rocket launches under Elon Musk’s leadership. Leaders also create a meritocracy, distinguishing fact from opinion and giving appropriate credit to their team members. Unfortunately, there are instances when some individuals claim credit for others’ work, a situation reported by about 47% of respondents in a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute. This behavior can significantly undermine team dynamics and decrease morale, highlighting the importance of leaders recognizing and celebrating the works of others appropriately (Workplace Bullying Institute, 2022).

Effective leaders not only delegate tasks fairly but also distribute recognition appropriately. In the process of working towards a shared goal, individual contributions may vary. However, leaders ensure that each team member’s efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. This practice helps boost team morale, fosters a positive working environment, and motivates members to continue contributing their best work

Managing Tasks and Holding People Accountable

Managing tasks and holding team members accountable are critical components of leadership in school and workplace projects. Leaders define and assign roles based on the assignment requirements and the team members’ strengths. They create a clear roadmap that aligns with the assignment expectations and the team’s capabilities.

However, good leaders also value the input of their team members. They provide guidance and support, yet are flexible enough to adjust plans based on the team’s feedback. This could be as straightforward as accommodating a team member’s suggestion to revise the thesis statement in a group essay, or as complex as restructuring the project plan based on unforeseen circumstances.

Leaders often have to make challenging decisions, but these are made easier when they are grounded in the project’s goals and the educational objectives. Whether it’s a decision about the project’s direction, a colleague’s poor work performance, or dealing with a team conflict, leaders act with integrity and fairness, striving for what’s best for the team and the project.

Leadership Competencies

Leaders need to master resource management, task management, performance management, crisis management, and conflict management. These competencies enable leaders to organize resources, prioritize tasks, track progress, and reorganize in the face of obstacles.

Leading a collaborative project requires more than just a high-level vision: it requires the practical skills to bring that vision to life through the diverse capabilities of the team. For instance, in a collaborative writing project, each writer may have a unique style. A leader, in this case, must guide the team towards adopting a unified voice that maintains the essence of the vision, while still respecting individual styles. The leader can accomplish this by facilitating a team discussion about the desired style, providing examples, and offering constructive feedback.

Digital tools play an instrumental role in facilitating collaboration and ensuring everyone stays aligned with the evolving vision. A leader can use Google Docs to share the project document, enabling everyone to contribute in real time and see how the work is progressing. Platforms like Slack or Teams can be used for team discussions, brainstorming sessions, or quick check-ins, making the process more inclusive and efficient.

When it comes to securing resources, a leader in a school project setting might need to ensure the team has access to necessary books, articles, software, or even physical spaces for meetings. As the project progresses, leaders are tasked with managing challenges, such as when a team member can’t complete their part or when a proposed idea conflicts with assignment expectations. Leaders navigate such obstacles, revising the plan while keeping the project’s vision and the educational objectives in mind.


Leaders can prevent this by fostering a culture of openness, fairness, and mutual respect within the team. They should clearly communicate that every team member’s contribution is valuable and that credit-hogging will not be tolerated. Moreover, by being a role model of ethical behavior, leaders can instill these values in their team members.

Overcoming Egotistical Leadership

Ego can be a significant barrier to effective leadership. A study published in The Leadership Quarterly found that leaders with high levels of narcissism tend to make more strategic changes, potentially disrupting team stability and causing unnecessary work. Furthermore, these leaders are less likely to take others’ perspectives into account, which can lead to decreased team satisfaction and performance.

Effective leaders acknowledge that everyone on the team brings unique skills and perspectives to the table. They are open to feedback and ready to learn from their team members. They understand that leadership is not about being the “star” of the team but about facilitating a productive, collaborative environment where everyone can shine.

Developing Leadership Competencies

Leadership competencies like resource management, task management, performance management, crisis management, and conflict management are essential in both school and workplace projects. These competencies help leaders to organize resources effectively, define and manage tasks, track project progress, adapt in the face of challenges, and navigate conflicts smoothly.

Works Cited

Oliveri, M., Lawless, R., & Molloy, H. (2017). A literature review on collaborative problem solving for workforce readiness. GRE Board Research Report Series and ETS Research Report Series, 1-27. Doi:10.1002/ets12133

Workplace Bullying Institute. (2012). 2012 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.