Developing Project Managers Into Organizational Leaders

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

In my columns over the last two months, I have discussed the challenge of migrating from doing to managing and the need for the project manager to also be an organizational leader. While the need for this may be viewed as highly desirable, and to a few may appear an obvious requirement, the far greater challenge is how to actually reach this project management nirvana.

To some, the answer may be similar to the response received in Kentucky when asking for directions: "I know how to get there, but I wouldn't start from here." For most of us, however, where we start from isn't an option.

One of the biggest challenges in developing leaders begins with how we approach the education of project managers. Take a moment to ponder this: Think of someone you know that is in your view a tremendously successful and effective project manager. Someone that "gets it." A project manager that is respected by their teams and customers, someone who delivers the goods. Now, with that person in mind, ask yourself: What differentiates them? How are they able to manage more effectively than others?

Your answers to the above question will typically revolve around some variation of: "excellent communication skills," "ability to connect with people at all levels of the organization" and "able to collaborate to develop effective solutions." Expertise in Microsoft Project, Rational Unified Process …

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- George Bernard Shaw