This paper addresses the vital project managers need to motivate teams, influence stakeholders and thrive in times of change. It clarifies the definitions of authority, power, politics, influence, management and leadership in project environment. A comparison is made between leadership and management to differentiate them and demonstrate their dynamic relationship. The reader is further introduced to a framework for leadership development and a nine-step action plan. The material is related to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Chapter 2: “The Project Management Context” and Chapter 3: “Project Management Process”.
Management and leadership are two separate systems for achieving results through collaboration. Management is often attributed to line or functional management, while leadership is attributed to corporate executives. Project managers use both in a dynamic equilibrium to successfully complete a project. Authority, power, politics and influence are among the most powerful tools used in management and leadership. In this paper we will review their definitions in order to understand the need for leadership development.
Management is the discipline of creating networks of people to produce consistently and predictably goods and services. Its primary function is to produce repeatable results. Without management, it would have been impossible to achieve profitable results from large, global enterprises that built new railroads, auto companies or steel mills (Chandler 1977). Good management introduced consistency and order to production, quality and profitability.
Despite the diversity of managing methods, systems and philosophies there are some core processes that are fundamental to management.
Planning and budgeting are processes that set goals or targets for the future, establish detailed steps, allocate resources and define timetables to accomplish these goals. Regardless of industry, complexity or size, the planning and budgeting remains present.
Once the plans and budgets are developed, managers need to staff and organize. This requires setting an organizational structure; defining necessary skills sets to complete the job, match qualified individuals to job descriptions, communicate the plan, and assign roles and responsibilities.
Once the planning and organization is complete, the work begins. This is the time when Managers control the human system and solve problems that may arise. Managers conduct meetings, inspections and other controlling activities to identify deviations and take corrective actions.
The Problem With Management
Management is focused on producing consistent results. Innovative methods of producing goods and services are not encouraged. Things are done the same way and the measurement of success is repetition. Management can become bureaucratic and stifling creating overhead in the process that does not contribute value of the final product. It proliferates old methodologies and inefficiencies in the name of predictability. Changes are difficult to plan for or even expect and they are to be avoided.
Leadership is about change. That is its primal function. It directly contradicts management. Leadership is defined as the ability to create a common vision, which the individuals recognize or adopt as their own, and persuade them to realize it. Leadership uses many styles and methods yet it too boils down to three major processes (Bennis 1985).
Establish direction means to develop a vision of the future, a snapshot of the end result from the effort. Define how it looks like, how it feels, what are the implications, the possibilities, etc. The vision needs to incorporate the personal dreams and aspirations of all the people involved.
The second major function of leadership is aligning the people in the same direction. It involves obtaining ‘buy-in’ or internal commitment from the team members. Vision could be compared with a beacon in the dark and aligning is turning everybody's head toward it.
Once the people are aligned in the same direction they will encounter numerous obstacles on the way. It is the leader's duty to inspire and motivate them to overcome these obstacles. Leadership taps into the basic human needs to achieve, to realize one self, it taps into the values and emotions of the people. Leadership does not define how, the journey will be conducted, what will be done first and what will be done next, instead, it builds the energy and enthusiasm in people, to unleash their creativity and zeal.
What is good leadership is a subject of debate for thousands of years. This days however, we call “good” or “effective” leadership, when the leader take people from where they are today to a place where they are better off, and when it does not trample on the rights of others.
The Problem With Leadership
Strong leadership can be disruptive to orderly planning. With its concentration on motivation and development of a common vision, leadership accepts multiple compromises in the name of common good. This however, can turn into a messianic, cult-like organization producing change for changes sake, but never really accomplishing results.
Leadership is focused on the vision and its relentless pursuit. Hierarchy is unimportant to leadership and tends to break down the communication channels, diminishes the established roles and responsibility and allows decisions to be made by people who are not authorized to do so. In a word, a chaotic culture can emerge, where anything goes, giving rise to opportunistic and selfish individuals hijacking the common good for their own.
Similarities & Differences Between Management & Leadership
From our discussion so far it becomes evident than management and leadership are different (Burns, 1985) in some sense, yet similar in another. They are both complete systems geared for actions and therefore not an aspect of each other.
Both management and leadership define what needs to be done, but they do that with different methods. For example, management focuses on short terms while leadership focuses on long terms. Leadership does not define what and how will be done, only what is the end result. The table below outlines the major differences in methods to define what needs to be done.
|Management: Planning and Budgeting
|Leadership: Establishing Direction
Both management and leadership organize human networks to produce results. Again, in the table below we outline the major differences in how this is done.
|Management: Organizing and Staffing
|Leadership: Aligning People
|Getting right people for the job
|Getting everybody lined up in one
Finally, both management and leadership ensure that the job is done.
|Management: Controlling and Problem Solving
|Leadership: Motivating and inspiring
|Surprising and Energizing
Management & Leadership Are Integrated
In a study of a group of successful executives (Kotter, 1982) who worked for different corporations each executive was observed at some length as well as interviewed. What the study discovered was that despite the diversity of how these executives performed their duties and what the duties were, some similarities emerged. All of them performed both management and leadership functions. It was not in a sense that they performed management functions for some time, than switch to leadership; instead they performed both at the same time. Even the managers themselves had difficulty explaining their own behavior. The management-leadership relationship is complex and does not have clear borders.
Both leadership and management have certain tools they use to effectively perform their duties and reach their goals. These are authority, power, politics and influence (Virma, 2003).
Authority is the right to enforce rules, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge things people and events. These are a formal reason why certain person's decisions will be followed. Rules and norms of behavior, reporting and decision-making hierarchies, etc., constitute formal authority. Personal ability, knowledge and experience in certain area define informal authority.
Power is the ability to get people to do things they would not otherwise do. This means overcoming resistance and obstacles that would normally stop a desirable action or event from happening. There are two components to power, formal and informal power.
Total Power =f (Formal (20%), Informal (80%))
Formal power alone is insufficient to be effective and the developments of informal powers are necessary.
Sources of Power
There are eight types of power identified. Three of them, legitimate, coercive and rewarding are formal powers. Formal powers are given by the position or delegated authority. These are considered to be the least effective powers. Informal powers are expert power, persuasive power, referent and relationship power. These are powers that one has to acquire. The power of information has a dual role as formal and informal power.
Politics are activities that extract collective action from a group of people with conflicting interests. There are many people who hate politics and wish to work in a place without them. Politics however are part of the normal communication process in human society and therefore unavoidable.
Politics could be negative and positive. Politics that are attempting to produce results beneficial for the organization are positive. Negative, or destructive politics are focused on personal gains disregarding the interest of the group.
Roots Of Politics
The top six reasons for politics in the working place are: scarce resources, complex rules, priorities, reward systems, organizational politics, and cultural issues.
People In Politics
|Politics are distractive
|Assume org. will support them
|Politics are opportunity
|Politics are necessary
|Networking; Understanding culture;
Org. strategy; team spirit
Influence is the capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways. This is a skill or ability to influence the course of events indirectly. Influence is based on trust. Projecting an image of honesty and integrity builds respect. People are hardly influenced by people they do not respect. Influencer's flaw of character, uncontrolled and inconsistent behavior destroys the trust and respect.
To achieve the influence we also need personal power.
How Does It All Work
There is a fundamental difference between management and leadership in their use of the aforementioned tools. Management always requires authority. It needs something or somebody to formally authorize the manager to perform his or her duties. Therefore Manager is as much of a position as it is a profession. As such, management often is given the formal powers to reward and punish (coercive). Managers also need to know how things are progressing, who, what and when will be done and than acquire the information that tracks planned vs. actual. This is the formal aspect of the Information power.
Leaders on the other hand may not have a position and therefore use informal power (we neglect the fact that mangers can also be leaders at the same time to emphasize the difference). Leaders use politics for the purpose of acquiring power that will enable them to perform their functions. The powers of expertise, relationships, persuasion and information enable the leader to exert influence and inspire the followers for greater achievement.
Signs Of Insufficient Leadership
- Strong emphasis on short timeframes.
- Focus on details.
- Elimination of risk.
- Strong specialization – fitting people to work.
- Rigid compliance to rules.
- Rigid control, containment and predictability.
- Performance deterioration over time.
The Current State Of Affairs
In a study conducted among senior executives in a dozen successful US corporations (Kotter, 1988), participants were asked to rate all the people in their managerial hierarchies on both leadership and management. In their responses nearly all said that they have “too few” people who are both strong leaders and strong managers. At the same time, nearly 2/3 reported that they have “too many” people who are strong managers, but weak leaders. Further, half of the respondents reported that they have “too many” individuals who are neither strong managers, nor strong leaders. Clearly the data suggest that many corporations, even the successful ones, over-managed and under-led. This means that their ability to adapt to change is greatly diminished.
It is evident from that data, that today's corporations are not prepared as a general rule for the challenges of tomorrow. They are not putting significant effort to cultivate leadership that will navigate the organization in the treacherous waters of the future.
The Leadership Level And Natural Order
Everyone is a leader. There is however, a difference in the leadership levels among people. This is evident when a group of strangers gathers for the first time. After a while, people start following leaders stronger than themselves naturally and a hierarchy is born. The leadership hierarchy exists to create a line of succession in the case of current leader elimination by the circumstances.
The Clash Between Corporate And Natural Order
Today's organizations have a hierarchical structure to define decision hierarchy and communications channels. People are fitted in hierarchical positions based on multiple factors, like experience, skills, relationships, etc. The corporate order is not concerned with the natural order of human groups based on their leadership qualities. Further, corporations don't even account for those elusive capabilities of their employees. Nature however is not giving up, and constantly pushes to restore harmony. This is evident in the intense political activities in many corporations and the daily skirmishes with the boss.
Organizations are in a relentless pursuit of synergy among their employees because it gives an edge over competitors. The only way to achieve synergy though is when the corporate and the natural order are in sync.
Leadership Styles – The Versatile Leader
The great interest in leadership these days produced numerous articles books and presentations. Literally, hundreds if not thousands of authors are eager to share with the public what they have uncovered, learned or practiced. A quick look at the bookshelf will introduce us to the Trusted Leader, Situational Leader, Transactional Leader, Authentic Leader, Servant Leaders, Enlighten Leader, etc. (Exhibit 1)
Kaplan and Kaiser (Kaplan, 2003) developed the model of the Versatile Leader, which incorporates the different styles. In the research conducted over the years they discovered that leaders tend to be lopsided and overuse their strengths even when the situation requires a different approach. They were unable to adapt their style to the situation. The traits of various leaders were reviewed and analyzed and two-dimensional scale was devised to measure the ability of a leader. The best leaders are those who avoid lopsidedness and stay as close to the center as possible.
The Emotional Side Of Leadership
In recent years a study has been made (Spenser 1993) to uncover the personal capabilities that drove outstanding performances with an organization. The study was conducted at about 500 companies grouped the capabilities into three categories: technical skills, cognitive skills and emotional intelligence. Where emotional intelligence is defined as the awareness of one's emotions, the reason for them and the ability to channel and control emotion for beneficial use.
The results showed that the difference in technical and cognitive skills between mediocre and outstanding performers diminished and became marginal as the position of the person increased. In other words, having good technical skills and seeing the big picture made difference in performance of the lower ranks. However, in the upper echelons of management, the difference was the level of emotional intelligence.
Goleman (Goleman, 2002) defined an Emotional Framework for leadership as follows: SELF-AWARENESS, SELF-MANAGEMENT, SOCIAL AWARENESS and RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT.
Who Can Be A Leader?
Leadership is a combination of natural born talents and skill. Research (Kotter 1988) found that a third of the leadership traits are natural and two thirds are learned. So, let us address the big question: are leaders born or made. If we simply think logically no one made the ancient leaders, so they had to be born. On the other hand, what every person experience in his or her lifetime is recorded in our genes and passed along to the next generations. This makes it logical to conclude that leaders are born.
Action Plan for Monday Morning
- Find a quite place and reserve time.
- Imagine the people you know and write down what is good about them.
- Imagine the leaders you have observed and write down what you like about them.
- Consolidate all these descriptions. This is your ideal self.
- Ask yourself how you stack up against this ideal self. Write down the overlapping traits.
- Determine the gaps and overlaps.
- Create a learning agenda.
- Start behaving like you possess the traits you like.
- Repeat this every year.