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Forget Project Management and Embrace Project Leadership

Don’t pretend to be a project manager when what you really need to be is a Project Leader. In my experience, a Project Manager should only be a title you put at the bottom of your email signature. Project Leaders deliver successful projects.

A Project Leader is a person that puts aside self-interest in favour of the interests of the organisation, stakeholder, and team. A Project Leader does not try to manage the team by telling them the tasks that they need to complete or when to complete those tasks.

A Project Leader sets out the goal and then watches the team fulfil that goal. A Project Leader guides and nourishes a team in order to make sure the project is successful. A leader’s role is to support the project team and stakeholders in becoming self-sustaining and evolving in a positive manner. A Project Leader’s job is done when they are no longer needed, and the project, team, and stakeholders are running on autopilot.

Why we don’t need any more Project Managers

This world has enough managers – we need more leaders.

Unfortunately, I was once told that this world has 2 types of people. Those that are leaders and those that are followers. Which one are you? Which one do you want to be?

As a Project Leader, you must be able to guide from the front. It is about realizing the potential of the team and using skills and resources at your disposal to achieve the best from the team. A manager tries to manage the team by bending it to fit the project. A Project Leader will allow the team to bend itself to fit the project. A manager can, at times, stifle creativity by trying to box the team or stakeholders into pigeon holes just to get a project delivered.

Leading is not about dreaming

Project Leaders are governed by the same principles as a Project Manager. Do not think for a moment that Project Leaders simply run in front of a team. A Project Leader will run in front, side and behind a team when the moment requires.

A Project Leader will also be defined by the success or failure of the project and need to conform to the same boundaries of time, cost and quality as a Project Manager.
The one quality that separates a Project Leader from a Project Manager is the ability of the leader to guide the team and stakeholders. A Project Leader will allow the team to make decisions and hold each other responsible for those decisions. A leader sees the strengths and weaknesses of a team and feeds those strengths to bring confidence and coherence to the team while dealing with weaknesses head on.

Related Article: So You’d Like to be a Project Manager

Forego the fancy title

In favour of experience. It is nice to say you are a Project Manager, the title itself promotes seniority, trust, experience and success to the people reading your resume. What you need to put down on your business card is that you are a Project Leader. If you are currently a Project Manager stop and take stock. Are you doing right by your team by trying to manage them? Surely they are competent and self-sufficient to govern themselves. The team should know what is required and be able to commit to delivering against those requirements.

I say to all Project Managers, don’t make the mistake of believing a team needs managing. What it needs and desires is leadership. Someone to behave as a leader.

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