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

Since this paper was written, the Project management Institute (US) has modified its definition of project management.

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

Leader vs. Manager

Is there a difference between a project leader and a project manager? A project manager can be described as the person responsible for directing and coordinating human and material resources, but this definition tends to focus on the administrative aspects of project work. However, the authors see a distinction between the style of leaders and managers according to their primary focus. The respective positions of leaders and managers on a number of issues are shown listed in Table 2.[8][9][10] It is a truism that leadership focuses on doing "the right things" while managers focus on doing "the things right".

Managers focus on

Leadership focuses on

  • Goals & objectives
  • Telling how and when
  • Shorter range
  • Organization & structure
  • Autocracy
  • Restraining
  • Maintaining
  • Conforming
  • Imitating
  • Administrating
  • Directing & Controlling
  • Procedures
  • Consistency
  • Risk-avoidance
  • Bottom line
  • Vision
  • Selling what and why
  • Longer range
  • People
  • Democracy
  • Enabling
  • Developing
  • Challenging
  • Originating
  • Innovating
  • Inspiring trust
  • Policy
  • Flexibility
  • Risk-opportunity
  • Top line

Good managers do the
things right

Good leadership does the
right thing

Table 2: Differences in Style [11]

Collectively, project leadership and project "managership" may be referred to as project "stewardship". To be a steward is to hold something in trust for another. Thus, project stewardship may be defined as a willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the project organization while placing service towards the goals of the project above self-interest. It entails holding accountability for your people without exacting harsh compliance from them. In the planning phases, "managership", as described, has its limitations. Leadership overcomes these limitations. In the producing phases, leadership per se also has its limitations, and "managership" is more appropriate.

Definition of Project Leadership  Definition of Project Leadership

8. Bennis, W., On Becoming a Leader, Addison Wesley, 1989.
9. McLean, J. W., & Weitzel, W., Leadership: Magic, Myth or Method?, AMACOM, 1991.
10. Covey, S. R., Principle-Centered Leadership, Summit Books, 1991.
11. Adapted from Warren Bennis On Becoming a Leader, Addison Wesley, 1989; J. W. McLean & William Weitzel Leadership: Magic, Myth or Method?, AMACOM, 1991; Stephen R. Covey Principle-Centered Leadership, Summit Books, 1991.

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