The importance of project leadership

Project management is a powerful tool. It is one of the best tools to support strategic initiatives of organizations. If we are to manage projects of strategic importance, it is essential as project managers to be able to think strategically.

It is a subject I covered in depth in my book, Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers. Your project needs your leadership, and this is especially true in a dynamic world evolving and changing rapidly. Project Management should not be confined to the narrow world of task supervision.

As the project manager, you have to bring leadership to your project. As I said in the book, you need to be more than a taskmaster.

Understand and owning the vision

Beyond contract management

As a project leader, it is important to understand the vision of the project fully.

  • Why are we doing it?
  • What are we trying to achieve?

This reflexion should go beyond managing deliverables. Too often, we confuse managing the project with managing the contract. While they relate in some ways, these two activities are not exactly the same.

  • Managing the contract focuses on measuring the key metrics to complete the deliverables as specified in the contract. Performance is measured mostly with operational metrics.
  • Managing the project focuses on measuring the benefits of the project and how completing it will add value to various stakeholders. Performance is measured based on benefits and value.

Owning the vision

Some could say that the vision is owned by the client, not the project manager. For sure, there is an element of truth to that. But I think that is still incorrect, and is based on a narrow view of project management.

While the client may have asked for the project in the first place, it does not mean that the role of the project manager is reduced to supervising task only.

Fearless advise and faithful implementation

Providing fearless advice is also part of the role of the project manager. If you want to increase your successes in project management, you have to be able to perform the role of the strong and fearless advisor. Of course, the role of fearless advisor comes with its flip side: faithful implementation. It is important to be able to do fearless advice and faithful implementation, once a decision has been made.

Context and benefits of the project

It is important to understand fully the context of the project and the benefits it is trying the achieve. Benefits should not just be confined to the business case, read only once at the beginning of the project to obtain approval.

Beyond project closure, it is the achievement of the benefits that will determine the value and success of the project.

The context of the project includes the economic, social, and organizational environment of the project. The leader of the project should have a holistic view of the project, and contribute to its success with his knowledge and strategic thinking. He will, of course, be inspired by others and their knowledge and perspective in developing the vision, and will support innovation and creative thinking when required.

The project team members will need a leader to help define the vision of the project, and align all activities to achieve the vision.

Strategic thinking and decision-making

The leader should be able to provide guidance and support analysis with his global view and understand of the vision of the project and its context. He can mobilize team members and stakeholders to ensure appropriate actions are taken to complete the project successfully. He understands how the project fits into the strategy of the organization.

Understanding the vision will influence strategic thinking and decision making throughout the life of the project.  Benefits management should be at the center of the vision, managing the project strategically.

Without strategic thinking, the management of the project becomes too tactical, based on supervising tasks. Weaker plans are developed without a proper understanding of the constraints and context of the organization. Decisions are made based on short term goals, without consideration of the benefits and their alignment with the strategy.

Communicating the vision

It is important to communicate the vision to the team members and all stakeholders. The vision and strategy must be communicated clearly. Communication is a human act of reaching out to others.  As a rule, it should probably be communicated more often than you think. The project leader should also communicate the vision with conviction.

The project manager must own the vision and believe in the project, not just be there to do the job.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal is not to complete tasks, but understanding how the benefits of the project are aligned with the strategy of the client.

When the leader of the project understand and own the vision of the project, team members will feel supported when faced with challenges, and stakeholders will have greater trust in the project team even in difficult times.

So, let’s be a leader and support the vision of the project.

Michel Dion, PMP, CPA
Founder and Developer of Project-Aria
Discover my book:
Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve Better Results in a Dynamic World