Take the Leap to Project Leadership

Take the Leap to Project Leadership

Take the Leap to Project Leadership
Take the Leap to Project Leadership

Leadership in Project Management

Not only has leadership recently become a trendy business topic, it’s also become arguably one of the most important traits for project success. But what exactly makes a good leader? Is there a standard definition of leadership? And what does it mean for us as Project Managers? Let’s take a look at some definitions of leadership to try to figure it out:

My favorite quote on leadership comes from Peter Drucker who said that “your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” Simply put, a leader is like a musical conductor who orchestrates and extracts the best traits out of each team member to make the most of the performance!

Nevertheless, there doesn't seem to be a mainstream consensus on what leadership means (feel free to share what leadership means to you in the comment box). Regardless of what your perspective is, I think we can all agree that leadership is not just about power, a title or pride. Extraordinary leaders possess certain intangible qualities that we admire and aspire to emulate such as humility, authenticity, confidence, wisdom, social and business judgement. 

If you aspire to become a successful Project Manager, you should ask yourself if you possess these qualities or are you working on developing them? The project management landscape is shifting towards leadership as a means for project success– and now, more than ever, it is important that you reflect on this question and how leadership will impact your career development and aspirations as a Project Manager.

The Importance of Project Leadership

If leadership is about taking charge of your own energy and then helping to orchestrate the energy of those around you, then project managers have one advantage; we are experts in navigating change. Not only have we mastered the iron triangle of scope, schedule and budget, we rigorously apply our understanding of technical PM methodologies to create plans, drive progress and map milestones out of uncertain situations - but this is no longer enough for project success. 

As the speed of uncertainty and change is increasing exponentially, today's Project Managers are facing extraordinary challenges. If we are looking to make the leap to project leadership we are standing in front of a steep cliff, but conquering this challenge will push us (and the profession) beyond our comfort zone and to the pinnacle successful project delivery.

That being said, how do we go from navigating uncertainty to orchestrating performance? How do we embed leadership in the bedrock of critical competencies for project managers? How do we change the focus from technical skills to leadership based competencies? There is a big leap for Project Manager must make to go from Project Manager to Project Leader – and here are a few of my tips to start making the transition right now!

Leap #1 – Focus on the WHY not the ROI, with a Purpose Driven Business Case

For those who have seen Simon Sinek’s famous TEDx talk, he outlines the concept of the Golden circle emphasizing the importance to believe in the “why” or the purpose of your business. The same principle applies to project management. Being able to translate your business case into a “PM Golden Circle” gives it meaning and a purpose, which will help to inspire those around you. In effect focusing your business case on the WHY, rather than the ROI will enable your team to understand the purpose of the project for the greater good of organization – thus lighting a fire of engagement and motivation in the project team!

Leap #2: Empowerment & Autonomy vs. Controlling & Monitoring

Traditionally, project management has focused on controlling & monitoring as a means to tracking milestones and deliverables. To transition into project leadership we must install a sense of empowerment and autonomy for project team members. This means giving them a supportive space to take on an increased level of responsibility and authority over the work that they do, giving them the autonomy to plan and manage work, make their own decisions and solve their own problems. 

This concept can already be seen in scrum methodologies whereby teams are empowered to self-manage and self-organize their work. This is a servant leadership approach of “leading from behind”, a leadership style emphasized by Ken Blanchard.

To transition into leaders, Project Managers must learn to shift their mindset from monitoring and controlling to empowering their project teams creating an atmosphere of empowerment, trust and confidence. It is not easy to make this leap, but you will see that the benefits include freeing up your focus on higher level project management activities, but your team will also feel empowered to make significant contributions and go-beyond their work package description. In developing high performing teams, the goal for the project manager is to become less directive and more facilitative — giving the team more and more capability to self-manage.

Leap #3: Developing Emotional Intelligence

As a certified Project Manager, you've probably mastered the processes, themes and techniques of different books of knowledge, which can be understood as Project Management IQ. Having a high PM IQ, therefore means to be well versed in the technical knowledge of these methodologies, processes and various books of knowledge. 

However, this alone is no longer enough to deliver successful projects on time, budget and to quality expectations – both EI and IQ are needed to transition into a Project Leader. Nowadays, it is equally (if not arguably more) important for a Project Manager to possess and to hone in their EI for project success. Think how many times you've led a whiteboard meeting asking your team members "how do you feel" while pointing to the green, yellow, or red smiley.
We do that as Project Managers because we understand that importance of emotions in driving performance, which means being able to handle conflicts and to create a harmonious environment in the most difficult of times. Having strong EI is to be able to rally the team to solve problems together.


Project Managers must have a well-developed EI that puts people at ease, helps them feel appreciated, and enables us to build and maintain solid relationships founded on confidence and trust, which are critical to driving performance and sustaining motivation around project milestones. A Project Leader must be equipped, not only with the technical knowledge and methodologies, but also with a strong sense of EI. In transitioning into a Project Leader, a well-developed EI is a must-have. It will enable you make the right calls, action the critical feedback from your project team and drive your project to successful completion - because it's emotions that drive people, and people drive performance!

Leap #4: Creating a Project Culture of Communication & Engagement


In a 2012 report by PwC executives said organizations with effective and efficient communication methods are more likely to stay within scope, meet quality standards and deliver intended business benefits. A Project Leader who is a committed communicator show who not only has the ability to communicate at all levels of the organization using different channels including social media, apps and new technological tools, but also drives a culture of communication within the Project Team.
Being a strong communicator means understanding what motivates the key stakeholders and providing them the information, issues and risks that will help them to leverage the project. By setting expectations of communicating and operating in a way that others are not afraid to communicate, raise an issue/risk will embed a culture of project communication, which will help to drive performance.  In PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications, it was stated that highly effective communicators are also more likely to deliver projects on time (71 percent versus 37 percent) and within budget (76 percent versus 48 percent).

The Author : Kamil Mroz

About :
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.
I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. 

I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.
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