Project managers all need and thrive for successful projects. But what exactly does project success mean? Is project success the successful and timely delivery within budget? Or is it the path to glory? Do results always matter the most? What else does project success mean? And what does it take to achieve project success? Does success fall from heaven? Is it limited to a lucky few who happen to be in the right place at the right time? Is it coincidence? Or can we actually plan success?
The five principles of effective project leadership provide answers to these questions. They are about project success and include:
- Build vision
- Nurture collaboration
- Promote performance
- Cultivate learning
- Ensure results
Figure 1. The Five Project Leadership Principles
Principle 1: Build Vision
A project vision sets the overall picture of your project. Project objectives qualify this vision, make it specific. Both project vision and project objectives are crucial for project success. Together they set the direction and tone of your project journey. They complement each other. The vision inspires your journey. It defines the purpose of your project. A project vision sets the overall picture of your project. Project objectives qualify this vision, make it specific.
The key to building vision is that people need to be able to relate to the vision in their daily activities. As a project leader you must make sure that both project vision and project objectives are in place. This is the meaning of the first leadership principle. Start with a unified vision and know where you stand before and during your project. Know your environment, know your potential, and identify your limits and overcome them. Build and involve your team and nurture effective collaboration across the board.
Principle 2: Nurture Collaboration
Project success is not about individual accomplishments. It is a joint effort. Effective project leaders understand the value and huge potential of teamwork. This is why they actively nurture collaboration.
Collaboration is necessary for the team to achieve the vision and project objectives. By the same token, the project vision must include the concept of collaboration; it needs to be part of the vision as well as the project objectives. Collaboration is a means to achieve the objectives and thus to come closer to achieving the vision. It is a central element of every project. This is why vision and collaboration go hand in hand. You cannot move from the top to the bottom of the Project Leadership Pyramid without collaboration. On the other hand, collaboration without a common cause leads nowhere.
Principle 3: Promote Performance
Building vision and nurturing collaboration are prerequisites for project success. Alas, they are useless if you cannot move your team to the performance stage. This is why you want to create an environment that helps promote performance. The following rules help achieve this:
- Be a role model to your own team and others
- Create the right environment for performance
- Empower your team
- Develop a solution-and-results orientation of your team toward problems and risks
- Invite productive competition in your team
- Let performance happen
- Celebrate performance
Principle 4: Cultivate Learning
As humans we all make mistakes. Effective leaders encourage their teams to explore new avenues and to make mistakes and learn from them. An effective leader builds in sufficient time for the team to learn, create, and innovate. Create a learning environment in your team. Set the expectation that you want everyone in your team to join and support you in cultivating learning for the purpose of the project. Understand that for performance to yield the desired results you and your team have to cultivate learning. There cannot be lasting performance without learning, and there cannot be results without performance.
Principle 5: Ensure Results
The fifth principle calls on us that in all our activities we keep the project vision in mind and produce results that benefit the purpose of the project. Project success is not defined by a single product or service delivered at the completion of a project. It is the accumulation of the many results yielded from each and every principle in the Project Leadership Pyramid.
The fifth principle of ensuring results reminds us that we have to make sure the results of the other four principles are aligned with the project vision and objectives. They have to serve the project purpose. Ensuring results is thus not an activity focusing only on the final project deliverables. It appeals to us that all of our project activities shall be results oriented, keeping the end deliverables in mind. It is a call for solution- and results-oriented leadership.
Dynamic Project Leadership
No single principle is the most important. It is the combination of all five leadership principles that helps secure project success. Building vision is the principle to start with, but you cannot achieve results if you do not embrace all five principles together as one system. Leadership is not merely the sum of applying the five principles. It is understanding and living the dynamics within each principle as well as all five principles as a unit.
Applying the leadership pyramid in daily project life requires the project leader to practice all five principles constantly and consistently. Project success starts and ends with project leadership. Project success is not about individual accomplishments. It is a joint effort and should be treated and honored as such. Understanding the principles can be the first step toward project success. It is up to you to take this step and move forward.
Thomas Juli is an experienced, enthusiastic and results-driven manager. His life’s passion has always been to empower people and organizations. This is reflected in his professional career in management, consulting and training. He provides leading edge program and operational management offering more than 13 years of progressive leadership and management experience in various functions including project and program management, strategy consulting, business analysis, professional training and academic teaching. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute and a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) by the Scrum Alliance.
Prior to founding Thomas Juli Empowerment Partners he worked for SAP and two leading management and IT consultancies, Sapient and Cambridge Technology Partners. He consulted for various companies in the telecommunications, banking, energy, and the public sector. He has spoken at conferences on project management and customer relationship management and has written articles on project management for professional journals. He is author of the book Leadership Principles for Project Success published in August 2010 by CRC Press, New York.
Before entering business he was engaged in research in the fields of economics and US foreign policy. He holds a doctorate in international studies from the University of Miami, USA, and an M.A. in economics from Washington University in St. Louis, USA.
- 10 Leadership Principles Every Project Manager Should Master (brighthub.com)
- Project Management Leadership Styles (brighthub.com)
- 5 Key Leadership Factors in Project Management (brighthub.com)