Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Project Leader or Project Manager, Which One Are You?

~ By Jacqueline Geddes

Smart young project manager with graphs sitting by computer at an office desk

With the increased attention given to "leadership" in today's business community, one could argue for the simple substitution of the expression project management with project leadership. Rightly so, since in some literature, the role of leader or manager is used interchangeably. Yukl (2006) uses the terms leader, manager and boss interchangeably to indicate people who are in positions in which they are expected to perform the role of leadership. Leadership in this context is used loosely to cover management as well.

In order to answer this question adequately, we look at some definitions of leadership and management. Maxwell (2005) in his book The 360 Degree Leader provided one of the simplest and profound explanations of the distinction between a manager and a leader. He stated that managers work with processes and leaders work with people. Kotter (2003) goes further; he states that managing complexity involves planning, budgeting, organising, staffing, controlling and problem solving, whereas leadership involves setting direction, aligning people, motivating and inspiring. Kotter describes leadership and management as two distinctly different complimentary systems of actions, each having their own characteristics and functions. Both are necessary for the changing and complex business environment.

Based on these definitions one could argue that management is distinctly different from leadership. Leadership is necessary to initiate change, innovate and create new products, systems and services. Leadership also involves motivating people to become change agents, risk-takers and innovators. Management, on the other hand, involves ensuring that processes work effectively.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, third edition compiled by the Project Management Institute, defines five process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. In all, PMBOK describes 44 processes of Project Management that hardly focuses on the essential aspect of leadership.

This does not mean that Project Managers should not be leaders; on the contrary, to make a good project manager, one must be a good leader. The PMBOK is silent on the areas of leading people and focuses more on managing processes; however, the ability to motivate others to their maximum potential is crucial for effective leadership of projects.

To use the expressions project management and project leadership interchangeably is incorrect, confusing and often misleads project managers into thinking that their roles are only to manage the processes of the projects to its completion. In turn, many project managers therefore neglect their even greater leadership responsibilities, defined by Kotter as setting direction, aligning people, motivating, and inspiring their team members.

A project manager can invest in the most expensive, efficient project management toolset ever created to make the process run smoother. Without leadership skills, meeting project initiatives and objectives can often prove to be a futile effort. So ask yourself, are you a project manager or a project leader? Why not be both?


References

  • Leadership in Organisations (6th edition). Yukl, G. (2006)
  • Upper Saddle River: Pearson (p7). Kotter, J. (2003)
  • Business Leadership: A Jossey-Bass reader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Maxwell, J.C. (2005)
  • The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organisation. Thomas Nelson Inc, Nashville, TN

Management Consultant, Jacqueline A.M. Geddes has over 20 years consulting experience and provides on-site consulting advice, training and coaching.


Advertisement


Comments (1)

Topic: Project Leader or Project Manager, Which One Are You?
4/5 (1)
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
4th February 2016 5:28am
Yulanda (Cleveland) says...
Definitely like the distinction. I see myself as a leader, but definitely need to work on my management skills to create more efficiencies in my office.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the month after February?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Avoiding Project Management Pitfalls

Foot about to tread on a banana skin

Common pitfalls that projects experience and some tips to help make a project more successful and avoid the potential for chaos.

Managing The Project Time

Man pointing at an alarm clock

Project managers should know the iron triangle of project management, sometimes called the triple constraints of project management, because all projects are constrained by these elements.

How to Initiate a Six Sigma Project

Six Sigma diagram scheme concept

Although one cannot have a project-specific vision right from the very beginning of a Six Sigma initiative, you can develop a comprehensive viewpoint.

Estimating Project Costs

Money and a calculator

Tips and advice for estimating project costs, including three point estimating and Monte Carlo Simulation in MS Excel.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Ashwini Pendharkar commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Tue 20 June 1:32pm

Tery commented on…
A Brief History of SMART Goals
- Mon 19 June 10:10pm

Tammy Marin commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 15 June 10:37pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Please Advise: Does PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam Scenerio Changes… https://t.co/OK90gkJzMN #projectsmart #pmot about 10 days ago

RT @rkelly976: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.”… about 12 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Do I need project management software? https://t.co/u4Tu1fnzuY #projectsmart #pmot about 12 days ago