Integrated Project Management: Strong Leadership

Duncan Ross Russell
In my latest integrated project management article, I discuss the need for strong leadership and how it can be achieved.

In this series I have introduced the philosophy of integrated project management, a philosophy that recognises the different make up of each project and applies strong leadership to a team, encouraging a collaborative working ethos with clarity of purpose and strategy to deliver a successful project. But how does leadership play a part in achieving effective project outcomes?

Why do we need Strong Leadership?

Successful projects are not simply managed but are led. Led in a way that integrates the needs of the task, individual and the team in order to maximise the opportunities of achieving success. If the team is not united, the friction will work against success; if the individual is not motivated, they will not contribute to success and if the task is not understood you cannot achieve success. Success sits at the centre of these three challenges.

Integrated Project Management

Management is the art of planning, organisation and coordination. Leadership is the art of inspiring and motivating. Project success can't be achieved without both management and leadership. Management focuses the project on the task, leadership serves the team and individual to ensure they are motivated and equipped to deliver the task. Strong leadership balances the project in the centre of the team, the task and the individual where success can be achieved.

How do we provide Strong Leadership?

Project leaders understand the task, they have a clarity of purpose. Project leaders understand how they plan to deliver the task, they have a clarity of strategy. The approaches I have described in these previous articles set the conditions for communicating that clarity. Integrated project management empowers leaders at all levels to make and own their plans and gives them the freedom to deliver within a changing environment. The project ethos required to enable success demands a leader who serves the project through understanding the individual strategies of the team members delivering each element of the project, and ensuring that the necessary resources are available at the right time and in the right place to deliver the task.

Project leaders build a team with the necessary skills to deliver the task. Project leaders understand the need for collaboration and have the skills to develop the team to create the ethos that will engender collaboration. Strong leadership serves the team through monitoring the collaborative environment and taking the necessary action to adjust this environment to reflect the needs of the task, team and individual.

Project leaders understand what motivates individuals and how to motivate each member of the team. The leader will serve the individuals in the team by ensuring they get the opportunities to contribute in a way that maximises their personal strengths whilst complementing any areas of weakness that could undermine project success. Project leaders understand how individuals in the team and stakeholders listen and communicate, communicating with them in their language, leading them to a shared understanding of what has to be achieved from project success and why.

Causes of Project Failure

The three top causes of project failure as identified by the National Audit Office are:

  • Lack of clear links between the project and the organisation's key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success
  • Lack of clear senior management ownership and leadership
  • Lack of effective engagement

Strong project leadership that integrates the needs of the task, individual and the team directly address these causes of failure, maximising the opportunity for success.

In Summary

Project success is elusive, dependant on many internal and external factors. Integrated project management builds the conditions for a collaborative working ethos with a clarity of purpose and strategy that maximise the opportunities of success. Strong project leadership is the glue that holds the many competing factors in balance.

Strong project leaders:

  • Serve the task through supporting the strategy developed by the team
  • Serve the team through maintaining the collaborative environment
  • Serve the individual through understanding and motivation

Each of the components of integrated project management - clarity of purpose, clarity of strategy, collaboration and strong leadership - are essential to maximising project success. However, it is strong leadership that is most effective yet most often absent.