Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Project Leadership

I've touched before on the difference between leadership and management; but here's a thought for you - if in the workplace there's too much management and not enough leadership (yes I believe this is often the case), why do we employ a gazillion project managers around the world and almost no project leaders?  I like to keep things simple (for my own benefit mostly), but I see the biggest differentiator between leadership and management in the focus.  The focus of leadership is on a vision or end-goal above all else, whereas management gets far more into the details of 'how' - actually perhaps it's a question state; leadership asks 'where are we going to?' whilst management retorts 'how are we getting there?'.  So given those two questions, which is more important for a project, the end-state or the process you took to get there?

The assumption I think we often make is that the lead for the project will come from internal resource whilst we'll use a specialist PM to manage the job.  That's great but actually managing the functions may be the easier of the two and actually maintaining a focus and drive on the end state and getting everyone to reach that state could be something that you need a real expert to help with.

The reason I even contemplate such a question is that my role has changed in Kineo slowly over time, I've gone from a consultant, to a manager and now (I hope at least) a leader.  I've gone from managing the details, to managing the projects and to acting as more of a project internal 'sponsor' - or what I like to call the project leader.  The great thing is that being a project leader is much more fun than being a project manager - it allows you to focus on the really big things like actually getting working solutions across the line and empowering other people in the team to take on the management of the things they need to do to contribute to those goals.

We've seen a monumental shift in recent months and years from traditional style projects to a far more agile and lean approach - reporting by exception and simplifying handovers.  In some ways project leadership takes that to the next step - focusing on achieving what needs to be achieved and empowering others to contribute towards that.

So next time you're thinking of implementing a technologies project or a change piece into your organisation, maybe the question shouldn't be who will I get to be the PM but who will lead this piece of work?  If you've got the right leader in place things have a tendency to work out well.