Project Management Institute

Direct Influence

There's More Than One Way to Get the Most out of a Project Team


There's more than one way to get the most out of a project team. We asked practitioners: What's your leadership style?

“I lead large, complex projects, so I have a decentralized leadership style. I believe strongly in delegation and coaching. No one person can make all of the decisions to keep the project moving forward. Therefore, I identify leaders within my team and give them authority over a specific scope based on their areas of expertise. They are expected to keep me informed, but are empowered to make the necessary decisions within their assigned area. I involve myself in crucial aspects or areas where there are gaps in knowledge so I can better answer questions from stakeholders.

The key to effective coaching is remembering that everyone is different. Some team members will need you to walk them through a situation before they take the reins, while others may prefer you stand on the sidelines and call in the adjustments. Finally, you must let go and actually let team members lead. If you step in and take over, you have now undermined their authority with the team—and all your leadership coaching.”


—Glen M. Jones, PMP, supervisor, project management, Enbridge Energy, Duluth, Minnesota, USA


“My leadership style is based on consensus in a democratic environment. This means solving problems and making decisions based on group agreement. To do this, I lead discussions, understand the team's position and make decisions according to majority opinion. Main project stakeholders are also consulted in the vote.

When using this approach, it's crucial to pay special attention to the minority voters, who may negatively influence the project community. You must ensure that even though they may not agree with the decision, they support it and commit to the deliverable.”

—Alex Julian, PMP, head of projects, HSBC Global Banking and Markets, São Paulo, Brazil


“I always set three priorities for my team and me: The organization comes first, the team comes next and your own needs always come last. This mindset works regardless of the size and complexity of your team or organization. Whenever someone on my team makes a decision that impacts the project, from the CEO to a junior employee, I make sure they adhere to these priorities. If we serve our organization well, our own success will follow.

There are many occasions when my team has gone above and beyond to deliver because of this leadership philosophy. In one of my earlier projects, team members postponed their holiday to support a voluntary organizational event and make it successful.”

—R. Rooban Annamalai, project management office lead and consultant, Tata Consultancy Services, London, England


“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so my goal for a strong team is to place the right people in the right situation at the right time—so everyone is contributing to areas where they are strongest. This requires the ability to diagnose issues quickly by identifying the type of problem and the type of person or people needed to handle it.

I try to maintain an awareness of what skills we need to build, what lessons we need to learn, what we have done well and what we need to change. I communicate this upward as well as sideways and down in the organization in order to create long-term change that will improve future projects.”

—René Rose Stueber, PMP, manager, construction site coordination and support department, Atlas Copco, Cologne, Germany


“I believe in using my leadership position to give my team opportunities to grow and shine. Project managers can encourage team members to excel in several ways. For example, I once asked an IT team member to lead a presentation with management on the functionality of a tool. This person has a strong technical background but limited presentation experience. Instead of telling that team member specifically what had to go into the presentation, I provided the general direction on the key messages and desired outcome. Along the way, I checked in, reviewed the presentation and provided constructive feedback, but really let the person take ownership. In the end, the team member delivered the presentation confidently. I gave someone an opportunity to shine and it worked!”

—Carmen Brooks, manager of business planning, scheduling and reporting, BC Hydro, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


“As a new project manager, I've quickly learned that in order to become the leader my team needs, I must lead by example. I make sure to stay organized and demonstrate a strong work ethic. I also try to maintain a positive attitude while pushing the team to crave success and believe it's possible to accomplish our goals. I'm not a veteran, but that doesn't stop me from being the leader that my team and projects need me to be.”

—Tyler Ziomkowski, project manager, Aurora North America LLC, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Leadership Gaps

Many organizations are falling short in their efforts to develop tomorrow's leaders.


71% of organizations say their leaders are not ready to lead their organization into the future.


36% say their leadership development practices are below average or poor.


10% believe their efforts to build leadership support their business goals.

Source: State of Leadership Development 2015, Brandon Hall Group

Share your leadership tips on the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group.

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