This chapter addresses project managers’ leadership styles, mainly from the perspective of technology projects. It starts by defining and outlining the need for leadership, and then describes the historical schools and the recent schools of leadership theory. Subsequently the focus turns to current leadership research in project management, and its related theories. Subsequently, the personality profiles of successful project managers in different types of projects are presented. The chapter ends with some managerial and theoretical implications, as well as scholarly challenges for further research and future developments in this area.
Leadership and management are terms often used interchangeably in day-to-day business. There are, however, significant differences between the two.
Management refers to the professional administration of business concerns or public undertakings (Oxford Concise Dictionary, 1995). It is often related to guidance and coordination of people towards a defined goal, through a person granted management authority by higher levels in an organization’s hierarchy.
Contrarily, leadership is defined as a relationship through which one person influences the behavior of other people (Mullins, 1996). Discussions on leadership often refer to the sum of traits, behaviors and characteristics of people being followed by others, independent of their formal authority in an organization. Bennis and Nanus (1985) define management and leadership and the difference thereof as:
To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in direction, course, action, and opinion. This distinction is crucial. Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right things.
Parry (2004) showed that with increasingly higher levels in a corporate hierarchy the need for management decreases, whereas the need for leadership increases.
The project management literature, for example the International Project Management Association’s (IPMA) Competence Baseline (IPMA, 2007, p. 86), refers to leadership as:
Leadership involves providing direction and motivating others in their role or task to fulfill the project’s objectives. It is a vital competence for project managers.
This definition identifies leadership as a key competence for project managers.
The mission of the chapter is to provide insight into the current state of leadership research and contemporary leadership theories and their relevance for project management. The chapter shows the fit of different leadership styles with different types of projects, and its relation to project success.
The Role of Leadership in the Project Management Literature
While the management tasks of project managers are well described, leadership is rarely addressed in the project management literature. Sometimes team roles are applied to leadership styles, such as the well known Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, Belbin, or 16PF (Bryggs-Myers, 1995; Schultz, 1955; Belbin, 1986; Cattell et al, 1970 respectively). However, there is little correlation between competencies of leaders and commonly identified team roles and behaviors (Dulewicz & Higgs, 2005), even though many of these are used as part of the recruitment process of managers and executives. Team roles are different from leadership styles, and only very few team roles and personality factors are correlated with leadership performance, according to Dulewicz and Higgs (2005):
Belbin: Only the roles of resource investigator and team worker are correlated to performance as a leader. The coordinator and implementer roles are weakly correlated to performance as a leader.
16PF: Extroverts and more emotionally stable individuals are likely to be better leaders. There is also some correlation with some of the other factors.
To understand the leadership role of project managers, we now turn to the literature on leadership, and then describe contemporary research results in leadership research in project management, and finish with theoretical and practical implications thereof.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Competency School: A school of leadership theories which encompasses all earlier schools. It is multidimensional and includes the personal characteristics, knowledge and skills of the leader. The competency school assumes that different competence profiles are appropriate in different circumstances.
Behavioral or Style School: A school of leadership theories which assumes that effective leaders adopt certain styles of behaviors, which can be learned. So that effective leaders can be developed.
Contingency School: A school of leadership theories which assumed that effective leadership occurs through a particular leadership style which fits the idiosyncrasies of a situation.
Managerial Leadership Competencies (MQ): A group of cognitive leadership competencies encompassing the knowledge and skills of management functions.
Intellectual Leadership Competencies (IQ): A group of cognitive competencies encompassing intelligence in form of critical analysis, strategic perspective, vision and imagination.
Visionary or Charismatic School: A school of leadership theories which emphasizes the balance between concern for relationships and concern for process and its different combinations in different situations
Leadership: A relationship through which one person influences the behavior of other people (Mullins, 1996).
Emotional Leadership Competencies (EQ): A group of behavioral and motivational competencies of leaders for handling themselves and their relationships.
Leadership Profile: The specific combination of the expression of the 15 leadership competencies in the personality of an individual.
Project Types: A categorization of projects, typically by project purpose or project attributes. Often done in order to prioritize projects, or to assign resources and develop or assign appropriate capabilities to manage the projects of a particular category.
Management: Professional administration of business concerns or public undertakings (Oxford Concise Dictionary, 1995)
Trait School: A school of leadership theories which assumes that effective leaders posses common traits, and that leaders are born not made or developed.
Emotional Intelligence School: A school of leadership theories that emphasizes the social interaction between people. It assumes that the leader’s emotional response to a situation has more impact on the success than the intellectual capabilities of the leader.
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