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Evolving traits of a project leader in today’s hyper dynamic business environment

A. Introduction

The world of business is changing very fast today causing a hyper dynamic business environment globally manifested by market volatility, price fluctuations, political uncertainties, etc.

Such rapid changes in this interconnected world is decreeing a changed order of doing business which, inter-alia includes projects. Consequently, new set of challenges are confronted by leadership at project and enterprise levels needing certain changes the leadership traits. The article endeavours to articulate some important highlights on these global developments and derive certain key traits of today’s leaders.

B. Highlights of areas of Global evolution:

Interconnected global economy: The global economy has become so interconnected that important trends and events in one region can have substantial effects on the opposite side of the globe – for better or for worse.

Political instability and war like situation: Political instability and war like situation, particularly in Middle East inflicting huge political tension and mass movement of refugees.
China’s transition: The transition of China from a period of booming growth to more balanced growth to a slow down and then trying to consolidate, may continue to keep the global market volatile.

Volatility in commodity prices: Tremendous volatility in basic raw material commodity prices

The environmental challenges: Ever growing stringency in environmental norms world over to combat the deadly consequences of global warming and pollution, continuously challenge the prevailing technology in manufacturing, automotive and power generation industries.

Continuous up-gradation of technology: New and emerging technologies for production of new and higher quality products demanding improved technologies.

All these phenomena which basic causes of hyper dynamism, shifting the focus on the attributes style today’s project leader should possess.

C. The key Challenges and possible response:

When summarised, following are the key factors that are prompting so strongly a major shift in project management leadership style:

  1. Extra-volatile market scenario associated with interconnected global economy
  2. Unpredictability of global political environment
  3. Project funding challenges
  4. Socio-economic challenges
  5. Rapid environmental and climatic change
  6. Rapid change in technology

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In order to derive the attributes of a leader commensurate with these challenges, we try to analyse the key requirement to deal with each of these factors. Once done, the leadership attributes that can fulfil those key requirements can be identified and prioritised. The issues ascribe certain important and inescapable requirement to deal with them effectively as tabulated below:

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D. Evolving leadership traits :

Given the challenges that are faced by the organisations elicited by the rapidly changing world with respect to almost all facets influencing business, the leadership style must evolve with certain essential traits to be acquired by a leaders in this changing time. Derived from the steps in the matrix above, such traits must include but not limited to the following:
Speed: Probably the most important among all behaviours of a leader is ‘speed’, speed to respond to changes the world is experiencing – speed in decision making, speed in project execution, speed in adapting to new technology and speed in reacting to every other aspect that influence the business of the enterprise.

Political and socio-political awareness: Complete knowledge of political and socio-political developments of global significance and those of the regions and localities that could have a negative impact on the project and business must essentially be acquired with the key decisions models essentially taking into account such knowledge and their ramifications.

Team building, knowledge and skill up-gradation: With the technology changing rapidly towards more sophistication, the business and project functions are transforming from skill based to knowledge based endeavours. Some of the low level functions are being taken over by digital technologies like IOT, AI and Machine Learning, robotics etc., completely changing the blend
of people in the team and job profiles requiring the leadership to recast the team blend with appropriate training.

People Management: Consequent upon the changing political and socio-political environments arising out of various changes influencing them, the social behaviour of people would undergo major changes as well. Groups will break and reconstitute. Stakeholder expectations will change requiring very different engagement plans to be in place.

Change Agent: Although it is not necessary that a change agent has to be a leader, but a leader must be a change agent. Especially, with the hyper volatility of various dynamics a business is experiencing in the recent times, a continuous proactive change in strategy is another key trait of today’s leader.

E. Conclusion:

When Alfred Tennyson professed the one line philosophy on change – ‘The old order changeth yielding place to new…’- it is difficult to say today, whether he also imagined the overwhelming speed of change prevalent today. To catch up with rapid changes in all key areas of business and projects, the leader has to have a strong positive will and prepare himself first with certain key attributes of immense importance and then be an effective change agent to yield place to new order of things. The challenge is tremendous and to be the forerunner in this changing scenario, two most important traits that must be adopted inter-alia many other attributes, are speed and pro-activeness to change.

1. Ken Tysiac, October 6, 2016,” 6 global economic trends you can’t ignore”, Link-
2. Admin (Nov 7, 2012) Market Vs Economic Cycles and Sector rotation; Link-
3. Ian Bremmer (2005), Managing Risk in an Unstable World; Harvard Business Review-June 2005 issue
4. Larry Wynant. “Essential elements of project financing,” Harvard Business Review. May-June 1980, p. 166
5. Bruce Comer (1996), Project Finance Teaching Note FNCE 208/731 Fall 1996 Professor Gordon M. Bodnar

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