Your monthly dose of insightful Project Management articles

Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

In Project Management, Leadership vs Management is a Myth

I googled leadership in project management. I was surprised to see how misleading the majority of search results are.

Leadership  is an integral part of project management.

Nevertheless, here is what you will find there:

In the article on there is a table showing the distinctions between manager and leader:

Here is another article on Again you will see clear opposing of management and leadership. Here are just the headings there:

“Leaders Seek Challenges; Managers Seek to Maintain the Status Quo”

“Leaders Motivate and Inspire; Managers Control”

“Leaders Have a Wide Circle of Influence; Managers Have Limited Influence”

So, what’s the deal here?

Leadership vs. Management is a Myth

For many years already, leadership is a part of your responsibilities.

I understand that being a leader is more appealing than to be a project manager. However, leadership cannot substitute project management. It can only enhance it.

Project Management describes the WHAT to do. While Leadership gives an option on HOW to do it.

There is even more to it:

Leadership is Context Dependent

Depending on the context of a project, you may need different aspects of leadership or even none of them.

In the study described in this article, project managers rated leadership skills for the following types of projects:

  1. A very large project
  2. A project with high uncertainty
  3. An innovation project (R&D)

It appears characteristics of a project impact the required set and mix of skills.

The bottom line is:

Leadership in project management is a tool that you need to apply understanding the impact.

It means that leadership might not work in all cases.

Leadership Components In Context of PM Processes

There is a long list of buzz words related to leadership:

  1. Integrity
  2. Consistency
  3. Vision
  4. Empathy
  5. Calm under pressure
  6. Team Builder
  7. Competent
  8. Decision Maker

Most of them are directly related to project integration and primary responsibilities of a PM.

However, let’s dive deeper.


1. Continuous Improvement

The most crucial implementation of leadership in project management is continuous improvement. It should be a part of your Quality Management Plan.

In short, it is a desire to do everything better even if nobody’s watching.

Don’t confuse it with gold plating. The goal is not to deliver more but to deliver more efficiently.

And here you will need integrity, consistency, and a vision on how to make it happen.

Moreover, you will have to lead by example. Otherwise, no one’s buying it.

2. Motivation

Team’s motivation is a part of Develop Project Team process. But again, it is not about motivating people to come to the office every day.

A simple paycheck works well enough for that.

As a project manager, you need more. You want them to put soul and heart into the work they do. You want them to develop professionally.

You will need to develop a vision of a perfect a team member, personal development, and desire to push beyond the call of duty.

Moreover, you will need to build a strong team

3. Create Project Management Plan

Project Management Plan looks like a bureaucracy. Nevertheless, it is a tool for mass leadership.

You always have at least two options:

1. Do it, so no one is angry.

2. Do it so that majority is happy.

In the Plan, you can cast your vision in regards to the project, stakeholders, and your attitude towards helping them achieve their goals.

You can show your consistency if you treat your team member the same way as the project sponsor. And, in the long run, integrity – if you help them to reach their objectives.

4. Conflict Resolution

It is leadership in its essence:

  • You need to know people.
  • You need to show empathy.
  • You need to make decisions.

You should do it ethically and professionally.

And you need to communicate a lot.

So, what’s the point?


This list can go on and on. I could explain a lot of examples.

However, I want you to understand the principles:

  1. Leadership is an integral part of project management.
  2. Leadership doesn’t substitute processes. It enhances them.
  3. Leadership on its own is no more than a conversation.
  4. Leadership is a responsibility of a Project Manager. It is not an extra set of skills.


Published at with the consent of the author

Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy

About author

Helping you to become a project manager.

Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy is the founder of the Project Management Basics, which helps project managers get practical knowledge and skills that work in the real world. Up to date, he is an active IT Project Manager. On his blog, he shares the most recent experience from the trenches.

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