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.


Comments (2)

Topic: Project Leader or Project Manager, Which One Are You?
3/5 (2)
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 day after Thursday?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

So You Want to Be a Project Manager

Businessman smiling with hands together

Not sure what skills it takes to become a Project Manager? This article lists the six key skills required to be a successful project manager.

The Mythical 50% Resource

Red blocks with the percent sign on a white background

Most managers of software development projects have had an encounter with a resource who is committed to their project some percentage of the time.

Resolving Project Team Conflicts

Two women having an argument in an office

Conflicts on project teams are a fact of life! Only on rare occasions do conflicts not arise. As project manager you must manage these conflicts.

Agile Through the Waterfall

Agile and waterfall tag cloud

Many organisations have adopted Agile practices into their development methodologies and they have proved to be successful for the organisation as a whole.

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

David commented on…
Project Plans: 10 Essential Elements
- Mon 11 December 10:51pm

Chipoyera - Risk Manager commented on…
RAID Log
- Thu 7 December 7:49am

Horace Lindsay commented on…
Project Leader or Project Manager, Which One Are You?
- Mon 4 December 10:04am

Latest tweets

Project Plans: 10 Essential Elements https://t.co/dKCVsrSG1J #projectsmart #pmot about 4 days ago

General Project Management • Re: What degree should I choose to further my career? https://t.co/SoRiB3S9MX #projectsmart #pmot about 23 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Project management software for personal use? https://t.co/nl3aO2i0Oh #projectsmart #pmot about 26 days ago