Chapter 4 Leadership in Project Management – Project Management and Leadership Challenges, Volume III

Chapter 4

Leadership in Project Management


Project management approach is a leadership-intensive endeavor for achieving success every time for reaching desired results. This needs the right decision at the right time repeatedly. Leadership is a role that must be practiced by each team member by learning and practicing leadership skills to become more productive in a team.

There are challenges for leadership in project management. This chapter discusses the general differences between a manager and a leader.

The chapter also helps practitioners understand the challenges and appreciate the differences as a manager and a leader to assess the drawbacks and plan for make-up efforts.


What is the importance of leadership in project management?

What role does leadership have in management?

How would you differentiate between a manager and a leader and what are their responsibilities in the two roles?

Why to build trust for project management approach?

What skills are required for achieving desired outcomes?

The following are discussed:

  • Leadership in Management
  • The Difference between a Manager and a Leader
  • Building trust for Project Management Approach
  • Skills Required for Achieving Desired Outcomes

Leadership skills are the key ingredients in project management to make successful advancements in project management systems, practices, and processes. They drive result-oriented management toward desired outcomes. The challenges are:

  1. Create trust in the value of project management approaches, systems, and processes applied for business results among major stakeholders and help assuring those who may be reluctant in adapting these approaches for delivery of results. This adds responsibility on leaders not only to spread awareness of the value of project management but also to prove building organizational competence.
  2. Build organizational competence with PM-AURA Model and maximize project management culture.
  3. Penetrate into existing organizational culture through the power of strengths-based project management culture and effectively dominate for making advancement.
  4. Manage progress through uncertainties and complexities with selected project management processes, tools, and techniques and satisfy the human factors for driving the desired results.

Leadership is vital within the project management realm for outcomes in change implementation. Leadership skills are mandatory for every team member and the ascending levels in project/program/portfolio/EPMO management. They serve as a link between various stakeholders and create a strong and cohesive team atmosphere for strategic advancement, all while maintaining budget and schedule constraints. Projects/programs/portfolios need teams managed by a strong and assertive leader.

The continuity of business demands leadership to focus on the following:


A. Translate desired goals to reality

B. Steer the team in the right direction

C. Practice people-oriented management

D. Manage the challenges of a unique endeavor (i.e., project) with end results in focus


Implementation of a project is essentially a change management endeavor where the successful application of an assortment of technical tools requires competence in managing human factors, and this is possible only with effective leadership skills.

4.1 Leadership in Management

Leadership is the skill of self-development; other team members accomplish a goal through managing the human factors to work together. A leader is one who successfully marshals human collaborators to achieve particular ends. However, a great leader is one who can do so day after day, and year after year, repeatedly in a wide variety of circumstances.

Team members are required to possess and display power, force, and influence. A leader may not be a popular or colorful person and followers may never do what one wishes out of love or admiration.

The unique achievement is a human and social one, which stems from an understanding of fellow workers and the relationship of individual goals to group goals.

The impact of good or bad leadership needs to be understood to improve performance. You will learn that:

  • Less-than-optimal leadership practices cost heavily when mismanaged at project implementation. This not only has financial impacts, but may also cause loss of market share, confidence of stakeholders, and the business purpose altogether.
  • Leadership starts from self-management of team members and ascends to all levels. Capability for managing conflicts, interrelationships, and human factors determines the level of responsibility assigned to a team member.
  • Better leadership generates improvement in customer satisfaction and a corresponding improvement in revenue growth.
  • Most organizations are operating with mediocrity in leadership practices and suffer for not achieving the required strengths to manage the increasing complexity in business environments.

Project management is both an art and a science—an art because it requires the skills, tact, and finesse to manage people and a science because it demands an in-depth knowledge of an assortment of technical tools. It drives change to move in a strategic direction and demands leadership skills to manage the human factor most effectively (see Figure 4.1).

4.2 The Difference between a Manager and a Leader

It is very important to understand the difference between managing and leading to leverage change in the entire trajectory of an organization.

Misunderstanding leadership skills and confusing them with technical skills often leads to disastrous outcomes or, at the minimum, damages human relations and the business purpose. The damage is not limited to poor outcomes of project initiatives but penetrates discretely and subtly for long-term damage to the organizational image, its reputation for managing HR, and its ability to keep and maintain high performers.

Leadership in project management at every level is required to manage the right thing to happen in the area of assigned responsibility and to make sure it is aligned with strategic direction. Varying levels of leadership for project management, program management, portfolio management, and the EPMO create impacts together in a coordinated manner for advancement in a defined strategic direction.

Leadership is really not about leaders themselves. It’s about a collective practice among people who need to work together—accomplishing the choices they make together in mutual work.

Generally, every leader is expected to contribute, and particularly care for:


A. Adding value to corporate image

B. Supporting a high-performance culture

C. Maintaining team spirits

D. Demonstrating respect to the business purpose


The repeated common problems occur when leadership skills for results-driven management are not duly considered, or simply ignored, and when attention to performance and managing the human factor is overlooked.

Leadership is synonymous with management, but it is actually very different. People follow managers because they have to, but they follow leaders because they want to.

The central role of leadership in project management is misunderstood; the reality is that leadership encompasses numerous roles and activities and leaders at every level assert in a coordinated manner to make the desired impact. Varying levels of leadership for project management, program management, portfolio management, and the EPMO, along with their teams, need different sets of skills and a collaborative leadership approach for advancement in the strategic direction.

Recent years have seen a tremendous resurgence of interest in the vital topic of leadership. These studies all point to the vital role that leadership plays in enhancing innovation, creativity, and new product development; creating trust in stakeholders; and creating competitiveness in an era of increasing globalization. Project management approaches are effectively applied in a framework and managed by the EPMO that assumes the responsibilities for advancement of business in a strategic direction, creating leadership culture, managing stakeholders’ satisfaction, sustaining growth, and satisfying the organizational purpose for existence.

4.3 Build Trust for Project Management Approach

Business advancement in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) is very challenging. It becomes more challenging when project teams have to start from earning stakeholder trust. The application of project management approach helps effective business advancement in the strategic direction.

Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things—Peter Drucker

The challenge in applying project management is twofold:


A. Earning the trust of stakeholders

B. Creating trust in the team


Leadership needs to satisfy the necessary elements of trust, noted as follows:


Incompetent professionals are never trusted. Trust emerges from the confidence of team/stakeholders that you know what you are doing.


Consistency is the most pragmatic element—when your team/stakeholders know what you stand for, they believe that you will react in a predictable way to certain situations. Over time, the value of consistency becomes expressed as the shared value of the team and enhances trust.


Your team/stakeholders trust you to the degree you are committed to their success and well-being.


The quality of the relationship with the team/stakeholders expresses trust, where openness is the cornerstone of the ability to build the relationship.

Effective and efficient leadership is required to assert the capabilities shown in Figure 4.2.


TRUST: Credibility, integrity, character, and attitude are the foundations for building trust, where words have powerful impacts to:

  • Change people’s approach
  • Motivate or tear down
  • Inspire or kill a dream
  • Cause visions to be realized
  • Give confidence to a weary soul

INFLUENCE: Inspiring team members to do the right work with all skills and capabilities at every stage for the right results.

COMMUNICATION: Management of information flow to the right person for the right job at the right time has great impacts on building trust and confidence for achieving desired results.

VISION: Having a clear understanding of the bigger picture, where project deliverables will add value and the ability to communicate the importance of how each team member and stakeholder might be contributing to the vision.

MOTIVATION: Each team member’s engagement is enhanced when they have an understanding of their “meaning quotient” (MQ), that is, the value of their contribution to the bigger picture. The realization of value and the free hand given to work for value addition help motivation to stay at peak.

A plan for how team members become trustworthy is hig

hlighted in Figure 4.3.

To sustain trustworthiness, one needs to move from manager to leader and to the next level of performance. In reality, the approaches to the two roles are very different. There are many activities and behaviors that are carried out by both management and leaders. Yet we still perceive them as being different—at times, even drastically so.

Perhaps the difference is in the focus of both roles. Leadership focuses on people, and management focuses on process.

Managing Trust

Project management needs high performance, which is attainable only with a high level of trust among teams and generally in an organization.

The essential ingredients of T—R—U—S—T are depicted in Figure 4.4.

  • Truth: Whatever is happening not only is true but also looks true.
  • Respect: Profound respect in letter and spirit.
  • Understanding: Make efforts to find the facts and be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Sense: Highlight the reason and find sense in every action.
  • Thoroughness: Be thorough when relating to the bigger picture.

Trust is a basic and necessary requirement for successful achievement of business outcomes in these uncertain times. It is necessary to build a culture of trust among teams, vendors and supporters, and all stakeholders. In fact, it is necessary to trust virtually everybody and everything one comes into contact with in some way.

What is trust? Trust is the firm belief that one can confidently rely on somebody or something. It is closely connected with honesty, dependability, and even security. When you say you trust someone or something, it is like saying you have an unwritten contract that your expectations will be met. People’s expectations vary considerably, so how do you go about earning trust in a business context?

Here are some recommendations:

  1. Talk to stakeholders to establish their expectations; this could be done by personal contact or a survey.
  2. Communicate with team members in an open and nonthreatening way to understand their needs and expectations.
  3. Practice honest and realistic communications.
  4. Invite team members to share their ideas and opinions.
  5. Devolve responsibility and empower the team.
  6. Regularly check with team members and stakeholders that their expectations are being met and remain open to make adjustments.
  7. Respect others in all circumstances and at all times and show your values and beliefs in any way possible.

Finally, find out whether or not others trust you and at what level it is relatively easy to determine because it is demonstrated in their actions. For example, how seriously you are taken by team members? Do suppliers give you credit?

Lack of trust impacts the flow of work and productivity remains low, notwithstanding other reasons. The resultant actions caused by distrust may manifest themselves in many ways, so look out for them and ask why. On the contrary, when you and your team are trusted, you see high productivity, your customer base increases, and your success rate rises.

Trust is required in any walk of life. It is hard to earn and easy to lose. Its value is priceless.

Building Trust

Despite the importance of trust in the effective operation of teams, there are very few tools to actually help build trust. Therefore, the set of tools developed from a wide range of approaches, meant to help teams to build trust, are as follows:

  • Building team awareness and collaboration around the importance of trust by sharing experiences, storytelling, and creating opportunities for the team to communicate and bond.
  • Enhancing skills for effective interrelationship.
  • Building the team mindset for communication and working together as a team, primarily respecting cultural and individual differences and diversity.
  • Helping team members get to know one another with an emphasis on developing trusting relationships.

The ABCD Trust Model broadly helps teams build trust in the work environment (see Figure 4.5).

Trust is subliminal, intuitive, and instinctive and team members just cannot live without it; it is a prerequisite for life. One needs to trust in someone or something to get things done and progress, since none of us live in complete isolation; others need to trust in us to do things.

However, whether you trust yourself, trust others, trust products/services, or trust others, you will depend on the degree of trust required and expected. In other words, there is a loosely affiliated hierarchy of trust, which is personal to an individual.

Total trust is inconceivable unless you happen to be besotted, totally in love, high on emotion, or just foolishly unrealistic. Emotion and foolishness aside, what is the basis of trust and how can it be earned? One way to see it is that trust is usually based on personal desire or gain; it cannot be negated.

How one earns trust is a little more complicated to explain. It is quite common for trust to be built over time, but not always. The following are some ways that trust is gained:

  1. Being in harmony with others
  2. Referral from others and establishing reputation
  3. Presenting and building up an image
  4. Creating positive messages
  5. Networking and exposure to audiences
  6. Building expertise
  7. Building quality products that are fit for purpose and delivering on time

Trust leads to great responsibility and needs to be managed to keep this valued commodity. People have different expectations; they expect different things from different people. Different people also expect different things from you. Managers need to engender trust. You will need to be trusted by your seniors, other departments, customers, suppliers, and subordinates. Both individually and collectively these people will have different expectations of you; they will expect to trust you in different ways with different things. Trust is about fulfilling and satisfying these expectations, where these are often contradictory. That makes total trust impossible to achieve; however, gaining a level of trust is possible and is a worthy goal. The following points need to be demonstrated in order to manage trust in personal situations:

  • Self-confidence conveyed to others
  • Strength of mind and the ability to adjust to suit needs
  • Integrity
  • Clarity
  • Ability to do a variety of relevant tasks
  • Balanced viewpoint and approach
  • Perceived as honest and open
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Excellent presentational skills
  • Commitment
  • Well-defined objectives and strategies
  • Knowledge of your audience
  • Set an example

Trust, of course, is not a one-way street. The team trusts you, and you have to show others your trustworthiness. It involves a combination of experience, knowledge, awareness, training, and instinct. Whether you are trusting or trusted, being conscious of your trust hierarchy, knowing what to expect of others and yourself, helps considerably with trust management.

Trust can very easily turn into distrust when people’s needs are not satisfied. It is easier to lose trust than gain it. Usually once it’s gone, it’s gone forever—confidence, reliability, and belief all gone in the blink of an eye. So, if you are trusted or if you trust, don’t dismiss it, cherish it, respect it, and foster it. But be realistic; trust does require constant and consistent management.

The collective ability to build and maintain trusting relationships is a key competence for leaders in growing complexity and increasing interdependencies in business environments. Leaders at all levels need to tackle trust head on. Without trust, teams hold back information, effort, creativity, and loyalty—all the human variables that lead to personal satisfaction and organizational success. Yet despite leaders’ good intentions, only a small percentage of today’s team workers are found saying that their leaders genuinely listen to and care about them.

Trust works! The following are four keys to building lasting relationships and creating happy people and thriving organizations:

  • Avoid trust busters and practice trust boosters—the everyday behaviors that build—or destroy—trust in relationships.
  • Rebuild damaged trust—a five-step process to use when trust has been broken.
  • Have trust conversations—discuss trust issues in a productive, nonthreatening manner.
  • Build trust in organizations—move beyond individual trust strategies to build a culture of trust within the team, department, and entire organization.

Building trust has a ripple effect; it spreads well and raises the level of the team’s trust in their leader.

For team members to trust, they need to see a track record of reliability. Once the credibility is established, the trust will follow in relationships with project team members. There is a certain level of positional credibility that comes with the job, but it still takes time to establish personal credibility within the dynamics of a team. Members have to judge for themselves whether to take you at your word or not.

“Trust makes the world go ‘round.’” You need to find answers to three questions. First, is there a measurable cost to low trust? Second, is there a tangible benefit to high trust? Third, how can the best leaders build trust in and within their organizations to reap the benefits of high trust?

Path to Trust

Everything takes longer when you don’t trust those around you. Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business. Professor John Whitney of Columbia Business School has established five qualities of low-trust organizations:

  1. Redundancy
  2. Bureaucracy
  3. Politics
  4. Disengagement
  5. Turnover

How Do the Best Leaders Build Trust?

The first job of any leader is to inspire trust; it is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Both dimensions are vital.

Five Steps to Building Trust

Transparency—the known process and advancements

  1. Tell people who you are if you expect to see who they really are.
  2. Tell people what’s going on. Insecurity inspires protective barriers.
  3. Be present. I can’t trust you if you aren’t really here.

Relationship—tell people where they stand

  1. Candor with gentleness is kind; uncertainty is cruel.
  2. People want to know if they fit in.
  3. People wonder if they are good enough. Joy requires trust.

Understanding—communicate with context

  1. A picture with a frame becomes a different picture.—Judith Glaser
  2. Uncertainty births confusion. Background eliminates confusion.
  3. Explain intentions, dreams, and long-term goals.

Shared success—demonstrate how we win together

  1. Reject monologue. Embrace dialogue.
  2. Help others stand out.
  3. Use status to give status.

Tell the truth, but Truth at all times

  1. Don’t make the situation look better than it is, even if you can.—Judith Glaser
  2. Hard truths are the most important truths.
  3. Confront in the smallest context possible.
  4. Courage to say what you see is the first step toward real leadership.

Management is responsible to ensure trust to prevail over all organizational actions that depends on an approach of a manager or a leader. The difference in approaches is elaborated in the following.

The Basic Difference in Managerial and Leadership Approaches

The difference between working as a manager and taking the role of a leader simply needs to be understood. Managerial position is a career, and leadership is a calling, a mind-focus, and an approach for dealing with teams. Advancement in project management for strategic implementation requires the two together.

For becoming a successful leader, you don’t need to have “special something” features, such as tall, well-spoken, and good looking, to fulfill a leadership role.

What you need to have is leadership skills and clearly defined convictions—and, more importantly, the courage of your convictions to see them manifested into reality. Only when you understand your role as guide and steward based on your own most deeply held truths, you move from manager to leader.

The stakeholders place their trust in someone they know is working for the greater good for them and the organization. They look for someone not only that they may follow, but someone that they want to follow.

Leadership is earned, and is hard won, by the managers who prioritize and understand the traits and qualities that come with the leadership, an unofficial title.

What separates the leaders from the managers?

  • Leaders will stand and be counted.
  • Leaders will do what needs to be done.

The leadership role requires building capacity for focus on important matters, as shown in Figure 4.6.

  • Vision: Must be able to build a bigger picture of what the task/project is going to contribute to the advancement of business.
  • Motivation: Must be able to motivate the team members to bring their best into task.
  • Inspiration: Must be able to inspire all team members to develop a team mindset and work for bigger benefits in the team.

  • Persuasion: Must be able to persuade individually and collectively to inspire and motivate when needed. The motivation level fluctuates with the changing circumstances and needs a check when to enhance.
  • Teamwork: Must be able to create a mindset for teamwork and hold it up effectively for progress and challenges.
  • Building Relationships: Must be able to build trust in the team to rely on one another and view collective success primarily in tough times for all advancements.
  • Mentoring/Coaching: Must be able to mentor and coach for why the work is important and how to do it better.

Leadership Responsibility

Leaders must focus on the qualities shown in Figure 4.7 for implementation of projects or programs.

  • Build high-performing teams: Leveraging the strengths of each team member to match with the right task increases the potential for high performance.
  • Engage stakeholders: Facilitating effective communication for information flow and engaging stakeholders for effective and efficient implementation of projects/programs.

  • Build trust in team for togetherness and enthusiasm: Creating trust that brings speed in work and reduces the cost of implementation by enhancing the interdependence and enthusiasm of the team.
  • Add value to corporate image: Ethics-based leadership adds value and enhances corporate image in the market.
  • Support performance culture: High-performance culture grows from effective leadership.
  • Maintain team spirits and morale: Leadership creates an environment for high spirits and morale that helps high performance.
  • Demonstrate high respect for the business purpose and goals: Focus on the business purpose and goals to help advancement.

Managerial Approach

The manager is considered responsible for communicating the rules and philosophies of an organization to individual team members, and ensures that they abide by them. For a manager, the relationship with the team is determined by a hierarchical management system, and rarely through personal ones. They are responsible for maintaining the day-to-day progress of the project so that it stays well oiled. Managers are concerned with the bottom line, and often make decisions based on such criteria.

Good managers are often said to be “good soldiers” in that they rarely question the decisions of the bosses, and serve only to enforce the execution of the policies. In the capacity of managers, they are responsible for management, as shown in Figure 4.8.

  • Planning: To develop an effective plan for an initiative/project before embarking on execution is the basic function of a manager.
  • Budgeting: A manager is responsible for making assessments of all resources required for project execution and develops a budget to ask for senior management support in the implementation process.
  • Organizing and staffing: It is a basic function of a manager to organize the processes in required order and to align the skills needed to create discipline and control for high performance.
  • Coordinating and communication: The manager is responsible for coordinating and effectively communicating among stakeholders for resource application and to maintain an orderly advancement of project execution.
  • Time management: Time is the most critical resource, and the manager is responsible to put the plan into action with effective scheduling for optimization of time and for reaching desired results.
  • Controlling: Another basic function of management, the manager is responsible for exercising controls on resource applications through planning, scheduling, coordinating, and organizing for optimum results.
  • Keeping organizational order for growth: The manager is primarily responsible to maintain and ensure the image and purpose of an organization to enhance growth, as shown in Figure 4.9.

  • Creating a charter: the business purpose, the objectives, the stakeholders requirements, and the resources required for project implementation
  • Developing an efficient plan and effective schedule: the methodology and approach adapted for deliverables and the timeline for resource application and how the milestones will be affected
  • Selecting best techniques, tools, and processes: based on the lessons learned and the prevalent circumstances, finding the best means for application
  • Procuring the right resources in a timely manner: managing the procurement process to meet the timeline
  • Developing status reporting: monitoring and control to stay close to the plan and information distribution for timely decision
  • Updating project logs and forms: keeping project logs and forms updated to satisfy the organizational control system and helping fast decision making. Compiling the lessons learned: Continuous improvement needs to be recorded and lessons learned captured to help the development of organizational knowledge-asset.

4.4 Skills Required for Achieving Desired Outcomes

Managing the desired outcomes of a task is the basic requirement for advancement. When managers understand the importance of taking the role of a guide and steward based on deeply held truths, only then do they move to a leadership role.

Leadership skills with defined convictions and, more importantly, the courage of convictions to see them manifested into reality help move forward a task for the desired outcomes.

A good fit of managerial and leadership skills are essentially required to match with the need of a task for execution, as shown in Figure 4. 10.

Watch for Barrier to Growth

At the most basic level, a leader is essentially every team member who self-manages for desired results. But what makes someone to grow from a manager to a leader? What is it about being a leader that some people understand and use to their advantage? What can you do to be a leader?

The making or breaking of a leader is the power of listening attentively, lack of which is a sole barrier in becoming a successful leader.

Here are the underpinning skills of an effective leader you need to know and practice to overcome a shortfall: each letter in “leaders” stand for a skill noted following;


L—Listen to learn

E—Empathize with emotion

A—Attend to aspiration

D—Diagnose and detail

E—Engage for good ends

R—Response with respectfulness

S—Speak with specificity


In an organization, every team member is a leader who manages oneself, takes timely action, makes advancement with a common vision, drives a commitment to achieve that vision, and achieves the skills to make it happen. Leaders see a problem that needs to be fixed or a goal that needs to be achieved. It may be something that no one else bothers to do or simply something that no one else wants to tackle. Whatever it is, it is the focus of the leader’s attention and a leader attacks it with a single-minded determination to progress.

The research-based requirements of leadership skills are highlighted in Figure 4.11 to show what percentage of each skill matter most in a leadership position.


The importance of leadership in project management has been discussed; a fast-track implementation requires making a decision in the right manner and at the right time.

The distinctive roles of a manager and a leader are discussed to highlight that merely a managerial role may not be enough to manage a project and leadership role is mandatory for success.

Trust in the workplace has high value and needs to be developed for the project management approach to achieve high performance.

A desired mix of skills for reaching end results is helpful for the implementation of a project.


Shoemaker, P.J.H., S. Krupp, and S. Howland. 2013. “Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills.”

“The ABCD Trust Model.”

Whitney, J. March 24, 2014. “5 Qualities of Low Trust.”