A project manager can invest in the most expensive, efficient project management toolset ever created to make a process run smoother. However, without leadership skills, meeting project initiatives and objectives can often prove to be a futile effort. The current climate where people are more and more collaborating remotely reinforces this need for leadership. So ask yourself, are you a project manager or a project leader? What can be done to increase ‘digital’ or remote leadership?
When skilling up present and future project managers, where should the focus be in these times of change?
“Leadership” is the great buzzword in today’s business community, but what does it really mean and how does it differ from management? Many corporate trainings often mix them, offering management courses with leadership thrown in or inversely. The same goes for project management trainings: one could argue for the simple substitution of the expression project management with project leadership. In some literature, the role of leader or manager is used interchangeably.
Maxwell (2005) in The 360 Degree Leader stated that managers work with processes and leaders work with people. Kotter, leadership guru, goes further, stating that managing complexity involves planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling and problem solving, whereas leadership involves setting direction, aligning people, motivating and inspiring. Kotter describes leadership and management as two distinctly different complimentary systems of actions, each having their own characteristics and functions. Both are necessary for the changing and complex business environment, especially in the present search for a ‘new optimal’.
Based on the above definitions it seems that management is distinctly different from leadership. Leadership is necessary to initiate change, innovate and create new products, systems and services. Leadership also involves motivating people to become change agents, risk-takers and innovators. Management, on the other hand, involves ensuring that processes work effectively and risk is minimized.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, the world-wide reference for project management for decades now, compiled by the Project Management Institute, defines five process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. In all, PMBOK describes 44 processes of Project Management and hardly focuses on the essential aspect of leadership.
In these times of profound change, Project Managers should embrace their role as leaders. While the PMBOK might be silent on leading people and focuses more on managing processes, the ability to motivate others to their maximum potential has been, is, and will be crucial for effective project management. Thus every project manager needs to step up to leadership in their projects.