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


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

Leadership and Team Building

An effective project team leader is a "social architect" who understands the interaction of organizational and behavioral variables, can foster a climate of active participation and can minimize dysfunctional conflict. To be effective, the team leader must identify major issues associated with three dimensions. These are team related with emphasis on behavioral aspects such as team structure, trust and respect, or barriers to team development and so on; project task and resource related such as goals and objectives, planning and scope management; and organizational. The latter includes organizational development and involving senior management to ensure visibility, resource availability and overall support for the project through out its life cycle. These conditions are accomplished through effective intercommunication which is pivotal in the project management process.

But what of the other essential ingredient, the team, the followers? Ideally, the more the team can be motivated and empowered to "take the bull by the horns", the more productive they become and the less direction and control is required. This has led to the concept of Self Directed Work Teams (SDWTs).

According to Batten,[12] there are five things that members of a successful team need from their leader:

  • Expectation (Tell me what you expect of me)
  • Opportunity (Give me an opportunity to perform)
  • Feedback (Let me know how I am doing)
  • Guidance (Give me guidance when and where I need it)
  • Reward (Reward me according to my contribution)

Given these prerequisites, both the members of a project team, the followers, and their leader can be expected to progress and develop interactively. The leader focuses successively on telling, selling, gelling and producing project activities, in which the ideal is for the team to become an SDWT. However, this only occurs as a result of careful team development and typically advances interactively through four distinct phases of team leadership and "followership" evolution. The four phases of team development have been characterized as "forming, storming, norming and performing".

In the first, members of the team will be quiet, polite, guarded but business-like. In the second, there tends to be conflict over control, individuals confront one another and, as a result, either become entrenched or opt out. In the third, a semblance of organization emerges with the establishement and acceptance of procedures, team skills and focus on issues. In the final phase, the team settles down to open and productive effort with trust, flexibility, and a mature closeness which enables self-direction. However, this only takes place if the leader modifies his or her level of directive versus supportive behavior in response to this progressive evolution of team followership.

Figure 3,[13][14] shows the leader's successive efforts in telling, selling, gelling and producing and the leader's accompanying level of supportive versus directive leadership behavior consistent with followership development in each of the four phases.

Leadership and the Project Life Cycle  Leadership and the Project Life Cycle

12. Batten, J. D., Tough-Minded Leadership, AMACOM 1989, p 134.
13. Adapted from Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K., Management of Organizational Behaviour, Prentice Hall, 1988.
14. Robinson, G.,Project Management Institute West Coast BC Chapter Presentation, 1992.

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