Leadership—Does Management Fail?

Managers manage things; Leaders lead people. That’s the oft-repeated cliché. But if you check Indeed, Dice, and Monster or Want Ads, you’ll be hard-pressed to find “Leader” as a role or skill requested or required. Project Managers and Program Managers are needed throughout, and apparently with good reason.

Consider just the examples of Google+1 and Microsoft Windows 82 (to say nothing of Windows Vista). Don’t forget the Tacoma Narrows Bridge3, too, just to remind yourself that project management has been a problem for a long, long time.


Path Finding

Groups are really herds. The group is made up of individuals and each person is capable of acting on her or his own. But that goes away when individuals are collected and grouped. The group members have their individual skills, intelligence, and competencies. Someone must shepherd the group so that the individuals become a team, despite their individual prior experiences and current biases, to accomplish the mission assigned to the group.

That shepherd is not a manager; he or she is the leader.

Leadership Tasks

Leaders lead. There are only two tasks a leader must fulfill:

  • Get the job done
  • Build the group

Leadership Skills & Methods

Leaders find the path that allows their teams to succeed. The primary skills of leadership used by leaders to fulfill their tasks are:

  • Get and Give Information
  • Understand Group Needs and Characteristics
  • Know and Understanding Group Resources
  • Control the Group
  • Counsel
  • Set the Example
  • Plan
  • Evaluation
  • Share Leadership
  • Represent the Group
  • Manage Learning

Yes, there are other titles we can apply to each of these leadership skills (to wit: Communication for Get and Give Information). Still, these are somewhat more expressive of the actual underlying intentions.

Note that leaders do not use one or several of these skills. Leaders must use all of the skills of leadership.

Leadership is not for people who do not relish responsibility, initiative, and commitment.

What’s Missing?

None of the approaches to, or methods of, project management shown below begins with a plan. It sort of reminds me of a campfire story told at a BSA Wood Badge conclave years ago:

A Wood Badge Course Director, during the course he was leading, was asked what was planned next for the staff by a (temporarily) confused staff member. “Plan?” cried the (temporarily) harried Course Director. “What Plan?”

Leaders plan the recruitment of their teams whenever possible. Leaders set the operational plan.

No one can review or modify a plan if no plan exists.

Where Do We Go?

Management is about managing the clumps of trees involved in an endeavor. Managing those things does not result, in itself, in finding a path—any path—to a reasonably successful conclusion. Leaders lead because leaders, even when originally unfamiliar with or confused by the technical and bureaucratic terrain, find and guide their teams to success.

Project Management—Methods & Processes

The Project Management Institute poses the question: What is Project Management? and answers it thus:

“More specifically, what is a project? It's a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

“A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.

“And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.

“The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building or bridge, the relief effort after a natural disaster, the expansion of sales into a new geographic market — all are projects.

“And all must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results, learning and integration that organizations need.

“Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

“It has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century…”

Project Management Institute: What is Project Management

PMI Certifications

The PMI offers these certification programs:

  • Project Management Professional
  • Program Management Professional
  • Portfolio Management Professional
  • Certified Associate in Project Management
  • PMI Professional in Business Analysis
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner
  • PMI Risk Management Professional
  • PMI Scheduling Professional

Project Management = Process Management

From this and other sources, it seems that project management can be, and often is, reduced to concerns about identifying and managing processes. For instance, consider these project management graphics:

 Program Project Management  Agile Project Management  XP Loop with Timeframes


A Personal Aside

Yes, I served as a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy Naval Security Group Command. As such, I was neither a manager nor a leader; I was The Chief to my division or section. The title did not confer with it leadership; rather, it committed me to leadership responsibilities.

The Navy waited until I was a senior First Class Petty Officer before it ordered me to learn about leadership in a Leadership Management Education & Training (LMET) course. Several years prior, I was fortunate to have taken advantage of the opportunity to participate in Wood Badge training (Trans Atlantic Council BSA, Course NE-III-44).

If you want to learn about leadership and how you exercise it, I strongly recommend joining the Boy Scouts and participating in a Wood Badge course. Later, certainly, pay the money, study the Book of Knowledge, and get certified by either the PMI or IPMA, or both. Just learn first about leadership.


1Inside the failure of Google+, a very expensive attempt to unseat Facebook, Mashable, August 2, 2015.

2Was Windows 8 a Mistake? Microsoft Seems to Think So, Mashable, April 4, 2014.

3Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940), Wikipedia.