Project Manager as Leader

Project Manager for 2021: Manager and Leader

Regardless of your company or industry, 2020 changed lives and careers. For Project Managers, the challenges of guiding a team through work processes are now heavily impacted by changes in team member’s personal environment in addition to changes in the business. To navigate 2021, Project Managers must balance management and leadership skills, and know when to apply either or both.

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Project Manager as Manager

Agile Fundamentals cropped 4A manager is one who’s focus is steadfastly on the delegation of tasks. For years, Project Management training has been grounded in work breakdown structures, risk assessments, and every aspect of looking at work in terms of tasks, delegation, and tracking. A manager can be described as one who views the team as the means to the end. Communications by the traditional manager are likely to be to the point and only encompass what work is done, what work is delayed, what work is on time, thus lacking consideration of the people doing that work. 

Some would say this is the core of the Project Manager role, because after all, “Manager” is in the name. Yet, that is a very traditional, restrictive view that ignores the importance of the leadership component of Project Manager work.

Project Manager as Leader

Mentoring in Project ManagementThe Project Management Institute (PMI) is launching a revised Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam in January 2021 which highlights leadership as a skill unto itself. Project Managers leverage a complex set of skills to motivate, guide, and yes, lead others towards the business goals. Project Managers completing the PMP Exam Prep for 2021 class will learn of leadership styles and when each is most appropriate. Within the knowledge and skills Project Managers need, there is more than managing tasks but also understanding leadership styles and when they apply.

  • Autocratic Leadership – leader makes the decision
  • Democratic Leadership – team is included in decision making, but leader ultimately makes the decision
  • Laissez-faire Leadership – hands-off approach. Team makes decisions
  • Transformational Leadership – Inspire and motivate their team
  • Charismatic Leadership – Similar to transformational, but focus is on themselves

Management and leadership skills are not the same, and yet, should not be viewed a choice to make between two options. Rather, a Project Manager is most effective when both management and leadership skills are intertwined and balanced.

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Project Manager for the Future: Manager and Leader

There is research, studies, and in fact entire industries built around the business topics of management and leadership. For Project Managers, training and development should consider both in recognition that project management is both about the task and the team. In this academic publication from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, the below chart provides comparison of leadership and management, as part of their position that the two areas are deeply connected.

PM and Leader 1

The Harvard Business Review article, “Three Differences between Managers and Leaders,” has a powerful way to identify the mindsets so that professionals can identify which side they fall most often in interactions with peers, direct reports, teams, customers, and stakeholders. 

PM and Leader 2

Take Your Project Management Skills to the Leader Level

In your career, you will find those that are only managers (tasks) and others that look only to the people (mission). Ask yourself, which are you today? Does it influence your career in terms of the opportunities you are given? Forbes’s article, “Management vs Leadership” calls forward ways in which the differences can be categorized: Mission, Self-Awareness, Risk, and Trust, plus Two-Way Learning.

The best Project Managers can fulfill their manager role while connecting with the team as an inspiring leader.

Upcoming PMP Certification Training – Live & Online Classes

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell