Leadership vs. Management: Part 2

Ok, this ended up being a multi-part series. Here is more on leadership versus management.

Question: Are you a project manager or a project leader?

I’m not asking what your actual title is, but rather what is your project management style? Do you lead, or just manage? What is the difference?

If you look at my first post (Leadership vs. Management: Part 1) you’ll notice that there is a big difference between the two. This post is more of the same theory, but more pointed toward project management work rather than being so general.

First, let’s define a project manager and a project. Wikipedia states a project manager “has the responsibility of the planning, execution, and closing of any project.” PMI adds two other process groups to this, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling, and Closing. Projects are defined as a single, unique effort with a definite start date, definite end date, and specific budget.

So, how does leadership vs. management come in to play here? Well, the answer is pretty simple. A “simple” project manager can follow the guidelines and processes of any project management methodology. There are good, even great project managers all around the world and their work is commendable. A powerful project manager, however, is one that is more of a project leader than a project manager. As I mentioned in my previous article, leaders can inspire greatness in any situation. Leaders have the mental tools to take their project teams to the next level.

Project leaders equip their teams with all of the tools they need to get the job done on time and under budget. Andy Crowe in his book The PMP Exam: How to pass on Your First Try mentions the project manager being “large and in charge” which is an important part of the leadership recipe. Being large and in charge means having the mental toughness and ability to make decisions. What it also means, however, is something that many leaders forget. Project leaders empower their teams to do their jobs.

Let me repeat that. Project leaders empower their teams to do their jobs.

Empowerment is vital to the success of a good project team. Each team member must be trusted to perform their own jobs and be given the ability to make decisions in order to do so. This does three things for the project: it frees up the project leader to focus more on the threats and opportunities the project faces, it speeds up the decision making processes so that red tape does not get in the way of the day-to-day work of the project, and it also gives the team member additional confidence knowing they add real value to the team.

One thing that cannot be overlooked is the selection of the actual team. Project leaders have done their research. They look for team members that produce consistently and know how to do their jobs. They get the folks that are the best in the business (whatever business that may be) and take advantage of their availability. It is important, however, to bring up less seasoned team members, or even educated rookies, with the veterans so their experience can grow with the best in the business.

Overall, leadership is a vital portion of the project management experience. Those with leadership capabilities have the ability to take their projects to a higher level of productivity. As a hiring manager, you don’t have to hire someone with leadership abilities. You can hire a competent project manager and make a good hire. If you are given the choice, however, a project leader is worth the extra money.

Do you want your project to be good or great. The choice is up to you.

Thanks for tuning in.

Jim Shaffer, PMP

4 Replies to “Leadership vs. Management: Part 2”

  1. Hi Jim,

    good observations. Please allow me to add the following.

    In a simplification of John B Kotter’s meditations on leadership and management, one may say: Management’s core goal is predictability, leadership creates change.

    Did you ever notice that Earned value analysis tells you nothing about a project’s ability to meet a deadline? Or its efficiency? Its profitability?

    Earned value analysis measures predictability: Are you doing what you have planned to do – and what has been agreed upon with others?

    Leadership is not about adhering to a schedule or an approved forecast. It is about building winning teams that make the customer happy.

    Leadership and management often come hand in hand. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation, where you can either be a good leader or a good manager, but not both at the same time.

    Kind regards from Bavaria, where people are looking forward to the Oktoberfest,

    Oliver F. Lehmann, PMP

  2. Sorry to disagree with your premise that there is a big difference between managing and leading.

    You said in your first article.
    “In fact, it is possible to manage successfully without an ounce of leadership ability. Management is basically following a script that someone before you or above you created for you to follow. It is a matter of doing things right.”

    I totally disagree because it is impossible to be a good manager of resources and functions without being a good leader if one of those resources is people.

    Quite simply, managers manage resources and functions such as finance, machines, production, supply chain, and people. People are just another resource. Each of these has certain characteristics which dictate, repeat dictate how they should be managed. Fail to understand their characteristics and you will fail to make effective use of that resource or function.

    People have certain characteristics such as the basic needs to be heard and to be respected. People respond to leadership, good or bad, a characteristic not shared by machines or finances. And because of their upbringing, the vast majority of people are followers and thus need superior leadership to “lead” them to very high performance.

    My point is that manager or leader is a false issue and only serves to prevent us from understanding what we need to do. If you are dealing with people, you need to understand what leadership actually is, or what it is that people follow, and how to use it to your advantage.

    Most managers use the top-down command and control approach to managing people. This makes them their own worst enemy because top-down demeans, disrespects, demotivates and demoralizes employees thus “leading” them to treat their work, their customers, each other and their bosses with the same level of disrespect.

    To better understand the right and wrong ways to manage people, please read the article “Leadership, Good or Bad”

    If you are interested in learning more about a superior leadership strategy, please read these Leadership Articles

    Best regards, Ben
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”

  3. Ideally, the role of the Project Leader can be assumed by the Team leader, for the following 2 reasons:

    1. The Project Manager might be very busy.
    2. The Project Manager doesn’t have the technical skills required to coach the team members.

    When you have a Project Manager and a Team Leader (instead of the Project Manager playing a dual role), then you’ll be able to minimize the communication channels of the Project Manager, and thus, take off some of the load off his/her shoulders.

    I have published an article along the same lines a while ago, Project Leader or Project Manager, Which One Are You?.

  4. You provide up the excellent point and to me it appears that your blog offers new considering on leadership and even shake points up from the classic imagined approach on leadership. A actually very good and thoughtful submit, and I am not ready to management my temptation to have my remark sprinkled out. And great feedback right here, as well. Permit me stir the pot even more. Let me start by saying that I listen to what all of you are declaring ? I actually do. I have just arrived at the conclusion that the leadership skills growth is in fact an personal choice and we normally want to work on it to get it created. I have found to be most enjoyable on a range of levels, some of which you each touch on, right here. Preserve composing and I guarantee to go to a lot more frequently.

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