Managing to Lead

b-leading.jpgWhat’s the most important thing you do that makes you a good project manager?  The only contest I ever won was answering that question.  About ten years ago I entered the weekly contest in the nationally syndicated Working Wounded column in the San Francisco Chronicle business section.  My winning answer was (and still is) “I do whatever it takes to protect the project team from management and enable them so they can do the job we pay them for.”

Is this project management or project leadership?  What’s the difference and why should you care?  The answer of course is – it depends.  Here are 3 aspects (out of many) that jump out to me:

Job title/description: there’s no consistency in the definitions of project manager and project leader across companies, and sometimes even within the same company.  Often the terms are used interchangeably.  Job titles provide no help in planning your career when there’s no clear relationship to expected behavior.

Methodology – There are many methodologies, each with their own definition, and you’re generally stuck with the “company standard”.  The PMBOK®, for example, defines leadership as one of the Interpersonal Skills (section 1.5.5) “needed for effective management” and defines it as “developing vision and strategy and motivating people to achieve that vision and strategy.”   In contrast, the Agile Project Leadership Network ( is “focused on making people great project leaders by focusing on the following:  value, customers, teams, individuals, context and uncertainty.”  

YOU – What do your heart and gut tell you about the balance between doing things right and doing the right thing?

b-laot.jpgLeadership as defined by Lao-tsu is what inspires me (though not specific to project leadership, it still works): “to lead people, walk beside them: as for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence: when the best leaders work is done the people say ‘we did it ourselves!'” 


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