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Author  Dr Guy Brown – Director, Northumbria University, London Campus

May 27, 2016 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Behaviour
  • Capabilities
  • Leadership
  • MSP

One of the vital components of a successful Project and Programme Manager is leadership.

Leadership capabilities are a key element of the behavioural competence among such professionals and, indeed, a Project or Programme Manager is someone people should choose to follow. When that happens and people engage with what the practitioner is trying to achieve, it’s more likely that a project or programme will deliver results on time, within budget and of high quality.

However, some Project and Programme Managers approach their work from a technical perspective and may not recognize leadership as part of their role.

The reality is that project and programme management is about effectively establishing the goals ahead and working with a team to deliver; engaging with stakeholders, sharing a vision and supporting people through the process. In other words, leadership.

Today, professional programmes in project management such as PRINCE2® – plus work-based and traditional academic qualifications – are embedding leadership development as a core element. Indeed, leadership skills are at the heart of the National occupational standards for Management and Leadership and project and programme management fits well within this discipline.

Leadership in project/programme management learning – a work in progress

Most professional certifications now recognize the need to develop leadership skills. But while beginning to address it, they probably don’t go as far as they should.

It’s a real step forward that qualifications such as PRINCE2 have begun to embed leadership, explicitly highlighting the need to develop Project Managers as leaders. Meanwhile, academic certifications are now focusing on leadership characteristics: how leadership differs from management and looking at topics such as motivation, coaching, power, politics and strategic leadership. This includes creating and facilitating change and continuous improvement – a fundamental skill for any professional in an organization.

This is important for Project Managers, who are no longer just technical specialists but also responsible for driving strategy, change and improvement.

What are the stages of leadership development?

Leadership is developed in three stages:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Skill
  3. Behaviour

Knowledge is fundamentally about learning and understanding what good leadership looks like from certifications such as PRINCE2, MSP®, APM and any formal university/college programme.

Skill is developed when the knowledge is taken back into the workplace and applied. This is helped when employers give people the scope in their role to practise leadership.

And behaviour is then a further development of the leader, emphasizing personality traits, communication abilities, emotional intelligence and other soft skills. This requires coaching, mentoring and development to apply the skills and knowledge at work.

I believe that leadership is, in fact, a relationship rather than a role. It’s about engaging with your team and the wider stakeholders around you; effectively communicating a clear and collaborative vision and demonstrating integrity, empathy, and authenticity. Leadership is also about developing a trusting relationship with those around you and – through your passion and enthusiasm – igniting similar traits in them. It means being a good teacher who is also willing to learn from others.

I also believe that leadership skills can be developed by anyone and individuals will adopt different styles based on their values, personality and other traits. As such it is important to cultivate self-awareness to know your leadership style and adapt it when necessary.

The ethical leader

Leadership has to be undertaken in an ethical and socially responsible way, recognizing that what we do has an impact on other people. Leaders need to consider ethics from an organizational standpoint as well as based on their own identity and values. This is an area often well addressed by project and programme management certifications.

That said, we must acknowledge that effective project or programme management is about delivering results, therefore high-performance is vital. This means a leader needs the skills to, sometimes, have difficult conversations and challenge those around them.

Increasingly, Project Managers want to develop the leadership qualities of emotional intelligence, authenticity, engagement, coaching in order to develop high performing individuals through encouraging autonomy, creativity and a culture of innovation.

See our PRINCE2 and MSP sections for more information about project and programme management.

Read other blog posts in this series from Dr Guy Brown

The challenges of virtual teams in project management

The universal value of project and programme management