When I ask the question to my peers and friends that what does P stands for in PMO, I always got a typical response like "Projects," "Program," or "Portfolio." How about "Power," "Potential," and "Pioneer"? Why I am referring to these three, let me explain. Processes and governance are vital aspects to ensure smoother Project execution and delivery, but strong leadership skills are essential to ensure a successful outcome. The next question would be to what extent leadership skills are critical? The answer is straightforward; the most significant project outcome is mostly down to the leadership skills and the project team's capabilities running the show. I have witnessed this in my career, and I, too, believe this wholeheartedly. Now one may ask, then how about the worst project outcomes? For the worst project outcomes, I always use a single word, "team," and use such words intentionally. Because I believe it is not down to the Project manager or the portfolio manager or maybe the head of the PMO for that matter. I think it is a team effort, and we all know that a successful team will have great leaders. Strong leadership skills have become essential for making a project successful as they can differentiate success and failure.
If someone is looking to improve their PMO or looking to advance their career as a Project Manager, they need to pay strong attention to building strong leadership skills. As per my experience, Project Management Offices led by strong leaders can achieve better results and outcomes. The individuals who have equipped themselves with Strong leadership skills can earn the currency they needed to climb the management ladder.
As a Project Management professional, I always think that I have the second-best Job in the World. I still believe that I have the best Job until my multi-talented wife showed me otherwise. Though what we do is excellent from CIO to Project Managers and the Project Team, we are the change catalyst within our organization. Our Organization's IT strategy and the entire business strategy is effectively a Project Manager's responsibility. It is the vision, clarity, Communication, and thought of a Project Manager, which turns the hazy conceptualize projects into a significant market disruptor. Personally, the Project Management/ Project Manager role is exciting, and it is never meant for the fainthearted, timid, or Reticent nature of individuals. It is not only a role; it's a heck of responsibilities and takes the real strength of character. So, it is not a role or a most sought job, but it is something that can define & refine one's character.
I have been doing much research on the "importance of Strong leadership in Project Management." I did search this on google, and it throws me 10+ million results. Well, practically, someone cannot go through all ten million-plus details. So, I checked some of the posts and articles, and most of them appear to be a list of attributes that strong IT leader’s must-have. It also shows some books, videos that can turn someone into a great leader. The lists are worth a browse, though they are mostly listed a few of the obvious things like "Clear Communicator," "great motivator," "controlling your emotions," but apart from these, those are a good read for anyone. But one thing I observed that all those articles or posts are missing one of the critical elements. Great leaders indeed need to have "integrity" & "delegation" skills, and they also need to be a "great team builder." Still, I believe it is only 20% because the remaining 80% is always either, You, me, we, or us, i.e., the CIO, the Project Manager, and the Project team. Apart from all, it is an individual's USP, DNA*, and culture, which makes you a great or a strong leader.
The difference between success and failure is always you, me, we, or us. Technically there is no book, article, or post that can ever make you a great leader. The mistakes that we made, the lessons we learn from our mistakes, and our success teach us to become great leaders. Overall, it's a career-long process, and the leaders never stop learning. It is a journey that a person has to travel through with having lots of exciting ups and downs. I have added an asterisked DNA because it is a question that has been raised for ages that "Are the Leaders born or made?" Well, it is a mix of both. I have personally seen some people are born leaders. They started good, got very good and now they are excellent. If I had to put a number or percentage for born leaders, it would only be 5-10%. Some have given it a go, no matter how hard they try, how many books they read, or how many seminars attend, but due to their nature, they will never make it to the league of the great leaders. If I had to put a number for these categories, it would be 10-15%. I never meant that these people are not so important, but the novice may not represent the epitome of teamwork and leadership. It only serves as an exciting demonstration of multiple roles when needed to achieve or not to achieve a particular task. They are still essential for smoother project execution and delivery, and they become a crucial part of the successful outcome, but they are not the actual leaders. The CIOs have Project Managers, who are not genuine leaders but can buy in "strength" like a commodity by accessing the Project Management as a service market. Here are the attributes of strong leadership like robust vendor governance, effective SLAs, and KPIs that can be bought in from Project Management service partners who can make it look good and sometimes even better.
There is a large space between the two groups of "high-flyers" and "buy-it-inners," where most of the rest of us carry out our trade. Between 75% t0 85% of very good or great, strong Project Leaders were not born, but they are made. I mean, they always have the spark, untapped potential, which inspired themselves and others around them. But they are being made on a day to day, Project to Project to Project basis. CIOs' responsibilities are to nurture their Project Manager's potential and help them or groom them to become strong leaders. They are the future. Jumping out of the comfort zone is what excites me. Because 80% of the Project Leaders are not born, taught in a book, or read in an online list, they are made. It is only because of you, me, we & us. Whether you are a CIO, a Project Manager, or a Project team member, you are powerful as you give birth to a future leader. If the market for this approach is around 80%, then the potential is huge.
Based on my experience and observation so far, one can become a strong leader only by "knowing themselves." I have worked with various Project Managers, and only a few of them are self-aware and know themselves well. The rest of the Project Manager's do not seem to be looking entirely into the mirror of themselves. The reason why I am emphasizing the point" knowing oneself/ Themselves" is because if someone is not able to see their faults or not able to see their mistakes, then how will they know where to improve? You can make Chicken dumplings from fish, no matter how hard you try or how religiously you follow the recipe. You will end up with Fish dumplings. Some Project Managers' careers are built on a false foundation because they cannot see that from where they are starting.
Organization owners need to create a culture that allows honesty and transparency, where mistakes and faults are not punished or penalized. Still, it provides an opportunity to learn from such mistakes and faults. When an organization owner does it, then it encourages immediate acknowledgment and significant correction of such errors. Thus, it provides a truthful mirror to the Project Manager, where they get to know themselves well than before. The best way for a Project manager to know themselves is by inviting and, more importantly, listening to the feedback from up and down the command chain. The C-Suite executives usually provide valuable clues in their every single response. I always like to listen, and I always encourage listening objectively, not adding any filter to our perceptions. Do not project your home movie onto the feedback you are being given.
The main strength of a leader becomes clearer through self-awareness. When one realizes that they have fish, not chicken, you start to know and learn what to do with it. So, when you know who you are, what you are capable of achieving when you see yourself where you went, how you can improve, and when you listen without prejudice, that's when you become a more generous and strong leader, as I have mentioned earlier that it's a career-long process. You will not be as great or as strong today as you will be in the future, but you already knew that with self-awareness.