Project Manager or Project Leader?

leader-1.jpgI’m starting to see a few discussions about the role of leadership in project manager. For example, see Cinda Voegli’s latest post. But this seems to be more the exception than the rule. Most of the commentary on PM revolves around the management aspects of the job.


As a PM who side-tracked into leadership development for about three years plus with lots of training at West Point and work with Scouts, I see leadership as a major force multiplier for any endeavor. Why is that?


A leader does many things but two key ones are communicating the vision and empowering the team to carry it out. In other words, “here’s what we have to do and I trust you to do it. Just let me know when you are done, if you need my help, or if you are having trouble.” This approach is very different from traditional project management, where the PM constantly monitors all of the tasks and their status.


Can it work all the time? No, but neither does the traditional PM approach. We need to balance our approach based on the task to be carried out and the readiness of the follower. See Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II on how to apply it. Most followers are much more mature and ready to carry out an activity than we traditionally give them credit for. Give it a try!


By empowering the team and letting them know the objective the project leader gets off the middle of the road (a “roadblock”!) and lets the team perform. This is what I mean by a force multiplier!

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