Creating extraordinary success in any culture



In an oppressed or volatile culture, how can project and program managers become effective leaders? As a project manager, you possess many of the talents, tools, and techniques you need for personal and professional success in any culture. You can make a difference in the midst of volatility and not feel defeated. Learn how you can create extraordinary success in any culture.


I traveled to Tunisia just prior to the January 2011 revolution. My role was to teach project management to people from Tunisia so they could take the paper-based Project Management Professional (PMP)® or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® exam in English. There are now more than 50 certified PMP® credential holders and CAPM® certification holders in Tunisia because of the efforts of a wonderful international team of people (Exhibit 1).

Project Management Professionals in Tunisia

Exhibit 1 – Project Management Professionals in Tunisia

For years, Tunisia, with about 10 million inhabitants, has been known mostly as the most European country of North Africa, with a relatively large middle class, liberal social norms, broad gender equality, and welcoming Mediterranean beaches. For all its modern traits, Tunisia had one of the most repressive governments in a region full of police states and high levels of corruption among its elite. There was a unique contradiction. There were no franchises in Tunisia, whereas, in contrast, 50% of businesses in the United States are franchises. I experienced meal after meal of local food that was fresh and absolutely delicious. With plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine, I'm convinced that Mediterranean tuna fish is the best in the world.

Tunisia has had one of the strictest censorships in the world. The newspaper for English speakers like me was filled with only good news. I felt safe walking around during the day but I didn't feel safe as a passenger in a car, because a stop sign was just a suggestion to drivers that they might want to slow down when entering an intersection.

In January 2011, Tunisia took center stage as the launching pad of the wave of revolt that swept through the Arab world and beyond. Over the course of a month, an immensely powerful movement of mass revolt removed the dictator-president, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali from office. Nicknamed the “Arab Spring,” 23 years of Ben Ali's rule were swept away with lightning speed by youth fueled by access to Facebook.

In an oppressed or volatile culture, how can project and program managers become effective leaders? As a project manager, you possess many of the talents you need for personal and professional success in any culture. You can make a difference in the midst of volatility and not feel defeated. Learn how to create extraordinary success in any culture.


In a research publication, Choosing Appropriate Project Managers (PMI, 2006), the following attributes are highly correlated to successful project managers and project success for any size projects in any industry.

  • Motivation
  • Conscientiousness
  • Sensitivity
  • Influence
  • Self-Awareness
  • Emotional Resilience
  • Managing Resources
  • Communication

For extraordinary success, you must first become self-aware and understand more about who you are.

Self-Awareness and Personal Archetypes

Archetypes are described as unconscious forms and thought patterns that shape our individual perceptions of the world. (Raffa, 2004) Carl Jung's study of the unconscious mind found these patterns to be the source of all inspirations and instincts and that the integration of the conscious (thinking) mind with the unconscious is the foundation of psychological wholeness and balance. He labeled these patterns “Archetypes” (Jung, 1936).

There are dozens of different archetypes. For our research, we chose to use Kendall Summerhawk's version of 12 Archetypal patterns, Branding with Archetypes, (Exhibit 2). Although all 12 archetypes are present within each of us, we tend to identify with one or two the strongest. All 12 are valuable and each brings its own unique characteristics, gifts, and challenges.

12 Branding with Archetypes

Exhibit 2 – 12 Branding with Archetypes Patterns

The author assessed project managers' responses to the 50 Branding with Archetypes questions to gain an understanding of what archetypal patterns exist in people who have the role of project manager in various global communities and organizations.

The responses of project managers showed that 31% identified most strongly with the Humanitarian archetype (Exhibit 3).

Archetypal Patterns Survey Results

Exhibit 3 – Archetypal Patterns Survey Results

The pattern of a project manager who identifies with the Humanitarian archetype likes to have power and be the unsung hero. Humanitarians have a preference to work behind the scenes for what they believe is fair and just, although they are willing to take center stage for a cause that is important enough to them.

Twenty-two percent identified most strongly with the Teacher archetype. A Teacher is:

  • Driven to search for information and insight and share with the rest of the world
  • A natural skeptic and seeks to find proof or evidence to validate discoveries
  • Likes “being in the know.”

Using an Archetypal instrument helps us to understand more about who project managers naturally are and why they might gravitate toward assuming that role in their career.

Self-Awareness is Essential for Success

Our values are shaped by more than our natural characteristics and patterns. Who we are in the world is also heavily influenced by our experiences and our culture. Personality Type + Experiences + Culture = Core Values (Wong, 2007).

Values Produce Better Choices and Behaviors

Exhibit 4 – Values Produce Better Choices and Behaviors

Our core values represent an individual's highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and fundamental driving forces. Understanding and consistently adhering to our core values helps us to make better choices and produces positive behaviors which make us more successful managers and leaders in any culture (Exhibit 4).

What Could Get in Your Way of Achieving Success?

Using the archetypal instrument, the author further analyzed the data provided and found that more than half of those responding identified least with the traits of the Maverick (Exhibit 5).

Least Identified Archetypal Traits

Exhibit 5 – Least Identified Archetypal Traits

The Maverick archetype pattern is described as:

  • Driven to shaking things up.
  • Rebel, outlaw, dare devil, or revolutionary.
  • An alienated outsider, yet often possesses a romantic “bad boy” identity that is highly charismatic.
  • Likes: To destroy, disrupt, shock, revolutionize, or be naughty in some way.
  • Needs: Recognition and power.

To get your minds around what a strong Maverick persona might look like, think about Howard Stern or James Dean.

According to archetypal pattern theory, the Archetypal Characteristic that we say we identify with the least may actually be an important part of ourselves that we are not acknowledging or we are consciously pushing away. Fifty-four percent of project managers have consciously pushed away the attributes of the Maverick. This might be due to OVER-identification with this part of ourselves earlier in life, which may have had a negative impact on us. In a volatile third-world country such as Tunisia, these project managers may have pre-judged being a Maverick as “bad” and consciously pushed those characteristics away.


Each of these 12 archetypal patterns exists within us and in order to be most successful and be more of a whole and balanced person, we need to accept and invite that part of us that we judge as negative or wrong and we push away. According to our research, this means that a majority of project managers need to consider how being more “Maverick-like” might make them more successful in their world. The gift of a Maverick is to create social change. Mavericks, like the mythic Bonnie and Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, give the rest of us permission to express the side of us that yearns to break loose, challenging limits or participating in forbidden behavior.

The Three Biggest Challenges

Self-awareness not only includes understanding our strengths but also what our personal challenges are.

The author conducted an international survey to better understand what challenges project managers face in their personal and professional lives. Responses were received and represented 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, India, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The author surveyed these Project Managers to answer the question “What are my three biggest challenges?” Here are some of the more interesting results from the survey:

Country Years In Project Management Industry Challenges
U.S. 10 to 15 years of my 23 year career! Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Manufacturing Applying the principles of true project management in an environment that isn't familiar with PMI and struggles with the proactive discipline required to really be proactive.
Finding a career opportunity where I can lead at the level I was leading ∼ 6 years ago, especially in this economy!
Integrating Project Management with Maintenance and Reliability Transformation at a level lower than I'm capable of and without being given the opportunity to apply the level of input and leadership I'm capable of giving.
France 15 R&D (1) Getting the WHOLE group to understand the same concept. (2) Teaching in French, where my native language is English. (3) Suppressing the urge to react violently to blatant idiots.
Canada 20 I/T (1) Protectionism of Management; Skill Level of Management; Education/Openness of Management
Sri Lanka 5 I/T (1) Handling non-conforming people (2) Keeping myself updated on latest trends (3) Juggling multiple tasks on time
Canada 6 Utilities (1) Scheduling (resources participate on multiple projects); (2) Requirements Documentation (IT project managers and consultants each has different preferences); (3) Scope being sacrificed to budget (when IT builds go over annual budget allocation, scope is usually sacrificed)
U.S. 30 Consulting/Business Continuity/Training Collecting from clients, winning contracts, ingenuity in production
U.S. 5 Healthcare /Non-Profit Time, money, and the ability to influence and change people's minds about the need to find a way to do things better
India 5 I/T Change and Communication Management; Expectation Management; Saying No or Differing with Customer
Portugal 7 Telco (1) Struggling to do real project management in an organization with little project management best practices. (2) Managing egos (stakeholder management); (3) Implement a decent lessons learned tool. How to structure it. How to catalog the evaluation of each member of the project team and make it accessible to other project managers of my department without leaking the information to the rest of the company.
U.S. 7 Transportation (1) Upper management support, finding champion; (2) cost management; (3) Finding projects that add real value to the bottom line

What Can Be Different?

In order to understand the context of these project manager's challenges, the author also asked them to answer the question, “What would you like to be different?”

Some of the more interesting answers included:

I want to lead an organization using project management to transform the Maintenance and Reliability Culture to true world class. I want the autonomy and latitude and budget to make it happen and amaze the organization and grow an awesome team who can respond to the ongoing demands within this structure and culture!
I want to be identified as a trusted and fair project manager.
More freedom to implement my suggestions/less political barriers
Not only act as a project manager to the team but work as a good colleague and as a guide to the team
I would like to work in a company that takes project management seriously enough to implement several critical tools such as Earn Value, Risk Management, EPM, and so on… In Portugal, there are very few companies that can give me that possibility, so I'm thinking of going abroad.
I would like to be more relaxed and flexible
I would rather there be more of an appreciation of individual thought rather than the push for groupthink mentality that pervades the workplace today.
People would look at things from the positive perspective versus the negative perspective
Want to be a learner always
Once and for all, be more assertive!
More respect among prime contractors for sub-contractors, cash flow management, ease of networking with results
More interesting assignment with some meaningful responsibility and far less bureaucratic oversight getting in the way of meeting the challenge
I would like for people to do the right thing even when it's not the easy thing and for the world to be about who puts in the hard work instead of seeking political favor and, for want of a better expression, “kissing ass.”
(1) Wish I was 20 years younger, and have the knowledge and experience I have today to manage things; (2) Wish my patent pending had continued instead of running out of cash. (3) Wish I had not been a real ‘nice guy’ and given 99% up in my divorce. (4) Wish I had more time to work and exercise; (5) Wish I was living in Pismo Beach, California, USA.
To be more useful to others and to be more organized and wiser
I would like to see more collaboration and less of an adversarial relationship between parties on a project.
I'd like to be more structured in my approach to consulting, rather than seeming so “ad hoc” at the beginning of projects
Mentality of some persons

YOU can be an Obstacle to Extraordinary Success

Each one of the archetypal patterns contains strengths but they do have natural challenges (Exhibit 6).

12 Archetypal Natural Challenges

Exhibit 6 – 12 Archetypal Natural Challenges

For the 31% of project managers who identify with Humanitarian patterns and the 22% who identify with teacher patterns, the challenges might be that they could be taken advantage of or might be over analytical.

How can a manager or leader deal with these challenges and get their own way in creating extraordinary success?

Create a “Dream Team”

Imagine having a project team with all Alchemists who all lack focus or a team made up of all Teachers who are stuck in over-analysis?

Create a dream team filled with those who are not like you. Look for people who naturally have strengths in your natural areas of weakness.

“If you do not seek out allies and helpers, then you will be isolated and weak” (Sun Tzu, 1971)

Most extraordinarily successful people report that they have had a professional coach and mentor on their dream team. Coaches are thought partners and hold you accountable for your actions. Mentors have already achieved the success you desire and can provide you with lessons learned.

Next Steps

As a project manager, you possess many of the talents, tools, and techniques needed for personal and professional success in any culture. You CAN make a difference in the midst of volatility and not feel defeated.

In order to Make Extraordinary Success Happen in Any Culture:

  • Make time to become more aware of:
    • who you are
    • what your core values are
    • what could get in the way of your success
  • Create a dream team:
    • Hire an executive coach
    • Find a mentor
  • For more ideas for how to create extraordinary success (Exhibit 7), go to
Steve Jobs Quote

Exhibit 7 – Steve Jobs Quote
Retrieved from


Jung, C. G., (1981). The archetypes and the collective unconscious. Collected Works, Vol. 9, Part 1, Princeton University Press, 2nd edition.

Raffa, J. B., EdD (2004). Dream theatres of the soul: Empowering the feminine through Jungian dream work [Electronic Version Excerpt] Retrieved from

Summerhawk, K. (2012). Branding with Archetypes, retrieved from

Turner, J. R. PhD, & Müller, R., DBA (2006). Choosing appropriate project managers: Matching their leadership style to the type of project. Project Management Institute: Newtown Square, PA.

Tzu, S. (1971). The art of war. Oxford University Press.

Wong, Z. (2007). Human factors in project management: Concepts, tools, and techniques for inspiring teamwork and motivation. Jossey-Bass.

© 2012, Dayle Beyer
Originally published as part of the 2012 PMI Global Congress proceedings – Vancouver, Canada



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