CEO’s and leaders of organizations are responsible for the quality of their organizations. They are responsible for fostering a positive environment internally to facilitate effective functioning of the organization, and externally to provide quality service and products to customers. The better the leader, the better the internal environment and final product will be.

A Project Manager in an organization has just as much responsibility and accountability to be a great leader. Both the CEO and the Project Manager are responsible for creating an organized and humane environment for employees to work within, and creating a quality end product or service. CEO’s are responsible for leading their entire organization and as a figure head, they represent the ultimate quality of the work their employees produce and provide. Although a Project Manager is not leading on a macro level, they are responsible for leading their team members and as the figure head of the team, they represent the quality of the work that the team produces.

But Project Managers usually have the additional challenge of having to lead a team of people who do not necessarily report directly to them. This means that the Project Manager must be even a better leader to be able to motivate and guide the team. But what does a Project Manager do to become a great leader, capable of inspiring team members to work with integrity and quality both individually and as a team?

For this, it is best to look to others who have demonstrated excellent leadership capabilities and qualities. In 2002, Oren Harari wrote the book, “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell”. In this book, Oren is able to summarize eighteen principles which make a great leader. One important principle that the book teaches is that great leaders are vigilant about details, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” As a Project Manager, you need to be able to stay on top of all of the details. The more organized and disciplined you are, the easier it will be to manage your projects. Colin Powell’s priority is to stay on top of the details and this has turned into a daily habit. Project Managers need to develop this daily discipline of vigilance over details.

Another key aspect of Colin Powell’s effective leadership style is his belief in the fact that although plans are important, it is people who get things done. Colin Powell states that every task is important: “I also believe, to the depth of my heart, that there is no job in the [organization] that is unimportant. I believe that everybody has a vital role to play, and it is my job to communicate and convey down through every layer to the last person in the organization, the valuable role that they are performing and how what they do contributes to the mission. We have to be linked.” As a Project Manager, you need to be communicating to everyone on your team, the importance of their tasks, the importance of their role to the project, and how this fits into the big picture of the organization. Colin Powell’s ability to stay on top of details and communicate the importance of each person’s role, has earned him the respect for being a great leader as he has been able to consistency deliver successful initiatives. As Project Managers, we can learn from Colin Powell’s example and model these qualities, to bring our projects to successful completion.

For a project to be of a high quality, the leadership must be of a high quality. Project Managers as leaders must be able to demonstrate their concern for quality in the details of the work and in the details of each person performing the tasks. Excellence and quality must be integral to every task and every person involved on a project. Project Managers who are great leaders know how to keep the team focused on the quality of the tasks by staying on top of the details and communicating the importance of each team member’s role.

Janet Williams

Janet Williams, associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced Business Consultant, Project Manager and Instructor. Janet specializes in Project Management and Business Process Improvement and has worked for the Public and Private Sector, including non-profit organizations. In her consulting and project management work Janet's focus has been to help organizations navigate and manage change as they implement their strategic objectives. She assists organizations with strategic assessments, analyzing problems and providing recommendations for corrective actions. Based on the needs of the organization, Janet provides project leadership and project team support. Throughout the project life cycle Janet builds and manages effective project teams, creates solid project plans and ensures communication reaches all levels of the organization.