Shawn Coffman

Project Leadership Versus Project Management

To successfully drive cross-functional and complex change, you need a leader not just an administrative project manager. Project Management is based on sound principles and processes and definitely a key component of success; however, management principles alone will not drive positive results. We've all had encounters with pure academic or text book project managers (PMs). These PMs struggle with complex projects and do not have the leadership skills required to drive the business and cultural change required to meet the overall objectives. For complex change, you need a true leader. Let's explore the top 5 skills project leaders have that traditional PMs do not.

Understanding People Dynamics

Understanding what motivates people and the important role relationships play within a project is critical. Key skill components include:

  • Motivation
  • Influence and Negotiation
  • Conflict Management
  • Emotional Intelligence
Translating Ambiguous Concepts into Tangible Action

Taking a loosely defined business objective and translating it into a well-defined scope and action plan is both an art and a skill. Great leaders know how to architect an approach, prioritize activity and bring clarity and direction to the team.

Driving People, Process and Technology Change

Many PMs know how to manage technology change through the normal Software Delivery Life Cycle (SDLC). However, most PMs have difficulty with process and organizational changes. Project leaders know how to take a balanced approach and understand the interdependencies between people, process and technology change.

Mastering the Art of Facilitation

Knowing how to organize and facilitate a session to gather information, design an approach or resolve cross-functional challenges is an essential skill leaders must have in their toolkit. Cross-functional sessions are a major part of complex projects and true leaders know how to take control of these sessions, motivate participants and maximize the results.

Tailoring Communication

Leaders know how to tailor a message to their audience. They can discuss the details of requirements and technical specifications one minute and then outline the strategic roadmap for acquiring customers the next. Leaders also understand how to use fact based anecdotes to "tell a story" to invoke an emotional response to gain commitment at appropriate times.