Leadership

Definition

Leadership is the ability to establish vision and direction, to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve success.

General

There are many theories of leadership and the subject can be approached in a variety of ways. One simple approach to understanding different leadership styles is the comparison of transactional leaders and transformational leaders.

Transactional leaders ensure that requirements are agreed and that the rewards and penalties for achievement, or lack of it, are understood. It is an exchange process to do with setting objectives and plans: ‘do this and you will be rewarded thus’.

In contrast, transformational leaders do everything possible to help people succeed in their own right and become leaders themselves. They help those people to transform themselves and achieve more than was intended or even thought possible.

By definition, the P3 environment is one of change. New teams come together to achieve objectives and are disbanded when the work is complete. As a consequence, the P3 manager should focus on different aspects of leadership throughout the P3 life cycle and set the pace accordingly.

Early phases require expertise in influencing stakeholders and creating vision but may need a more transactional style with the P3 team. As the work progresses, the leadership focus shifts to maintaining momentum, responding to change and applying a more transformational approach.

The position of leader is granted by followers who make the decision to follow. That decision will be influenced by the leader using an appropriate style of leadership that takes account of both the situation and the readiness of people to follow.

Team members’ willingness to follow will vary according to their levels of motivation and ability, as well as their loyalties, priorities and the context of the situation.

Leaders must be aware of their team members’ motivational requirements in order to manage their approach to individuals flexibly. The motivation of individuals is the subject of many theoretical models, such as those proposed by Maslow, Herzberg and McGregor.

A leader provides constructive and immediate feedback on the performance of individuals and encourages feedback on their own performance. To enable continual improvement, lessons learned will be shared and success celebrated. Leaders can act as a coach and/or mentor to team members to promote personal growth and development.

They should be aware of how their authority will be perceived by stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle.The authority required may be based on expert knowledge, or may originate from other forms of influence such as gaining trust, confidence, inspiration and the development of teamwork.

Leaders must adapt their approach according to the needs of those being led. This is called situational leadership and is explained in models such as Hersey and Blanchard’s Leadership Model and Blake and Mouton’s management grid.

Leadership should be exercised at all levels within projects, programmes and portfolios and can be exercised by all or some of the team. For instance, team members will provide leadership to their colleagues and this has a positive impact on the organisation.

Project

The role of leadership in a project is to promote the project objectives, encourage positive relationships, support effective teamwork, raise morale, and empower and inspire individuals.

Leaders require followers, but leaders must also themselves be able to follow. Many projects will be part of a programme or portfolio that also has its leader. A project manager will need to be a strong leader but must also be able to be an effective team member in respect of the programme or portfolio.

Most projects will use resources from the host organisation. These team members will come from functional departments which have their own managers who also provide leadership. The environment where individuals are simultaneously part of a project team and a functional team is called matrix management. The project manager’s approach to leadership must acknowledge that those being led also have functional duties and loyalties.

A pragmatic project manager must balance the theories of leadership with the practical need to deliver the project objectives and the limits on their authority to lead.

Programme

The nature of a programme influences the required leadership style of the programme manager:

  • the objectives of a programme are visionary and more fluid than a project;
  • many of the people who need to be led are themselves leaders;
  • programmes implement change and affect a wide range of stakeholders.

A vision is more difficult to communicate than a set of product specifications. A programme manager is less likely to gain credibility and authority through technical expertise than through visionary leadership that is visible to all programme and project team members.

The programme manager needs to develop strong leadership skills to establish credibility with a team of committed leaders in their own right. This is especially true where actions that best serve the programme are in conflict with what a project manager believes are in the best interests of the project or a business change manager believes are not in the best interests of business-as-usual.

The fact that a programme implements change means that some of those directly affected by the programme will be affected in ways that they do not see as personally beneficial. Leadership will be needed to champion the organisational benefits of the programme and influence others to accept, if not actively support, the necessary change.

Portfolio

Portfolio leadership is the most visionary in nature as the single purpose of the portfolio is to deliver the host organisation’s strategy.

Leadership must ensure that there is a mechanism for prioritisation and balancing of resources. It must maintain clear decision-making and accountability. Above all, the commitment of senior management to the changes implemented by the portfolio will clearly reflect good leadership.

The portfolio manager will reinforce the strategy through other leaders who are involved in the portfolio. Strong leadership at the portfolio level will set the scene for leadership throughout the component programmes, projects and relevant areas of business-as-usual.

 

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