The secrets to success for project leadership

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There are 8 fundamental keys to unlocking best practice and professional development in project leadership, this was one of the findings of a new piece of research conducted for APM by Sarah Coleman, Director of consultancy Business Evolution Ltd and Fellow and former Non-Executive Director of APM and Professor Mike Bourne, Professor of Business Performance at Cranfield University in our new APM research paper Project Leadership; skills, behaviours, knowledge and values.

Launched today, the paper was funded by the APM research fund and was built on contributions from five multinationals; BAE Systems, IQVIA, Jacobs, Shell and Siemens.

Based on qualitative interviews with 38 senior project professionals, ranging from aspiring leaders delivering smaller projects to the most experienced with responsibility for budgets of £1bn+, together with insights from each organisation’s own operations, the research addressed questions such as: What is good project leadership? What are good project leadership competencies? What are these in terms of behaviours, preferences and traits and what helps support these (or indeed what does not)?

The eight key competencies required of a successful project leader and goes on to set out a framework for practical application of these at each stage in a project leader’s career.  The findings also make clear that project leadership is a very distinct skill set from project management, and how it differs from general leadership.

Specifically, the findings identified the following eight skills as project survival skills: 

  1. Anticipating
  2. Judgement and Decision Making
  3. Seeing it All
  4. Building credibility and confidence
  5. Organisationally Intelligent
  6. Learning
  7. Conflict resolution and collaboration
  8. Creating the project culture and environment

Speaking about the report, Co-Author Professor Mike Bourne, Professor of Business Performance at Cranfield University, explained “This research has focussed on what is special about the leadership of projects and where it differs from general leadership competences. Our working hypothesis was that there are specific and particular critical competencies for project leadership, and that the ‘one size fits all’ assumption that currently pervades mainstream general leadership competence literature and development programmes for the project community needs to be reconsidered.”

Co-author, Sarah Coleman, Director of consultancy Business Evolution Ltd and Fellow and former Non-Executive Director of APM observed “Far from being an exclusively academic exercise this paper seeks to offer practical applications, particularly those highlighted through the resulting enhanced competency framework which sets out guidelines to help organisations and individuals to build their personal and in-house capability, in turn helping to address the growing skills shortage and rapid turnover of project professionals.”

Copies of the report in full can be downloaded for free here

Posted on 18th Oct 2018
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