Team Member to Team Lead: What's the Difference?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

For many people, especially those who are still relatively early in their careers, being asked to lead their first project is a big accomplishment. It should be—it is a validation of a lot of hard work, and a tangible sign that an employer trusts someone enough to give them a chance to be accountable for the success of an initiative that is important (at least in some small way).

But in practical terms, moving from being part of a project team to leading that team isn’t the major shift that new project managers often treat it as, and that’s what I want to look at in this article.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the purpose of a project doesn’t change based on who the project manager is. Regardless of your role, the project you are working on is still expected to make a contribution to business success through the delivery of some kind of project output within a set timeframe and for a set budget. Everyone on the team—and the PM leading that team—should have the same end goal in mind; the only difference is the specific tasks that each person performs to allow that goal to be met.

This is something I see a lot of project managers forget. Instead of viewing a move into project management as a shift in the tasks they have been asked to perform, they believe they must fundamentally rethink how they view that project, how they …

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"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."

- George Burns