Project Management Institute


Colin Howard, Director of Embedding Centres of Excellence, office of Government Commerce, London, U.K.

Colin Howard, Director of Embedding Centres of Excellence, Office of Government Commerce, London, U.K.

Leaders are able to take charge of a situation and find a way forward. True leadership is “instinct,” which is why some people are regarded as born leaders and it is deemed difficult to train others to be leaders—although they may be excellent managers.

This instinct manifests itself in several practical ways. Leaders have the skills to set strategy, think laterally and lead the activity by example, while giving the team the responsibility to carry out its tasks and motivating it through personal enthusiasm and charisma.

My own leadership strength is the ability to communicate and work with other people in a positive, energetic way while thinking on my feet in quickly developing situations. Over the years, I have demonstrated other attributes of a leader—having a measured tread and avoiding panic, but at the same time knowing when to apply pressure to achieve results. In the context of my current employment—directing change in Central Civil Government in the U.K.—all of these attributes help influence a large number of departments and encourage the sort of culture change necessary to achieve stated aims.

This sort of leadership obviously needs to be applied within a framework to be effective, and the disciplines of project management provide this methodology. Project managers have the ability to provide clear responsibilities, controls and structure, so the team understands its goals and objectives.

Project managers who want executives and their team to regard them as better leaders must gain respect by developing vital attributes. They must have key knowledge of their domain area but also be capable of innovative thought. They must develop concise planning capabilities combined with a flexible approach to developing situations.

To motivate your team, you must communicate both up and down channels. Strong communication skills allow you to motivate senior management in order to gain their support. At the same time, you must be ready to challenge senior management's thinking and have the charisma and respect to be able to discuss difficult issues with them openly.



This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




Related Content

  • Why Great Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure They Don't

    By Vargas, Ricardo Viana | Conforto, Edivandro Carlos | Oumarou, Tahirou Assane To reduce failure rates and successfully deliver strategies in 2020 and beyond, organizations must overcome disruptive forces and flip posing challenges to opportunities and advantages. It all…

  • Project Management Journal

    Senior Project Leadership Skills and Career Stallers member content locked

    By Floris, Maurizio | Wiblen, Sharna L. | Anichenko, Ekaterina We know little about which leadership skills matter most and according to whom in the career progression of project leaders. This research suggests that high- performing senior project leader talent…

  • PM Network

    Vital Signs

    Transforming horizon-focused strategic visions into here-and-now reality can't happen in a vacuum. Instead, project leaders must cultivate a deep understanding of the business, technological,…

  • PM Network

    Erasing Boundaries

    By Khelifi, Yasmina As more projects have a global scope and scale, it's increasingly common for project professionals to manage stakeholders around the world, juggling time zones, technologies, languages and other…

  • PM Network

    Focus Group

    PM Network queried the community on best practices for managing meetings.