Program Management and Leadership

This blog discusses the top what is an effective program manager and leader. This blog also discusses a combination of brain science, neurology, psychology and management to identify the elements of leaders and increasing their effectiveness.

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Recent Posts

Leading Teams on the Edge

Leadership Skills of Winston Churchill

Book Review of Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek

Life's Principles by Ray Danielo

Book Review by Larry Marks of Project Lessons from the Roman Empire by Jerry Manas

Leading Teams on the Edge

Shawn Stratton is an instructor of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) who is also an author who has also presented webinars for He is a leader who uses the great outdoors as his office. He leads students and other people interested in expeditions or other excursions. He finds opportunities for students and those under his tutelage to use their own judgment and practice teamwork and risk management skills they have experienced in training at NOLS. This is a different experience when teaching others to use a canoe, go white water rafting, hiking or navigating with no points of reference or landmarks. He presents situations where a leader has to be transparent, bold, interested in his team and with the ability to communicate a clear objective.

He talks about leaders who weed their garden, that is identify their team members who are a “bad fit”, generate negativity and can lead a path of destruction, that is the wrong people on your team.  Dealing with stubborn, selfish and angry students can make a leader’s life a difficult situation, and challenge to the best. But sometimes a leader is given a team and told to “take that hill.” There is not an opportunity to weed the team. We do not get that luxury, so our situations are different. But the life of an explorer as a leader using creativity to deal with challenges such as glaciers and raging rivers , metaphorically, can apply these skills to a work situation where you are driving to finish a development project under a tight deadline with a limited budget. All have to pitch in. It is all hands on deck with clear communication and the most serious of intentions to drive for success. Every team member has their role to accomplish the overall objective. There are no favorites.

Posted on: February 21, 2019 09:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Leadership Skills of Winston Churchill


There are many ways to read Walking thru Destiny, a biography of Winston Churchill. One is to read to understand how the English perspective of the role of the United States in World War 2, but after this immense best seller about Winston Churchill, I came across the top 3 leadership techniques which transcend time. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in Oxfordshire, England on November 30, 1874 to Lord Randolph Churchill, and Lady Jeanette Jerome. Winston drove himself to succeed to impress his father that he was not a failure.  A sample of the leadership skills of Churchill.

  1. Motivational speaker
    1. He was more than a motivational speaker, a fair-weather speaker. He had drive and skill to be personally interested in the audience, in this case, the British people. Besides visible, he motivated them with rousing cheer. He was not a natural speaker, but was able to teach himself how to communicate the essence of a subject and rouse people for success. Remember he said that “We can do just about anything!”
  2. Personality  
    1. He was genuine and warm when interacting with other Londoners and other British leaders in Commons. personally visited and spoke with Londoners and tried to motivate them not just as a leader, their prime minister but on a 1 to 1 basis. The essence was to maintain spirits when times were tough and they had despair. He was a believer in himself and passionate that he could lead. He survived criticisms too.
  3. Well read Writer
    1. He read the classics and parsed them to better understand how they communicated facts and were able to influence the reader.  He published several books  and painted too as a stress reliever too. Political enemies he confronted with an effort that was required to succeed. A dedicated man, Churchill was a soldier, war correspondent, writer and a statesman, who was passionate about the betterment of his country, regardless of criticisms, good and bad. Of course, his passion, which was more than just winning the war, would be shown later in his career. As a great writer, he published a great deal of books, including “The River War”, which is a biography of his father, a story of his ancestry and his memoirs of the war that covered 6 volumes. Aside from this, he also took up painting as pastime during the war.
  4. Keep trying
    1. He kept working on his skills and message. He was not just a salesman but also used the product too. Another words, he tried to motivate himself too when England was losing extensive amounts of planes and others questioned whether they could succeed. He worked on improving himself. He believed that he was the leader that Britain needed at the time of trouble and despair.  He believed in attitude. Remember he said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."
  5. Vision
    1. He was able to state a clea goals and the means to achieve the goals. He goaded and worked with the United States bluntly to obtain assistance in their mutual endeavor. He did not want to settle or surrender to the Germans. He wanted to win at all costs and was able to rally the people. A great leader will have visions and is not shy of showing them to his followers.
  6. Circumstances
    1. The key is that one cannot swallow a pill or memorize or absorb these skills and instantly become a successful leader. Circumstantially, history will never know if he had run for office in the US would he have been elected. He was the leader for a specific time, place and country. He was well loved too, blunt when he had to be and forthright in earnest effort. But still there are so many events in his life that if they had gone the other way he might not have been the leader of England, but that is not the objective of this blog.  


In the end, how would these skills have translated to the private sector, I would have loved to see.  

Posted on: January 06, 2019 06:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Book Review of Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek

The author, Simon Winek, uses practical examples to reach the reader and asks “Why?”  The challenge is to find the career or subject area that inspires, and the skill to inspire others or yourself as a leader. The author, Simon Sinek, asks the leader to find the one thing in the world that drives him or her, the one thing that matters, that makes him or her want to and indeed arise in the morning to go to work. Is it work to live or live to work?

So there are 2 themes: 1. For the leader to motivate and inspire others, and 2. For the follower or user to identify what motivates him or her to succeed, or want to succeed. Simon Sinek, then asks the user to define what does success mean given that WHY has been defined. The reader has to believe in those values that are being communicated, they resonate due to their alignment with the reader’s own values. They believe that’s what makes the company better and indeed, this makes the company better. It’s a matter of understanding.

He also asks if you were to be offered more money, would you leave your company?  Why? Is it salary and other financial goals that drives your success or is it something that is lacking in the company’s strategy or being?

Simon Winek also mentions that “it is not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts, that drive us to try new things.” From emigrating to this country to enrolling for an educational degree to learning a new board game or reading a new author. It involves following a manager or wanting to work for a company where there is clarity of focus and values, and trust that the company believes their mission. It is to make the world a better place and give the customer a “better” experience.

People working together with camaraderie and trust and with team work. They believe in the bigger picture. This is what motivates people and encourages them to stay at their current employer.

Many lines of discussion and thoughts by asking the one word, “Why?”.   The author asks the reader to answer 2 questions:


  1. Is there a work environment where you can thrive and grow as a person?
  2. Can you feel like you make a difference?

  Trying to answer these questions make this book transformative.




Posted on: January 10, 2018 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Life's Principles by Ray Danielo

Book Review of Principles by Ray Dalio

There are many books written on Leadership. Principles by Ray Dalio Ray Dalio is part of a separate list of those books on Leadership which require review. When you join his company, the employee has to acknowledge transparency of his or her job record, accomplishments and failures at Bridgewater Associates.  This book is the #1 New York Times Bestseller.

Ray Dalio is the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater Associates, which is a global investment firm and is the world’s largest hedge fund.  His wisdom is unconventional too. However, I found the book lacking since his principles related to the guiding principles that he used to found and manage the company. Many of us are working in a firm where we have to or try to be change agents in the culture and management structure where we work. So, then we are limited.   Transparency is fostered from tape recording meetings to a culture of criticism to encourage the best out of employees.

I still found the book helpful because he tries to decipher the basic rules to manage yourself or your organization. The principles can be applied to one’s one self to ensure that one can reach his or her goals, or improve one’s own self worth.  His basic approach is “knowing what your weaknesses are and staring hard at them”. [i] Or, as the common saying goes, “To thine own self be true.” He encourages employees to understand power that comes from knowing how and others are wired. There are 16 pages from pages 280-295 of principles in a checklist form that are included in this best seller that one can use to manage meetings, hire the  “right” person, build a culture to diagnosing problems to setting up governance structure. Each section or group of principles can be studied, analyzed and applied to one’s own company and life. He is big on understanding people and encouraging them to work together since the team can be more effective than the individual.

This book is encouraged to be studied and parsed for the situations where activities such as running meetings or setting up a governance structure apply . In some cases, self examination of a company’s flaws and strengths can help a firm or individual reach the next plateau.  (whatever that plateau may entail).



[i] Principles, Ray Dalio, page 179, Simon and Schuster

Posted on: November 26, 2017 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Book Review by Larry Marks of Project Lessons from the Roman Empire by Jerry Manas

As Stephen Covey has said, “Sharpen your saw”, you are bound to sharpen your leadership skills by reading  ”Project Lessons from the Roman Empire by Jerry Manus”. The author is not a historian but a PMP and experienced project manager who uses this book to identify several lessons that can be subjectively learned from a survey of the leaders of the Roman Empire. The lessons learned are subjective. The lessons learned are not complete are not summarized in a checklist or organized by Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) areas of study. The author is unclear how these lessons were identified since he has not studied each battle by its leader against Roman Empire aggressors. That is the not the reason to read this short book. I read it in 1 sitting, and was identify the numerous lessons that were called out from the success and failures of its leaders. Some lessons I found to be a stretch such as do not ask your resources to work “excessive” overtime. The Romans did not have this concept. The Romans did not necessarily believe in work life balance. Instead this book is rich in personal observations found from the author’s review of their contributions to humanity such as Roads, aqueduct, castles and forts as well as their use of succession planning. The author calls out the following lessons which relate to the human soft skill side of project management and if use can contribute to successful projects and programs.  I am always looking for lessons learned and ways to improve project and program success. Why do some succeed and others not? Is it the limitation of the project manager?

  1. Document lessons learned.  
  2. Document business need
  3. Document reason for being
  4. Project execution and alignment with objectives and needs
  5. Balance roles with family
  6. Encourage innovation
  7. Continuously learn
  8. Lead with compassion and competency
  9. Be goal-oriented and adaptive
  10. Ensure team is sold on the project
  11. Don’t burn out team
  12. Don’t give your team mixed messages
  13. Be culturally aware
  14. Plan for growth

These lessons are not new, but can be applied to your projects on an as-needed basis. Jerry, Another good read!

Posted on: June 17, 2017 06:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

"The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad."

- Salvador Dali



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