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PRINCE2 managers and project leadership White Paper

White Paper

PRINCE2 managers and project leadership White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Project progress

Author  David Hinde

David is the author of The PRINCE2 Study Guide, published by Wiley in 2011, and The Project Manager and the Pyramid, published by Orgtopia in 2017.

June 27, 2019 |

 36 min read

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Project progress

This white paper’s primary aim is to help PRINCE2 project managers gain a wider appreciation of how leadership can enhance their project approach and significantly improve the probability of project success.


PRINCE2® is a robust, tried and tested method for project management which I have used to great success on multiple initiatives over the years. However, I have also found that there are times when, despite an excellent application of PRINCE2, some projects flounder. In these situations, something else is needed to bring the project to a successful conclusion. This ‘something else’ may be difficult to quantify. It might be about creating clarity of direction for the initiative, influencing key stakeholders, or motivating and engaging key project personnel. It might even hinge on taking responsibility for a difficult decision.

I will argue in this paper, that this ‘something else’ is essentially project leadership and that a lack of leadership often leads to project failure.

PRINCE2 focuses on how to do excellent project management rather than project leadership. Section 1.2 of the Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 guide1 (hereafter referred to as Managing PRINCE2), recognizes that leadership is immensely important, however, it also states that this is something that PRINCE2 does not describe in detail because there are too many differing styles and schools of thought to adequately cover in one guide. Therefore, it is essential for PRINCE2 practitioners to look for other resources to show how to enhance their project management approach with a variety of leadership behaviours, skills, and competencies.

These other resources might include Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE22, in which chapter 4, ‘Duties and behaviours of senior management’, has more to say about leadership qualities at project board level and how this can support and empower project managers. The Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) guide3 also describes leadership qualities in more depth (see particularly chapter 6 ‘Leadership and stakeholder engagement’) and PRINCE2 Agile® discusses the servant leadership approach (chapter 10.5) and other relevant agile behaviours. However, this paper is aimed primarily at project managers who are most familiar with the Managing PRINCE2 guide and method and offers its own suggestions as to what more a PRINCE2 practitioner needs to understand in order to ensure good leadership within the context of a project. I will describe which PRINCE2 roles should take leadership responsibilities and what leadership looks like in a project environment. I will discuss how to adapt some of the PRINCE2 documents, themes, and processes to ensure that, as well as delivering excellent project management, the project manager can also provide excellent project leadership.

Because leadership is difficult to quantify, the first task of this paper is to give a clearer understanding of what leadership is and how it differs from management. I will describe a range of ideas from thought leaders within this field. Then I will provide evidence of the importance of project leadership for project success. The last part of the paper connects leadership to PRINCE2, firstly looking at what PRINCE2 already has to say about leadership and then looking at how to adapt the leadership ideas already discussed so that they fit within the PRINCE2 method.

This white paper’s primary aim is to help PRINCE2 project managers gain a wider appreciation of how leadership can enhance their project approach and significantly improve the probability of project success.

Defining leadership

In 2016 Dr Sunnie Giles4 interviewed 195 global leaders about the essential qualities for great leadership. She found that their answers consistently fell into five core categories:

  1. Great leaders create a safe environment for their people and display strong ethics. They model values such as trust, fairness, and integrity and expect their teams to do the same. They provide clear direction so that their teams know what is expected of them.
  2. Great leaders empower their teams, trusting them to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their work. This style of leadership often leads to more motivated and engaged teams.
  3. Great leaders foster a sense of connection and belonging. Their teams feel as though they are part of something important.
  4. Great leaders show openness to ideas and foster organizational learning.
  5. Great leaders nurture growth. They look for ways to improve the people, processes, and the environment within which they work.

Later, I will describe how to incorporate a leadership approach into a PRINCE2 project. However, PRINCE2 practitioners will recognize that a number of these leadership attributes are already built into the method. For example, the project board agrees on the project objectives early on in the process model and then controls any changes to these objectives throughout the project. This creates a clear direction for the project team and so contributes to creating a safe, known environment. Additionally, the project board empowers the project manager by giving them authority to deliver a stage of the project and, in turn, the project manager empowers the teams to deliver work packages. Finally, the PRINCE2 principle of learning from experience helps the project management team to be open to new ideas by identifying what has gone wrong (or well) with previous projects and recognizing and responding more quickly to risks and issues emerging in the current project lifecycle.

There has been much research around what constitutes leadership. One recurring theme from many thought leaders is the importance of vision. The business thinker and prolific author Peter Drucker said that ‘an effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision.’5

Jack Welch ex CEO of General Electric agrees, stating: ‘Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.’6

Theodore Hesburgh, who led many social campaigns and businesses, said ‘The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.’7

Hesburgh was closely connected to Martin Luther King’s campaign for civil rights. In King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, he powerfully articulated an inspirational vision for the future of the United States of America.

PRINCE2 practitioners need to bear in mind that visions are not just a description of project objectives; they are an inspirational picture of where the project will take the organization. Later, I will argue that a key component of good project leadership is to create and articulate an inspirational vision.

Moving on to another aspect of leadership, projects, by definition, deliver change, but many people and organizations struggle with and resist change. In their Harvard Business Review article, ‘Change Management and Leadership Development Have to Mesh’, Ryan and Robert Quinn8 argue that an essential component of good leadership is the ability to move organizations through change. They state, ‘true leadership involves deviating from the cultural expectations in ways that inspire others to choose to follow.’

In a project management context, the phrase ‘managing change’ means something different than it does within a leadership context. The project management version refers to the process of reviewing proposed changes to the scope or objectives of the project and deciding whether or not to implement those ideas. This type of managing change is described in the PRINCE2 change theme. In this paper I will use the phrase ‘project change management’ to refer to this type of change management.

Within a leadership context, managing change refers to the activities of moving organizations from one state to another. It could involve implementing new products or services, new technologies or systems, or more fundamental initiatives, such as changing the organization’s culture and values. Many of us do not enjoy the process of change, even if it leads to a better situation. We all hold deep rooted beliefs and values about how things should be. Changes often force us to adapt, which we may instinctively resist. Often, this resistance manifests in an emotional reaction. In this paper I will use the phrase, ‘organizational change management’, to refer to this type of change management.

Note: in PRINCE2 the term ‘business change management’ is used but for the context of this paper ‘organizational’ covers a broader scope and more accurately encompasses the themes under discussion.

Of course, projects are often the mechanism that delivers components of an organizational change. A project might deliver a new finance system and then the job of leadership is to overcome any resistance to using the new system using organizational change management. This type of leadership might take many forms. The leader might articulate an inspiring vision of what the organization will look like using the new system. They might use influencing or motivational skills to engage key stakeholders to support the new system. They might also use emotional intelligence to empathize and engage with stakeholders and help them work through their emotional resistance. These qualities are often referred to as ‘soft skills’.

What other aspects of leadership are important to project management? In my workshops I often ask people to list adjectives that would describe a good leader. The list usually includes ‘decisiveness’. Good leaders are willing to take the responsibility for decision-making and/or have the personal confidence to be accountable for decision-making. They also understand how to vary their decision-making style depending on the situation: from autocratic when time is short or when only they can make the decision; to a more collaborative style when buy-in from stakeholders is important or they do not have enough information to personally assess all the options.

There are many other aspects of leadership worth considering. John Maxwell, who has written prodigiously on the subject of leadership, says that ‘leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.’9

The PRINCE2 project manager will realize how important influence is for project success. It is needed throughout the project life cycle, whether it is persuading the project board to come to a consensus around a set of objectives, influencing a contractor to work within certain terms, or selling the idea of a new way of working to intransigent users.

In this section, I have described a set of abilities which are particularly important for project success. Later in this paper I will describe how to incorporate leadership capabilities such as vision development, decision-making, organizational change management, influencing skills, fostering a sense of connection, and nurturing growth into a PRINCE2 project.

Contrasting leadership with management

The terms ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ are often used interchangeably in everyday discourse. But, in this paper and in many organizational cultures, they encompass rather different, although sometimes overlapping, areas.

Peter Drucker said, ‘management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things’10.

In essence, management is about ensuring compliance to an established way of working to achieve an established set of objectives. Leadership is about looking ahead, setting targets, and inspiring others to move towards a better way of being. A leader motivates people to do things using trust, influence, and inspiration. A manager relies on control and positional power.

It should be pointed out that great managers often have great leadership abilities and vice versa. The terms are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is probably true that great managers will have good leadership skills and vice versa. Similarly, although PRINCE2 does not describe leadership in great detail, it does contain the essence of many leadership ideas. We have already stated, for example, that when the project board delegates to the project manager they are empowering them; which is a very important leadership quality.

Table 3.1 lists a range of contrasting statements describing the differences between leadership and management. Both are crucial elements for successful projects.

Focuses on people and relationshipsFocuses on process and tasks
Attention is on coaching, empowering, mentoring and servingAttention is on planning, directing and control
Does the right thingDoes things right
Leads changeDelivers change
Earns power based on their credibilityHas appointed positional power
Looks for innovationLooks to maintain order
Inspires faith in a new directionFollows the path
Relies on trustRelies on control
Asks 'What / Why'Asks 'How'
Sets the direction Gets us there
Table 3.1 Leadership versus management

The importance of good project leadership

There is a plethora of evidence showing that project leadership is essential for project success. For example, Dr Maurizio Floris and Errol Benvie of the University of Sydney11 reviewed a range of research into the causes of project failure. They concluded that, ‘A lack of leadership potentially describes the most important root cause of project failure.’ They found that organizations often underestimate the difficulty of ushering people through the changes that projects bring. As I have already stated, organizational change management addresses this challenge and is an important component of project leadership. I will describe how to complement the PRINCE2 approach with organizational change management later in this paper.

For their paper Early Warning Signs of IT Project Failure: The Dominant Dozen, Kappelman, McKeeman, and Zhang12 interviewed over one hundred IT project management professionals. They found the most common signs that a project would fail were ‘lack of top management support for the project’ and ‘project managers who could not lead’.

Similarly, Phil Nixon, Megan Harrington, and David Parker in their article Leadership performance is significant to project success or failure: a critical analysis13 find that a project without leadership is very likely to fail. Time and again, when you review the research on the causes of project failure, you find that poor leadership is the root cause.

So, I have argued for the importance of project leadership. I have looked at what leadership is and how it differs from management, and I have shown that it is crucial for project success. In the rest of the paper, I will look at how leadership can complement and enhance the PRINCE2 project management method.

Leadership approaches within the PRINCE2 method

Although Managing PRINCE2 does not cover leadership in detail, there are several references to leadership throughout the guide and some leadership ideas built into the model.

Appendix C of the Managing PRINCE2 guide describes the responsibilities and competencies needed to take on the various PRINCE2 roles. Amongst the competencies listed for the project board members are leadership capabilities. Given the fact that the project board is the key decision-making body within
the project and that we have already seen that decision-making is a key leadership criterium, this makes perfect sense.

Later in the same appendix, the guide describes the executive as singly accountable for the success of the project. This would infer that the executive is the main leader of the project and, indeed, this aligns with my own experiences working on PRINCE2 projects. The successful projects I have been involved with nearly always have an executive who displays strong leadership characteristics. These people can empower the project management team, articulate a clear direction for the project, inspire people to want to work on the initiative, and positively influence a range of stakeholders.

Although Managing PRINCE2 does not explicitly describe how the project board and the executive should lead (as mentioned previously, the reader should refer to Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, chapter 4 for more explicit leadership guidance for those in senior managerial roles on PRINCE2 projects), there are leadership ideas that are implicit within the method. For example, one of the key principles of PRINCE2 is manage by stages. This describes how the project is broken up into several stages and the project board delegates a stage at a time to the project manager. The project manager is given certain constraints within which they need to deliver each stage. These constraints are usually described as stage targets in terms of cost, time, and products that need to be delivered. Often there is some tolerance around these targets which in turn facilitates the ‘manage by exception’ principle. Together, these principles help to empower the project manager. As long as the stage is predicted to remain within its constraints, the project manager has full authority and does not need to refer back to the project board. Empowerment, as I have stated, is a key component of leadership.

In Appendix C of the Managing PRINCE2 guide, listed in the project manager’s responsibilities is ‘lead and motivate the project management team’. Once again this aligns with my own experiences, the best project managers are also effective leaders. For example, one of the challenges for many project managers is how to delegate and manage teams when they do not have line authority over these resources. Managers can rely on positional power to get things done. Given that project managers often do not have this, they need to utilize leadership qualities such as inspiration, influence, and personal credibility.

Adding leadership ideas to a PRINCE2 project

Having now established what PRINCE2 has to say about leadership, how can the PRINCE2 project manager add the other leadership ideas I have discussed into their project management approach? In the next section, I will discuss how to add the ideas of vision, organizational change management, effective decision-making, and other leadership competencies to complement the PRINCE2 management approach.


Because one of the key components of good leadership is vision, I would argue that all project management teams should have a vision. However, visions, like leadership, are difficult to define. A vision should describe an inspirational place where the project will take the organization. It might take many forms; for example, a short description, an image, or a photograph.

I once worked with a company which launched a project to improve remote accessibility for home workers. This involved delivering new laptops, an IT system which allowed remote and secure accessibility, a new video conferencing tool and a set of guidelines for employees regarding data protection and security. The executive for the project had the idea of creating a bank of photos for the employees to show them what the new work culture might look like. He used a stock image website and picked out photos of people working happily in coffee shops, at home with their babies snoozing in a nearby crib (they might have been slightly optimistic!), or sitting in their gardens on a summer day with their laptops.
The images were an excellent vision of the new work culture that the project was trying to create. It helped the IT team understand how the products they were delivering would be used and so helped them design better systems. When additional objectives were proposed in the middle of the initiative, the project board could clearly see that the new ideas would not move the organization closer to that vision, so they rejected the proposals. The vision inspired the workers to use the new capabilities to work remotely.

This example shows that visions have a range of benefits. They help project management teams see clearly how to design products, they help to define what should be in and outside the scope of the project, and they increase motivation and engagement amongst stakeholders.

Some people might argue that PRINCE2’s project information document (PID) already adequately plays the role of a project vision. After all the vision shows the direction of the project and the PID describes the project objectives. However, in my experience PIDs can be long documents which are not always easy to digest. Visions, on the other hand, quickly encapsulate the main benefits of the project, are accessible to multiple stakeholders, and, unlike a PID, create an emotional tug on the audience’s heart, inspiring them to move in the direction of the project.

How would a vision be incorporated into the PRINCE2 method? I would argue that the executive should be accountable for both the creation and communication of the vision. The project manager would also play a key role in this work. The vision could be added as an addendum to the PID. It should be created at the beginning of the process model and reviewed and authorized at each key decision point by the project board. Any changes to the vision would need the project board’s approval.

Before I move on from the topic of vision, I should clarify how visions would be created and communicated if the project were part of a programme. Programmes are generally bigger than projects in scope, duration, and cost. Programmes contain a number of projects, co-ordinated to deliver a large change for the organization. A widely used approach to managing programmes is the MSP framework.

MSP recommends creating a clearly defined vision statement which is closely linked to the outcomes and benefits of the programme and acts as the main thread running through its transformational flow. MSP’s definition of a vision is ‘a picture of a better future that will be delivered by a programme’. So, MSP’s definition of vision is consistent with the approach I have described for a PRINCE2 project team.

If a PRINCE2 project were part of a programme following MSP, it is likely that the programme team would create and articulate a vision, and it would be up to the project team to ensure that their project work aligns with the overall programme vision.


Decision-making, as we have seen, is a key leadership characteristic. Within the PRINCE2 method, the project board, and ultimately the executive, make many of the key project decisions. They decide whether to authorize the project and when the project can progress to each stage. At the end of the initiative, the project board must decide whether to authorize the closure of the project. Section C.1.2 of the Managing PRINCE2 guide lists decision-making as one of the key project board competencies. How can a project board member embody this important leadership characteristic?

There are two fundamental aspects to decision-making. Firstly, the decision-maker must have the courage and personal security to take full accountability for their decision. Secondly, that the decision-maker uses the right technique given the situation. I will treat both aspects in turn.

Section C.2 of the Managing PRINCE2 guide states that it is the executive who is ‘ultimately accountable for the project.’ It is thus absolutely crucial that this person is a good decision-maker. I could put executives I have worked with into two categories; those that embrace accountability and are willing to take key project decisions and those that avoid it by not making decisions, blaming others, or pushing the responsibility for decisions onto other parties. The projects with the first type of executive broadly succeed and the projects with the second type of executive regularly fail. But what can the PRINCE2 project manager do to mitigate the latter situation?

If an executive is unwilling to make a decision it could be an indication that they do not have enough authority for the role. Maybe, in this case, someone higher up in the organization’s hierarchy should replace the executive. Alternatively, the executive should seek a mandate of authority from their own bosses.

If an executive is very risk averse, they might be unwilling to make a decision due to the perceived threats to the initiative. In this case, the PRINCE2 project manager might need to work harder to create a robust risk management approach to reassure the executive that the project management team have anticipated, as far as possible, the uncertainties involved.

However, it must be stressed that in the correct application of PRINCE2 the project board is not a democracy controlled by votes. The executive is ultimately accountable and, supported by the senior user and senior supplier, the final decision-maker. If this is not happening, then the initiative should not be considered a PRINCE2 project.

The other aspect of decision-making is using the right technique given the situation. One of the simplest techniques is to list the positives and negatives of each available option. This helps to assess the ways ahead. It is simple, yet I have seen some very large impactful decisions being made on this basis.

The Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model14 is an example of a slightly more complex approach. It describes a number of decision-making styles ranging from autocratic, where a leader makes the decision on their own, to a more consultative style, where the leader asks for information from others, to a completely collaborative style, where the leader facilitates a group to reach a decision that they collectively agree upon. It then provides a decision tree to help the leader decide which style is best given factors including the time available, the quality of the decision required, and the buy-in needed from the decision maker’s subordinates.

In The Decision Book, Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler15 describe fifty models that can be used for decision-making, many of which could be beneficial for a PRINCE2 project board. For example, a technique called the project portfolio matrix provides guidance on rationalising a programme or portfolio of projects. The morphological box approach might help the senior users design innovative attributes for the project’s products, or the consequences model can help a project board assess the lack of knowledge available to make a decision against the consequences of not making a decision.

So, because good decision-making is a key characteristic of good leadership, understanding how to improve project decision-making skills is an important factor to improving leadership within a PRINCE2 project.


Organizational change management, the ability to inspire and move a group of people through a change, is another important attribute of leadership. As I described earlier in this paper, organizations and people often resist change, even when it leads to a better situation. Imagine a project which delivers a new financial IT system. Even if the new product is better than the existing one, the project team will likely face resistance to this change. This could be for a number of reasons. For example, over the years the finance personnel will have become accustomed to the old system. Some of them might struggle to find the time to learn the new product. Some may doubt their ability to use the new system and will be anxious about the change. Some of them may have been involved in choosing and developing the old system and will see this change as a threat to their status.

In section 6.1, I mentioned that in some circumstances a project might be part of a wider change programme. It might be argued that dealing with the impacts of change should belong at the programme level (or in some circumstances a portfolio or change initiative level) rather than at the project level. This is a good point. I would still argue that it is important for project management teams to consider change management concerns. Firstly, the project might be a stand-alone project. Secondly, if the project is part of wider programme of change, and there is a change management function or a change manager at the programme level, it is very likely that the project management teams will have to deal with the resistance to change that their project brings. They may be asked by the change manager to provide change agents to help facilitate the change. They need to understand that if they are purely product and output-focused and do not consider the likely resistance to using their new products, it is unlikely they will design and deploy products that will gain traction within their environment.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter16, professor of business at Harvard Business School, researched the subject of resistance to change. She found that there were ten key reasons that people resisted change. Table 6.1 shows her findings together with some brief ideas on how to counter the resistance.

Reasons for resistanceDealing with resistance 
Loss of control over territory

Leave room for those affected by change to make choices, get involved with planning and take ownership

Excessive uncertainty during the change

Create a sense of safety with certainty of process, clear simple steps, and timetables
Change is sprung on people as a surpriseDo not plan changes in secret, keep people informed of what is happening 
Too many differences at onceMinimize the number of unrelated differences: avoid change for change's sake
Loss of face from those associated with the current stateCelebrate the elements of the past that are worth honouring
Concerns about competenceProvide abundant information, mentors and training. Run systems in parallel if possible
Change is more workAllow people to focus exclusively on the change
Ripple effects, change interferes with the activities of other areasEnlarge circles of stakeholders. Consider all affected parties and work with them to minimize disruption
Past resentments surface due to the interruption of a steady stateConsider gestures to heal the past before focusing on the future
Sometimes the treat is real, change is resisted because it can hurtBe honest, transparent, fast and fair. For example, one big layoff with lots of support is better than a series of small cuts.

Table 6.1 Common causes of resistance to change

As you can see from the table, most of the ideas to deal with resistance to change require leadership rather than management skills. For example, ‘Create a sense of safety with certainty of process, clear simple steps and timetables’ echoes the leadership qualities identified from Dr Sunnie Gile’s research; fostering a sense of connection and belonging. Nearly all of the remedies need strong communication and influencing skills, a sense of empathy, and connection with those involved.

How does the PRINCE2 practitioner incorporate the ideas of organizational change management into their project management approach? Firstly, as I described earlier, it is important amongst the project management team to clearly distinguish between organizational change management from project change management. The former supports organizations through the changes that projects bring whereas the latter assesses proposed changes to the scope and objectives of the project. Amongst the project management team, as in this paper, it would be best to refer to the two types of change management using different terminology.

Section 6.3.2 of the Managing PRINCE2 guide states that ‘Although one of the PRINCE2 principles is a focus on products, it is important to remember that the benefits underpinning the business justification of the project are delivered through the use of the products produced by the project, not just their delivery.’ Despite this comment I would argue that PRINCE2 is primarily focused on delivering the products of the project. After all, the process model finishes once all the products of the project have been accepted. To go back to our financial IT system example, once the IT system has been accepted by the users, and the other activities of closing a project have been completed, the project board will be able to authorize the closure of the project. Dealing with any resistance to using the new IT system, the organizational change management part, is largely out of scope of PRINCE2. However, the PRINCE2 practitioner will recognize that there are aspects of the method which are also found in organizational change management, and it is useful to highlight when these occur.

The first thing to note is that the PRINCE2 process model will not necessarily have finished by the time the products are used. To go back to our example, the project team might deliver the IT system using an iterative approach like agile (note: PRINCE2 Agile provides comprehensive guidance on how to integrate an agile approach with a PRINCE2 project).

For example, after each stage of the project a new part of the system is delivered and the project management team is responsible for training and supporting the finance personnel to use the system. They also will get feedback from the finance personnel so that they can design later iterations of the product.

Alternatively, maybe the finance system is delivered in one piece, but the last stage of the project is a warranty period where the project management team is responsible for ensuring the system is working as envisaged.

In both these cases, although PRINCE2 does not give any direction on organizational change management, the project management team will have to deal with resistance to change in order to close their project.

Table 6.1 shows ten ways of dealing with resistance. Of course, even if the project management team hand over the IT system in one piece to the business and the project closes, they should at least plan how to deal with any resistance.

So, the need for organizational change management is always there but whether the activities to do it occur during the lifecycle of the PRINCE2 project depends on the situation. The next question is, who should be accountable for organizational change management? Section 6.2.4 of the PRINCE2 guide states that it is the senior users’ responsibility to ‘ensure that the expected benefits (derived from the project’s outcomes) are realized.’ This means that senior users need to be able to lead the user community they represent through organizational change. It also means that in some situations senior users have responsibilities beyond the life of the project.

I would argue that, because there might be a number of senior users, there needs to be a single point of accountability for organizational change management. This could either be the executive or the ultimate sponsor of the change that the project delivers. The sponsor would be the person who would be held to account for the success of the changes that the project brings. In the PRINCE2 method, they would sit within the corporate, programme management or the customer organizational layer. The sponsor and the executive might even be the same person.

If the PRINCE2 project is part of a programme there may be specific roles within the programme approach focused on organizational change management. Programme management approaches, such as MSP often have more to say about organizational change management. MSP, for example, has a role called the business change manager who is responsible for facilitating the business change. Like the role of senior users, there might be multiple business change managers each responsible for implementing change in different parts of the organization. These business change managers would report to another MSP role, the senior responsible owner, who would be the single point of accountability for organizational change management.

The project might also exist within a change management environment. Many change management approaches advocate a similar approach to what I have just discussed. There is one person accountable for organizational change management, often called a sponsor or executive leader, and then there is a network of change agents working to facilitate change in their particular area of the organization.

So, depending on what environment the PRINCE2 project exists within, there are probably two layers of people responsible for organizational change management. Only one person is singly accountable for the organizational change; this could be the PRINCE2 executive, MSP’s senior responsible owner or a change management approach’s sponsor or executive leader. Then there would be a network of people facilitating and supporting the change throughout the organization; these could be PRINCE2 senior users, MSP business change managers or change agents for a change management approach.

Now that we have looked at who should be responsible for organizational change management, we should ask, what form would it take? For simplicity’s sake, in the next few paragraphs I am going to call the person responsible for organizational change management the sponsor. Firstly, I would recommend making it clear to the project management team how the sponsor’s responsibilities differ from the executive. The sponsor’s responsibilities should be recorded in the PID.

Secondly, the sponsor should be accountable to create a plan to mitigate any likely resistance to the change. This could be one of the focuses of the project’s risk management approach. The risk management approach could use the aforementioned Kanter research identify likely areas of resistance. If this is the case it should be listed in the techniques section of the risk management approach. Then individual resistance risks relevant to the project can be recorded in the risk register. Some of the risk responses to these resistance risks might occur during the project: for example, involving stakeholders early in the design of new products; whereas some of the responses might occur post project, such as providing training for the users of new products. It is therefore essential to ensure that these risks are handed over to a named individual at project close to ensure any post project risk responses occur.

The benefits management approach could also be used to record organizational change management ac- tions. PRINCE2 states that this document should include ‘what management actions are required in order to ensure that the project’s outcomes are achieved’. I would argue that this could include any post project organizational change management.


In this paper, I have mainly focused on the leadership activities of articulating vision, decision-making, and organizational change management. However, there are many other forms of leadership which could be added to the PRINCE2 project management approach to increase the likelihood of project success. These might be carried out by any member of the project management team but would be particularly useful for the executive and the project manager. In this last section I will briefly explore some of these leadership behaviours.

Day-to-day, the PRINCE2 project manager could be using a whole range of leadership skills. They would need to communicate the vision of the project to the delivery teams so that each team can see that the component they are working on is helping to get the organization to an inspirational place. This will help to motivate each team. They should identify what will engage and motivate each team to carry out their work in the best possible way. This could include recognising good performance, fostering a sense of connectiveness and community amongst the people working on the project, helping the team to see how the project work will help grow their capabilities and experience, and protecting the teams.

Influencing will be another key leadership skill that will be used regularly by an effective PRINCE2 project manager. Many project situations require persuasion; whether it is asking line managers to give up limited resources, encouraging busy customers to come to product design workshops or negotiating with third party suppliers for favourable contractual terms.

Earlier in this paper I described the leadership research of Dr Sunnie Giles. She found that leaders consistently identified five categories of leadership abilities: the ability to create a safe environment, empower teams, fostering a sense of connection, showing openness to new ideas, and nurturing growth. Some of them, such as empowering teams and showing openness to new ideas, are already innate to the PRINCE2 method. Others, such as fostering a sense of connection and nurturing growth are not described in the method but could be used to create a greater sense of leadership within a PRINCE2 project.

There are many things that a PRINCE2 project manager could do to create a greater sense of connection and belonging amongst both the project management team and the stakeholders. For example, bringing as many of those involved in the project as possible to an onsite kick off meeting, walking around the work environment to chat with the team, creating a project work room or arranging team social events. PRINCE2 Agile also describes leadership ideas that are useful in an agile environment, such as servant leadership, and the PRINCE2 Agile behaviours of transparency, collaboration, rich communication, self-organization, and exploration are also particularly relevant here.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs17 states that it is a primal need for all of us to feel a sense of growth. This could be training in a new field, new challenges, new jobs, or a new work environment. Growing skills and competencies is usually seen as more of a line management responsibility than a project management responsibility. However, working on a project often provides an opportunity for growth. So, the project management team could work with the project personnel and their line managers to help use the project to grow the team’s skills and experience. All of these ideas should leverage leadership ideas to create a more engaged and connected project management team.


In this white paper I have argued for the importance of effective project leadership. I have shown that there is an array of evidence proving the importance of project leadership. I have shown how leadership can be integrated into the PRINCE2 method of delivering projects. By doing so, the PRINCE2 practitioner will be both using the robust and proven management methods that PRINCE2 provides with an array of leadership activities that will enhance the likelihood of project success.

I have discussed the difficulties of defining project leadership and used a range of ideas from thought leaders within this field to identify some of the key components that will enhance a PRINCE2 project. These are creating and articulating an inspiring project vision, using effective decision-making techniques, and organizational change management. I have shown how these leadership areas can easily integrate with the existing PRINCE2 management approach. I have also discussed in more general terms other leadership areas such as motivation, engagement, fostering a sense of connection, and influencing skills and I have shown how they can be used to improve the likelihood of project success.

PRINCE2 has never pretended to provide all the answers for project delivery and success. It provides an adaptable management method into which ideas such as agile delivery, investment appraisal techniques, and risk management techniques can be added. However, unlike these areas, the Managing PRINCE2 guide does not currently provide any reference or advice on how to tailor the method to add leadership techniques. I hope this paper provides a good reference point for the PRINCE2 practitioner to understand what leadership ideas can be added to their project management approaches and start to develop these behaviours to improve their PRINCE2 practice.


1 The Stationery Office, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, 2017

2 The Stationery Office, Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, 2018

3 The Stationery Office, Managing Successful Programmes, 2011

4 Giles, Sunnie, Leadership competencies, according to leaders around the world, Harvard Business Review, March 15. 2016

5 Peter Drucker quote, Summary: The Essential Drucker, Business News Publishing, September 2014

6 The Innovative Leader, Paul Sloane, Kogan May 2007

7 The Right To Lead, John Maxwell, Thomas Nelson, May 2010

8 Quinn R.W. and Quinn R.E. Change Management and Leadership Development Have to Mesh, Harvard Business Review, January 2016

9 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook, John Maxwell, published by Thomas Nelson, Sept 2007

10 Summary: The Essential Drucker, Business News Publishing, September 2014

11 Dr Maurizio Floris and Errol Benvie, Why Do Most Projects Fail? University of Sydney, 2016

12 Kappelman, Leon A., Samuel J Mantel, Jr., and Lixuan Zhang, Early Warning Signs of IT Project Failure: The Dominant Dozen, Information Systems Management (23):4, Fall 2006

13 Nixon, Phil, Megan Harrington and David Parker, Leadership performance is significant to project success or failure: a critical analysis, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management 61(2), 2012

14 Vroom, Victor, Yetton P, Leadership and Decision Making, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973

15 M Krogerus, R Tschappeler, The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking, Profile Books, July 2017

16 Kanter, R M, Ten reasons people resist change, Harvard Business Review Blogs, 2012

17 Maslow, A,H, A theory of human motivation, Psychological Review, 1943

About the author

David Hinde has worked with PRINCE2 for over twenty years. He has delivered a range of large-scale projects using the method for clients such as the Department of Education, the BBC, and Islington Borough Council. He has taught leadership and management skills including PRINCE2 for over ten years, working with Learning Tree and delivering training to attendees from a range of organizations such as Deloitte and Touche and NATO. He has worked in a large range of cultural environments across many different industries, organizational types, and countries. He is the author of the PRINCE2 Study Guide published in 2011 by Wiley and the Project Manager and the Pyramid published by Orgtopia in 2017.

Author David Hinde

PRINCE2 managers and project leadership White Paper