Adam and Sarah are project managers working at a leading IT company in the UK.
Sarah’s project deliverables have consistently been on-time since its start last January. Adam’s project on the other hand has this year been facing many problems and delays.
“Adam why is your project late again this month?”, Steve, his manager, asked while reviewing the recent project statistics.
“Some of my key team members were off sick these last two weeks. And our programmers in India have been late sending us the code of some features of our new software.”
“But Sarah uses the services of these same programmers, why is she not facing delays?”
“To tell you the truth, I also have two members on my team who are causing problems. Their negative attitude is affecting their colleagues, and staff morale has suffered a lot in recent weeks.”
“What are their main issues? Why are they so negative?” Steve asked.
“Well, it seems that both aspire to be promoted to project managers positions. They only have four years work experience after college, but they are over-ambitious and see themselves fit for the job”, Adam said.
“I think the recent project management course they just completed has made them over-confident. They have good potential, but their negative attitude is harming the project. They simply don’t abide by the project schedule, and this makes our programmers always late”, he added.
In the other project, Sarah’s experience with her team has been a positive one since she joined the company a year ago. She has nine full-time members on her team, plus the programmers in India who work with the company on an outsource basis.
Why is her team successful and always producing excellent results?
Sue, her deputy, answered this question saying:
“We work well as a team. There is excellent harmony between us.
In our meetings, we share and discuss our best ideas and suggestions, and we implement what we agree to do without delay.
We are really motivated in our work, and Sarah has an excellent talent in guiding and supporting each member on the team. We really feel that she cares for each one of us. This makes us work very hard to meet our deadlines. More than half the team stay extra hours nearly each night to finish their tasks on-time.”
Shura & Effective Communications
If you study Muslim heritage, you will find that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) described the best of leaders. One of the things he said was:
This relation of care and love between leaders and followers, leads to an effective two-way communication. All members of the team understand and appreciate each other, and objectively choose what is best for the team.
In an article titled (Prophet Muhammad: Prophet, Leader & Servant) the writer suggested that:
“… a leader is not the one who says what goes, but s/he listens to his/her community, helps them, reacts to their needs, and takes their counsel. We learn that a leader is not the one who everyone else serves, but the one who serves and betters his/her people. A leader is not someone who bosses others around. A leader is the one who is committed to leading by example.”
This was Prophet Muhammad’s leadership style, what is known today in management as “Servant Leadership”.
With this positive team spirit, once a collective decision is taken based on Shura, team members focus on its implementation. This is done without delay. And when team members are motivated, they do their best to accomplish their tasks at the highest levels of quality.
Don’t Seek to Replace the Leader
One of the common reasons for team failure is when followers seek to replace their leader in an unethical way. This is the case of Adam’s team.
In order to replace him, two members on his team tried to undermine his authority. They made life difficult for him by intentionally delaying some of the project’s deliverables.
But this win-lose attitude creates an unhealthy environment for the whole team and eventually leads to their failure. If a competent leader who implements shura is in charge, don’t try to undermine his authority. Give him/her your best advice and follow the team’s plan by implementing your tasks at the highest levels of quality.
Following this competent leader is a sign of wisdom, maturity and professionality. This does not mean you should not have ambitions.
Well-managed organization design career paths to encourage people to grow in experience and remain motivated. As employees grow in experience, they become deserving of promotions to assume greater roles. They take on higher responsibilities through in-house promotions in a transparent system.
With a fair HR system, their expectations are aligned with those of the organization. And they have no ambitions to replace the leader till the right timing arrives.
So, to conclude, if you find yourself in a co-pilot position don’t be over-ambitious. Be patient and don’t try to replace the pilot in an unethical way. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Listening to and obeying the leader is an obligation upon a Muslim, whether he likes it or dislikes it, as long as he is not commanded to disobey Allah. If he is commanded to disobey Allah, there is no listening or obedience. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So be sincere, don’t be selfish and work hard for the overall success of your team. When the time is right, you will be promoted to become a pilot, or a leader.
Learn as much as you can from your current leader and benefit from his or her experience. One day you will be in-charge, and it will be your turn to pass on your experience to others.
Patience is a virtue Allah loves, so be patient, have taqwa and be a positive, productive ethical team member.
And don’t betray…