Project Manager to Project Leader? and the Rocky Road Between...


Introduction | Evolution | Definition | Leader vs. Manager
Project Life Cycle | Team Building | Decision Making | Conclusions

Evolution of Leadership

The concepts of how best to function while in charge of an organization or enterprise have steadily evolved over the last fifty years. According to Dilenschneider,[1] the different decades may be characterized as shown in Table 1. From this it will be seen that there has been a progression from "administrative command" to "team leadership", a change driven by an enlightened work force and a need to be fiercely competitive.

Interestingly, while the authors noted earlier have written whole books around leadership, only Batten attempts to actually define leadership. Nevertheless, these authors do seem to agree that "vision" is a primary ingredient. After that it may be variously: passion, integrity, curiosity, daring (Bennis[2]); practical values, awareness, timing, objectivity, empowerment and motivation, articulation (Dilenschneider[3]); or (according to John Sculley[4]) ideas, direction, and inspiring people.

In the interests of maximizing competitive productivity, the presumption is that those who are being led are being motivated to follow rather than coerced to do so. Interestingly by way of contrast, the European view on leadership is simply that whoever is at the head of the pack is a leader, regardless of whether the pack is motivated to follow voluntarily.







  • By tradition
  • Chain of command
  • Stable
  • Introspective
  • Apprenticeship
  • By exception
  • Ad-hoc
  • Turbulent
  • Market driven
  • Mentoring
  • By vision
  • Instant
  • Sustaining
  • Customer driven
  • Team work
Table 1: The Evolution of Enterprise Leadership

Batten defines leadership as "Development of a clear and complete system of expectations in order to identify, evoke and use the strengths of all resources in the organization - the most important of which is people."[5] Can't argue with that, but not very helpful in the project context. John Naisbit probably came closer to a definition of a project leader with his description "An ability to attract followers ..., ... a clear destination, and ... a timetable."[6]

Introduction  Introduction

1. Dilenschneider, Robert L., A Briefing for Leaders, Harper Business, 1991, p 5.
2. Bennis, Warren, On Becoming a Leader, Addison Wesley, 1989, pp 39-41.
3. Dilenschneider, Robert L., A Briefing for Leaders, Harper Business, 1991, p 13.
4. Bennis, Warren, On Becoming a Leader, Addison Wesley, 1989, p 139.
5. Batten, Joe D., Tough-Minded Leadership, AMACOM, 1991, p 35.
6. McLean, J. W., & Weitzel, W., Leadership: Magic, Myth or Method?, AMACOM, 1991, p 90.

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