Be the Project Manager You Want to See in the World

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

What is your project management ideal?

Note, this is a different question than “What is your ideal project manager?” or “What project manager do you most respect and admire?”

Specifically, I’m asking you to move past emulating someone else. I’m wanting you to think about what exceptional looks like (whether you’ve seen it or not). And—all too often—most of us haven’t seen exceptional. Occasional glimpses, perhaps, but not sustained exposure.

This point has been driven home for me a number of times delivering an advanced project management program over the last 15 years. One of the exercises I conduct in the leadership module involves sharing an experience of exceptional leadership that participants have encountered in their lives. This need not have been professional; it can be leadership that they have witnessed as a volunteer, in school or in their day-to-day lives. The challenge is that most participants struggle to think of a single example of exceptional leadership that they’ve experienced.

Ask for instances of bad leadership, and those abound. But that’s not what we’re driving for. And the point of the exercise of finding examples of leadership is to identify and discuss what good leaders do. And good leadership is not simply the inverse of bad leadership. Take bad leadership …

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"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who don't have it."

- George Bernard Shaw