Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Project Management Versus Project Leadership

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Most managers tend to consider themselves leaders, and the field of Project Management is no exception. The principal difference between leaders and managers is that leaders tend to innovate and to brave new terrain -- they think outside the graph, chart or box. They are generally fighters and uniters, each in turn

Managers, on the other hand, generally enforce the new rules pioneered by the iconoclastic and creative leaders who came before them. They tend to be more concerned with processes and conforming to rules than being involved with people and creating rules. The two (leading and managing) are not mutually exclusive -- they are a rare but synergistic combination in any single person.

A Project or Program Leader identifies a problem and innovates or conceptualizes a means to solve it. He or she is generally good at selecting a team and optimizing its potency through superior organizational skills, character assessment and instincts. The Project or Program Manager is more involved in dealing the cards dealt him or her by the Leader and tends to manage the team in accordance with the path set forth by the master planner. The first type of individual innovates and manages people; the second type of person tends to manage processes within the guidelines set forth by the first, although there will inevitably be some interpersonal interaction and skills brought to play.

Learning Tree had an interesting article on the same subject, but with a slightly different approach. I would like to share some information excerpted from that article for my readers' review.
What are the differences between leadership and management? How do successful project leaders/managers blend the two together in the project management world to deliver a product, service, or result  . . . on target, on time, and on budget?

All project leaders/managers must have the responsibilities, competencies, and behaviors to manage, along with a certain amount of leadership. It is how you blend these two areas and skill sets together, that will ultimately determine whether you are a successful project leader/manager.

Merely completing the project shouldn’t be the goal. The real goals are not only to complete the project on time, but to complete the project on target and on budget. More importantly, customer satisfaction and collaboration are key.

In his 1989 book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences between a manager and a leader:
  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
M. J. Huard sees the differences in perspective this way:
  • Leaders lead people; managers manage people.
  • Leaders set destinations; managers navigate the roads to get there.
  • Leaders cultivate change; managers cultivate creating stability.
  • Leaders inspire; managers comfort.
  • Leaders appeals to the heart; managers appeal to the head.
  • Leaders set direction; managers set plans with details.
  • Leaders work on a system; managers are working the system.
  • Leaders have vision; managers are about reaching goals.
  • Leaders are about effectiveness; managers are about efficiency.
  • Leaders have followers; managers have subordinates.
  • Leaders take ownership; managers take responsibility.
  • Leaders shape culture; managers enact culture.
  • Leaders are proactive; managers are reactive.
  • Leaders accomplish achievements; managers accomplish compliance.
  • Leaders break rules; managers make rules.
  • Leaders use conflict; managers avoid conflict.
  • Leaders set new direction; managers go on the existing roads.
  • Leaders go inward; managers work outward.
  • Leaders are concerned what is right; managers are concerned about being right.
I believe that all project leaders manage, but not all project managers lead.
In my opinion, the entire field of Project Management needs to be subdivided formally into Project Managers and Project (or Project Team) Leaders -- perhaps with very separate and distinct credentials. Both are needed, but without leadership, there is little to manage except an unsatisfactory status quo of mediocrity. There must be some native thought and disruption in order to transcend the limitations of merely managing what is instead of what could and should be.

As an added note, some of the greatest leaders have initiated their "change campaigns" by being disruptive of existing processes. While irritating, it takes a grain of sand for an oyster to form a smooth, beautiful pearl.

Douglas E Castle for The Business And Project Planning And Management Blog and for The Taking Command Blog

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