Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Leadership – an introduction

August 22, 2011

On April 26th I wrote an article about leadership in project management. In response, I was asked whether I could explain a little more about leadership in general. What is leadership really about and what should you know about it as project manager? The following article is based on my book, “Projectmanagement op basis van NCB versie 3”.

Leadership is the ability to get people to move into effective roles and tasks, to achieve (project) goals. Project managers often have limited formal powers. They work with team members and user representatives, but are not hierarchically driven. This means that in task- and relationship-oriented management to their team, they have to rely on other sources of power than their formal position. Like power by knowledge or power by relationships. The coaching management style can be used to give direction to the task and relationship orientation. The definition of leadership and the main other terms are:

  • Managing people: The performance of managerial tasks such as setting goals, determine the necessary tasks and enforce.
  • Leadership role: A behavioral ability according the specific needs of a project.
  • Situational leadership: Leadership style of management which is based on the degree of ability and willingness of people in practical situations.
  • Coaching leadership: leadership attitude focusing on learning ability of staff and making their potential qualities available to achieve the highest possible performance.
  • Power: The ability to exert effective influence on reality.

Management vs. leadership
In this article we are consistently taking the project managers point of view. The person who, through proper planning, organization and management of work, ensures that project results are met within the prescribed conditions. That is the essence of the role of the project manager. Leadership is the connecting, stimulating, aligning and guiding force of the project manager, so the project stakeholders are intrinsically motivated to pick up the project planning and excel in the work, so the desired project results are realized. In this article I describe a number of role-oriented and task- and relationship-oriented leadership theories.

Leadership theories
There are several theories about leadership.

Covey (1993) emphasizes the features that a project manager has to develop, to achieve such an independent and reliable impact on the environment that synergy – as directed energy – in this environment is created.

In this article, the following leadership theories are described:

Quinn’s theory of management skills emphasizes the various roles that a project manager can perform. These roles are both internally focused or externally oriented and focused on flexibility of action, or control over the action. By deliberately choosing specific roles, the seemingly opposite values (internal / external, flexible / managerial) can be bridged.

The Managerial Grid of Blake & Mouton emphasizes the control given to the project manager. Their assumption is that project managers are focusing on task and relationship. The approach of Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard is based on situational leadership. They indicate that a project should be based on the situation, and you should choose an appropriate leadership style. The style can be chosen depending on the qualifications of the person.

This article is concluded with a section about two instruments; delegating and coaching. A project manager can use those to encourage employees to a higher qualification.

Figure 1 – Value perspective and leadership roles

Leadership Roles and value development (Quinn)
In the leadership model of Quinn, competing values play a key role, as shown in Figure 1. Opposite the value ‘internal focus’ is the value ‘external orientation’. In terms of project management, this means that the project manager has an eye for both the internal organization of the project and for the project environment, for which the project outcome is realized.

Opposite the value ‘flexibility of action’ is on the vertical axis ‘control of action’. For project managers this means that they focus on the individuality of project staff, and also in what way other project tasks can be realized in a controlled manner.

A project manager can choose the following leadership roles and skills:

Internal focus / Control of action – The project manager acts as a coordinator, through planning, organization and ensures that the project results will be realized. The project manager fills the role of controller, by means of a tight internal organization, established procedures and clear indicators to ensure that the project can enroll. Within this area, the project pays much attention to modeling and controlling of internal processes.

Internal focus / Flexibility of action – The project manager plays the role of stimulator. He will ensure that conflicts do not develop into an uncontrollable level and encourages the development of the team and joined decisions. He also fulfills the role of the mentor, aimed at developing individual team members and enhance interpersonal communication. Within this field, the employee is focused on the most efficient way of resourcing the project staff.

External focus / Flexibility of action – The project manager plays the role of innovator. He and his team ensures that changes are effectively identified, and exploring ways to realize these changes. The project manager fulfills the role of a target minded mediator, who uses all his ability to influence to obtain sufficient professional resources and capacity in order to meet the customers demand. For the project manager the project organization is an open and flexible system, which should be exploited to achieve the wanted project outcome.

External Focus / Control of action – The project fulfills the role as a producer for the customer. He makes sure that the required products meet the agreed quality criteria according and focuses on encouraging and motivating people to make it happen. The project manager fulfills the role of director, by means of setting goals, taking initiative and effectively delegate work in a controlled manner for the customer. From this area the project will look like a rational goal model in which the focus is on achieving, by the client accepted, project outcomes in a controlled way.

Within the framework of this project management model the project is firmly anchored in the internal organization, without losing focus on the users of the project result. Simultaneously, the attention is on developing project staff, within clearly identified management criteria.

By taking those four management areas in a account as project manager you:

  • have the internal organizations confidence in the professional execution of the project;
  • are able to motivate and challenge experienced team members of the project;
  • are able to keep team members focus on the interests of the user of the project results;
  • have a fine balance between the demands of the commissioning organization and the demands of the customer of the project results.

Factors that disturb the balance also lie in the focus of the project manager himself.

Task-and relationship-oriented leadership (Blake & Mouton)
Blake & Mouton focus their thinking on the attention project managers tend to give to themselves. They make a distinction:

Task orientation – the extent to which the task of the employee and the interests of the organization are important to the manager.
Human orientation – the extent to which the human aspects, such as the interests of the involved employees, are important to the manager.

These two dimensions combined, create a infinite number of leadership styles. Blake and Mouton distinguish five dominant styles, see Figure 2.

Figure 2 – Management Grid (Blake & Mouton)

Separation-oriented manager (Easy Rider)
For this manager is neither the role nor the human aspects of the work of real importance. In practice, this manager manages little. What does he do? There is no direct leadership present and achieving the project outcome is highly dependent on the professionalism of the project team. This area should not be assessed in advance as negative. Project managers who are able to ensure that results are established by the self-steering ability of a team, can focus on tasks that also matter. To reach that point, the project manager will have a more then average separation-oriented attitude.

Human-oriented manager (the Country Club Chairman)
A high score on “relationships” and little attention for the realization of tasks. This manager focuses on the importance of the employees. Preferably, this manager focuses on the harmony and a pleasant working atmosphere. The task gets little attention. If this atmosphere orientation leads to higher motivation and task-oriented professionalism of employees is high, then you have the right manager in place.

Task-oriented manager (commander)
“Only the result counts”. This is the motto of a manager who scores high on task orientation and low on human orientation. Everything serves the business interests, aimed at the project outcome. Concern for employees is based on achieving the needed results. Especially in situations where rapid, adequate or high pressure performance is to be delivered, this task-oriented attitude is of great value. By the clarity of direction, everyone knows what to do.

Integration-oriented manager (the captain)
This manager focuses on team building. Good teamwork balances attention to relationship and tasks. In most cases, this is the right attitude in projects. People feel recognized and understood and the results will be realized. Two aspects that will lead to increased motivation.

The golden mean (the mediator)
This manager divides his attention between people, organization and personal goals. The manager strives for an acceptable balance between organizational performance and personal needs. Also his own.

Developing task- and people-oriented leadership
The position of project managers in the Managerial Grid is not fixed. Through personal development, changes in the environment and/or the company, the project manager may adopt another position. By learning the project manager to change his style according the situation, he can be highly effective in managing projects.

So far about leadership for now. In a future article I will take situational leadership a step forward. If you have any question please do not hesitate to write me a comment. For more information, please visit our website

Improving projects by project leadership – part 2

July 26, 2010

In my blog article of April 26th I wrote about the importance of leadership in organizations and projects. As a result I got a lot of questions and comments.

I want to share a comment of my friend Allard de Ranitz :

“Personally I always enjoy the trivia that is created on any business level when people start using terms like maturity and leadership, without taking time with each other to identify what it is that we’re talking about. We all know what we mean, more or less, but the misunderstanding usually occurs right there in those areas; the more and the less…. Besides that, it is pretty difficult to support people in increasing their leadership and advancing their maturity levels when we don’t know exactly what we’re advancing or increasing, other than better, more and up… which are usually terms that coincide with measurable aspects of What we do and not How we do things.
The English language has a great word that helps identify the characteristics of maturity and leadership. ‘Responsibility’ when taken apart there’s two words that provide meaning to the word itself in a continuum. Response and Ability. With increasing ability to respond, you’re better equipped to take responsibility. Responsibility as such is all about the Response one creates as an answer, effect of or counter to a certain influence. The more mature your response the more effective the flow of things continues. Immature responses, therefore create disruptive flows. This is important to recognize, since it looks at maturity in a different way.
Most of the maturity models we know, like CMM(i), INK or EFQM consider maturity to be an increasing level of quality based on system borders. Level one deals with activities, projects, singular responses to stimuli where level two is based on repetitive action responses; being capable of repeating the same response to triggers, that worked the first time, when similar stimuli came your way. Level three already starts to recognize a larger scale outside of your own influential sphere to be reckoned with where levels four and five (and possibly beyond that where other models are concerned) increase the view of the system that is influential for and partial to an ‘Able Response’ – being that type of response that supports, possibly increases and not disrupts, the flow of things within that entire system.
Maturity therefore, has only to certain limitations to do with the skills with which a (project) manager, person, leader, fulfills there task. Much more so however, it deals with the overall capability to take perspectives; to see the whole picture from all different angles and to be Able to Respond to a trigger in such a way that the entire system flow is maintained. Just as ecological principles only stand up in larger perspectives, because the earth as a whole is one complex, intertwined related system, the same principle accounts for projects having to be viewed in light of business cases and organizational change and the maturity of organization responses to change having to be judged by their larger environment and effects on that.
In the smallest sense I respond to triggers, because of me having to respond to make me better; an egotistic, self oriented view on maturity. I can still show prevailing traits of managerial capacity, however since it is merely for my benefit, maturity cabn be considered low! When I can grow beyond ego and look at myself and the others concerned, my perspective becomes more ethnocentric and involves the good of the group. Maturity increases, since I encompass my fellow men / collegues into the course of action, however I can still and will disrupt the flow of my entire life system, merely trying to do what is good for me and the other and make money. The fact that I’m polluting my environment, wreaking havoc on  all other outside my system, is not included in my perspective, causes my ability to respond to only partially create flow, however disrupting it slowly on a larger level. When being able to see the entire system we’re part of and therefore creating perspectives on a system/world centric way, we’re able to make balanced decisions for the good of the entire flow. Possible shortly disrupting smaller streams, however in the end being able to create flow for the entire system and not merely for a partial impact. This is what Responsibility and the ability to Respond is all about.
To be able to develop the maturity of your Project managers, therefore is to be able to increase their way of perspective taking into a more systemsapproach and world centric view of responding. How do you do that, I can hear you ask. Well, there’s no simple conventional answer to this question.
The way forward lies in developing the consciousness of the Project manager. What research has found, is that the higher the consciousness the more empathic and world centric the being is. I suggest we incorporate a new way of developing people in organizations. Next to developing skills, knowledge and experience in the field and the subjects, which are all extremely necessary to be able to succeed, we should also start developing the personality beyond the ego. The conscious Project manager is someone who possesses all necessary skills and the personality to match it. A conscious human in a conscious mind. That’s Maturity and that is the maturity that creates a Great Response Ability!!!”

Improving projects by project leadership

April 26, 2010

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine, Peter Milovic, about the significance of the presence of real leadership in organizations. We explored several paths of why organizations are successful in their field of expertise. And every time we concluded that leadership is such a major factor, if not the key factor, for a successful future.

I also experienced this last year when I was coaching a young project managers for improving project management skills. The basic approach for improving project managers is often that a project management method is introduced and as part of the further development, the use of the project management method is regularly discussed. In this situation we hardly talked about the method at all and focussed on the ability to see and feel the projects environment and the wishes of the stakeholders. We focused on what was needed at that moment to maintain a successful course for the project or enhance the chances of success for the project?

In the sessions we worked on several key factors for project management and the way the project managers could transform this into daily practice. It was amazing to see how in a relative short period the project managers developed a feeling for real project management skills. Not the management of the documents or following the project process steps because it’s prescript. No, they made the step from project management to project leadership. As a result the effectiveness as project manager increased enormously as well as the value for the organization. The project managers developed a genuine motivation to be successful and the skills to match that. Isn’t that the development we all want for our (junior) project managers?

My dream is that a increasing group of coaches and leaders will join in this development. I’m convinced it will bring more passion in organizations and will help to lower operational cost and increase the benefits enormously. Do you want to join? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.