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A Hybrid of Leadership and Management: The Project Manager

The Project Manager (PM) holds an interesting position within the hierarchy of an organization.  Readers of this series on Project Roles may wonder why I have singled out the PM as holding an “interesting position” versus the three other roles I have already discussed (i.e., Steering Team, Chief Projects Officer, and Sponsor).  The reason is because the PM has both leadership and managerial responsibilities.  It’s a hybrid role, one that is not purely one or the either.  The three aforementioned Executive Roles have everything to do with organizational vision and strategy.  However, the PM must also have those same skills — albeit applied on a smaller scale — in addition to managing the day-to-day activities on a project to ensure it delivers as promised.

Project Roles

The 5th edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge focuses on the managerial aspect of this role and defines the PM as “the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives” (p. 555).  Although the PM may not always be the one responsible for performing the tasks in those areas, he or she is responsible for ensuring they get done.

In order to facilitate the execution of tasks, this person must consider and be knowledgeable of all ten of the Project Management Institute’s Knowledge Areas (i.e., Integration, Supply Chain, Cost, Scope, Time, Risk, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, and Stakeholder) to be able to make informed decisions at every step along the way.  PMs often wear different hats in one single day – perhaps in one meeting! – and not only must he or she juggle sometimes competing priorities, but the PM must do it without taking his or her eyes off the prize.  In my last post, I referred to this person as the “supreme plate spinner,” and that description always strikes me as apt.

Yet, there’s more.

To only focus on the managerial aspect of the PM role is a mistake.  The best PMs I have worked with are visionaries who are able to connect the daily grind to the big picture: how the team’s efforts directly impact the general public, the customer, the organization, or all three.  For example, while at Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS), I worked for PMs who invited warfighters to speak to teams about the importance of the project’s deliverables.  The lives saved because of RMS products.  Stellar PMs understand they cannot do all of the project work alone, and they will need to figure out how to motivate and inspire people to contribute at the highest levels.  As Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  Although Eisenhower’s topic is leadership, isn’t the message of his quote what PMs are trying to do through management of the team?  They manage through inspirational leadership.

And thus, our hybrid role.

Next time: the Functional Manager.  Stay tuned.

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  1. […] Next time I’ll write about the supreme plate-spinner, otherwise known as the Project Manager. […]

  2. […] there is a counterpart to the Project Manager on the buyer side, it is the Senior Customer Representative.  Of course, internal projects will […]

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