“The potential to lead is in all of us. If I could learn it at 22 in boot camp, anyone can,” says Canadian veteran, project manager and entrepreneur Angela Mondou.
Mondou’s goal is to make leadership accessible and even mainstream. She disagrees with the belief that leadership is a special skill-set for the charismatic few. “People need an experience,” Mondou advises. “They need to get pumped to get out there and make things happen, no matter what their focus.” Her mantra: Seize your leadership potential and do incredible things.
Practicing what she preaches, Mondou spent nearly nine years in the air force – including time in a war zone – before becoming a successful project manager at Nortel, and then marketing director for RIM. There she delivered some powerful and gutsy marketing programs that brought the BlackBerry to some very famous fingers. In scope for Mondou – the Oprah Winfrey Show and Oprah’s Favourite Things, and saturation coverage of the National Football League. Out of scope – anything routine.
She helped her team become the top revenue generator for RIM by using “creative intelligence – this is where ‘pushing the envelope’ really comes in,” explains Mondou. “Successful project management today is less about the science of using Gantt charts and more about leadership. Mission critical leadership is really what it’s about these days, because you are leading in a fast-paced global environment with tight timelines, cross-functional teams and tough deliverables which need to be well integrated for success.”
Her book, Hit the Ground Leading is a powerful and “edgy” personal development guide well packaged for time-starved executives looking for more than templates and techniques. Her strategy combines must-have leadership principles balanced with accepted project management methods to form a hybrid of high-tech tested “Project Lite” tools for leaders or frontline project managers. Her approach includes rapid-fire tips with a military flavour intended to ramp readers up to “fast-paced” project success.
“I always suggest having a plan, but I also caution about following it too closely or getting caught up in the black and white. Your greatest progress or opportunities may actually be in the grey zone. The energy and momentum may be coming from a completely different source,” writes Mondou in a chapter titled, Access Your Exponential Potential.
Mondou is as dynamic on stage as she is on the page. She recently gave a keynote presentation to government executives at the Conference Board of Canada’s strategic project management event.
Commenting afterwards on the challenges public sector project managers face, Mondou laughed, “You people have it hard. Personally, I’d rather be back working in a war zone than trying to lead a team of people who don’t report to me in a cross-functional bureaucratic environment – now to me, that’s tough!”
After listening to her rally the Conference Board “troops” and watching her multi-media visuals flashing messages like, “Get used to fear and make it work for you; break new ground; create a tiger team and turn the leader in you loose”, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few participants consider exercising a little SWAT-style project management now and again to get things done. Mondou is a big believer of “pushing your envelope at work and in life. Stepping out of your project comfort zone will always ‘grow you’ as a leader.”
Each chapter of her book concludes with a “carpe diem” message along with a practical action plan. The final chapter, Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable, explains that “change basically goes hand in hand with leadership, and with transformation comes huge opportunity. You don’t want to just go with the flow; you want to direct the flow if you can. You want to be the change agent – the leader who accepts that life is dynamic, and when things do change you want to have the response and attitude that will influence others to come along.”
“Whether it’s a war zone or a new project, speed is one of the key drivers we all have to contend with,” says Mondou. “When you head into the unknown you need to plan, then plan for the unplanned and prepare for new goals and experiences. I have had to re-align my team with our ever-changing mission, reviewing priorities, coming up with a communication plan and review tasks and action plans.”
In 1992 Canada was preparing to send troops into the former Yugoslavia as part of a United Nations Protection Force. Mondou was initially turned down for this assignment because she was a woman, but persisted up the chain of command until the brigade commander agreed to let her lead the logistics effort. At the time she was the only military woman in the field but she successfully developed the strategy to deploy the large UN “peacekeeping” contingent.
They came under fire and mortar attacks but the project team still managed to move 1,200 troops and all the required supplies into the area. “My job was to establish the deployment plan and develop an ‘in-country’ supply chain to receive millions of pounds of equipment, in the middle of a civil war.”
An epiphany followed. “I made it through this war zone. And in taking on this challenge, I entered the ‘there’s nothing in my way now’ zone. I emerged a changed person.”
Mondou’s contribution to Canadian Forces and UN missions led to being featured in a television commercial and on the back of a special circulation quarter honouring veterans.
She is true to her own advice, “what you give is what you get.” Mondou urges readers to “genuinely connect” and be “willing to help passionate people (whose passion you believe in, obviously) who might need your support even if you won’t necessarily get something out of it.”
She is currently a director with the Canadian Forces Liaison Council, whose mandate is to build links between the military and business, and to promote the Reserve Force. She hopes to help shape public opinion and encourage business leaders and other Canadians to follow through with more than good wishes. “Canadians are proud of our military record and the role we play on the international scene but our forces are tired and stretched to the limit. They need a lot more than lip service.”
“Leadership,” Mondou concludes, “is a powerful personal enabler. And one incredible platform to launch your life on a new path.” Having been a public servant, she has a deep respect for the civil service and delivers this message loud and clear, “Go for the passion, not the cash.”
Diana Jonas, PMP, is director of Canadian operations and communications for the Project Management Institute Government Specific Interest Group (www.pmi-govsig.org). She works for the Ontario Public Service, Ministry of the Attorney General.
Hit the Ground Leading is available at Chapters or at Angela Mondou’s website www.iceleadership.com.
Top Leadership Tips
· Lead yourself first and then you can lead others
· Develop an “execution mindset&q