This paper was first published in the Proceedings of the 29th Annual Project Management Institute Seminar/Symposium "Tides of Change", Long Beach, California, USA, 1998. (Updated presentation, April, 2002.) Presented here as the sixth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here May, 2002.

Introduction | General Characteristics | Myers-Briggs
Comparison | Observations | Summary/Conclusions | Appendix A

General Personality Characteristics Suited to Successful Project Management Work

In our 1996 paper "Dominant Personality Characteristics Suited to Running a Successful Project (And What Type are You?)", we described four types of project leader we considered best suited to different project circumstances. These types were derived from a 2x2 grid formed by two axes consisting of "Focus" and "Approach". Focus reflects the choice between "Problem" versus "People", while Approach reflects the choice between being "Receptive" versus "Directive". These axes, their general descriptions, and the four consequent project manager styles of "Explorer", "Driver", "Coordinator" and "Administrator are shown in Figure 1, Identification of Project Manager's Style.

Figure 1: Identification of Project Manager's Style
Figure 1: Identification of Project Manager's Style

You will see that we use the term "Adhocracy". This is a label coined by Robert Waterman to describe a particular type of loose and flexible project team environment. According to Waterman, under certain project conditions, it is necessary to lend some semblance of structure to travel the apparently unknown route towards the project's destination.[4]

The four project leader profiles were characterized as follows.

The Explorer - Explorer or entrepreneur type project leaders have a vision of the future and projects are the stepping stones. They are bold, courageous and imaginative. There is a constant search for opportunities and improvements. They are comfortable in the lead, and exude confidence and charisma. They are good at networking and selling. They may, however, have little time for day-to-day problems which are delegated to others. Their project power derives from past experience, enthusiasm, and superior ability to communicate.

The Driver - Drivers are distinctly action-oriented and are both hard-working and hard driving. They are pragmatic, realistic, resourceful and resolute, and their focus is on project mission and precise project goals. They are generally well planned and self-disciplined, so for those who have similar traits, they are easy to work with. Conflict is likely with those who are not so inclined. Their power is derived from authority and they are quite prepared to use it.

The Coordinator - Coordinators are just as important when the project phase or situation calls for "facilitation". They generally take a more independent and detached view of their surroundings. Coordinators are responsive to the views of project team members who must take responsibility for their own decisions. Therefore, their role is to ensure that team issues are surfaced, discussed and resolved to the team's mutual satisfaction. These individuals tend to be humble, sensitive and willing to compromise. The Coordinator's power is derived from his or her ability to persuade others to compromise.

The Administrator - Administrators recognize the need for stability, typically in order to optimize productivity through maximizing repetition to the extent possible on a project and to get the work finished. Often, requisite information must be assembled and carefully analyzed, with thought given to the trade-offs and how conflicts and problems can be resolved and disposed of in advance. Work must be carefully scheduled and procedurized if potential gains are to be realized and "all the pieces are to be carefully put in place". The Administrator's power derives from intellectual logic and organizational achievement.

Characteristics required by all four leader types include being "credible, confident, committed, energetic, hard-working, and self-starting."

Remarkably, few project leaders have ultimate project responsibility in practice. More likely they report to some higher authority such as the sponsor of the project. Conversely, team members reporting to a project leader typically have responsibility for leading their own groups of supporting co-workers. Therefore, in terms of successful project personality characteristics no major distinction need be drawn between those in either position. Nevertheless, some team members may show a stronger disposition to "lead", while others are more disposed to "follow".

Introduction  Introduction

4. Waterman, R. H. 1992. Adhocracy: The Power to Change. W. W. Norton & Co., NY: 16 & 59.
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