Project Management

The New Project Management Triangle: Part 1 - Leadership

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Leadership (noun) / the ability to make things happen.
The New Project Management Triangle: Part 1 - Leadership

Most project management professionals are familiar with the term, the project management triangle. In the traditional project management triangle, the three points of the triangle (scope, time, and cost) refer to the triple constraints. Originally, it was intended to help with intentionally choosing project biases and analyzing the goals of a project. It is often used, and many would suggest misused, to depict project management success as measured by the project team's ability to manage the project, so that the expected results are produced while managing time and cost. Speaking at the Gartner Group PPM and IT Governance Summit, Mark Langley, the President and CEO of the Project Management Institute, offered the following pearls of wisdom, "If we continue to speak of project management only in terms of scope, time, and cost, then project management as we know it will fail us. We need to speak of project management in a new language, the language of business, with the project management triangle having at its three points (1) technical project management in terms of what we know of per our certifications, (2) business acumen, and (3) leadership." With this comment and perspective, Mr. Langley was given a loud and lasting applause by an audience of several hundred CIOs of today's leading companies, an audience not easily pleased nor impressed.

Addressing one of those new points of the project management triangle, today we have ten tips for PMO manager and project manager leadership. These tips come to us from David Hakala, a senior executive and expert in general management, manufacturing operations, and product and process development per his blog The Zen Scrivener, The Barking Unicorn.

  1. Integrity. This is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person of integrity is the same on the outside and on the inside. Such an individual can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, even when it might be expeditious to do so. A leader must have the trust of followers and therefore must display integrity.
  2. Honesty. Honest dealings, predictable reactions, well-controlled emotions, and an absence of tantrums and harsh outbursts are all signs of integrity. A leader who is centered in integrity will be more approachable by followers.
  3. Dedication. This means spending whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. A leader inspires dedication by example, doing whatever it takes to complete the next step toward the vision. By setting an excellent example, leaders can show followers that there are no nine-to-five jobs on the team, only opportunities to achieve something great.
  4. Magnanimity. This means giving credit where it is due. A magnanimous leader ensures that credit for successes is spread as widely as possible throughout the company. Conversely, a good leader takes personal responsibility for failures. This sort of reverse magnanimity helps other people feel good about themselves and draws the team closer together. To spread the fame and take the blame is a hallmark of effective leadership.
  5. Humility. Leaders with humility recognize that they are no better or worse than other members of the team. A humble leader is not self-effacing but rather tries to elevate everyone. Leaders with humility also understand that their status does not make them a god. Mahatma Gandhi is a role model for Indian leaders, and he pursued a "follower-centric" leadership role.
  6. Openness. This means being able to listen to new ideas, even if they do not conform to the usual way of thinking. Good leaders are able to suspend judgment while listening to others' ideas, as well as accept new ways of doing things that someone else thought of. Openness builds mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers, and it also keeps the team well supplied with new ideas that can further its vision.
  7. Creativity is the ability to think differently, to get outside of the box that constrains solutions. Creativity gives leaders the ability to see things that others have not seen and thus lead followers in new directions. The most important question that a leader can ask is, "What if … ?" Possibly the worst thing a leader can say is, "I know this is a dumb question ... "
  8. Fairness. This means dealing with others consistently and justly. A leader must check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgment. He or she must avoid leaping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. When people feel they that are being treated fairly, they reward a leader with loyalty and dedication.
  9. Assertiveness. This is not the same as aggressiveness. Rather, it is the ability to clearly state what one expects so that there will be no misunderstandings. A leader must be assertive to get the desired results. Along with assertiveness comes the responsibility to clearly understand what followers expect from their leader.
  10. Humor. A sense of humor is vital to relieve tension and boredom, as well as to defuse hostility. Effective leaders know how to use humor to energize followers. Humor is a form of power that provides some control over the work environment. And simply put, humor fosters good camaraderie.

To be a good leader, you do not have to be tall, attractive, or smarter than everyone else. To the contrary. Anyone can develop and cultivate good leadership skills.

Posted on: April 06, 2012 11:50 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Mark, you are right on with your assessment of what builds leadership among project management professionals. Competencies and skills come from many experiences during the project life.

Amen to that Mark.

Nice article, Mark. True, with certificate in hand you can't just follow the mantra of the takes years of experience to develop business acumen and leadership soft skills. Most PMs may not have access to a training curriculum in their organization or as a consultant so it's important to make this a personal committment. A certificate may get you in the door but a daily focus on development of your leadership soft skills will determine if you have the courage, perseverance and tenacity be a great project manager.

Leadership skills are taught / developed over time and are polished by experience.
Thank You Mark for an informative article.

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