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  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 1 of 11

    4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader

    Eric A. Wright, Ph.D., CIA, PMP

    Mohamad S. Hammoud, Ph.D., PMP

    Introduction

    In life, models are useful. In the context of project management, they help us

    conceptualize and simplify some of the complexity of managing projects. The waterfall model,

    network diagram, and the project triangle are three examples that come to mind. This meaning

    and awareness in our minds can guide our actions towards project success.

    A key factor in project success is project leadership (Geoghegan & Dulewicz, 2008; Gray

    & Larson, 2008; Jiang, Klein, & Chen, 2001; Sumner, Bock, & Giamartino, 2006; Turner &

    Mller, 2005). There are many models of leadership, some of them are complex and contain

    moving parts, which does not reduce complexity. However, over the course of many years

    practicing and teaching project management, we have found one leadership model that is simple; it

    looks just like the project managers dual role as technical manager and sociocultural team leader

    (Goodman, 1993, as reported in Neuhauser, 2007; Gray & Larson, 2008; Wright, 2012). We refer

    to it as the behavioral leadership model project management, and project managers can use it to

    think about project leadership in a clear, repeatable manner.

    First, the behavioral leadership model project management (BLMPM) is simple as it has

    only three constructs: technical, sociocultural, and balance. Balance is the ability of the project

    manager to apply either a technical or a sociocultural behavior based on the situation. Second, it is

    the basis for the project managers role and responsibilities, as depicted in Figure 1 in the section

    The Model. Thinking about project leadership in this manner serves to create awareness of our

    preferred leadership behavior (Kim, 2009). Third, this models dimensions have been well

    researched and shown to be a key critical success factor in project success (Ammeter & Dukerich,

    2002; Geoghegan & Dulewicz, 2008; Jiang et al., 2001; Judge, Piccolo, & Ilies, 2004; Keller,

    2006; Prabhakar, 2005; Sumner et al., 2006; Turner & Mller, 2005). Fourth, project management

    scholars endorse it (Kerzner, 2006; Prabhakar, 2005).

    The remainder of this article presents the theory grounding the behavioral leadership

    model, a discussion of its extension into the project environment, Figure 1, its evolution into its

    current form as the behavioral leadership model project management, Figure 2, and the process for

    applying the behavioral leadership model project management in the project environment. A self-

    assessment instrument and scoring sheet are included in the Appendices. Reading this article and

    completing the self-assessment instrument will save busy project managers time and help them

    become aware of their preferred leadership behavior. This understanding can help them optimize

    project performance by developing their leadership style further (Gehring, 2007; Geoghegan &

    Dulewicz, 2008; Jacques, Garger, & Thomas, 2008; Sumner et al., 2006).

    http://www.pmworldjournal.net/http://www.pmworldlibrary.net/

  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 2 of 11

    The Model

    Behavioral leadership theory states that leadership style can be reduced to two major

    constructs: (a) initiating structure is a concern for task and (b) consideration is a concern for

    people (Jacques et al., 2008; Judge et al., 2004; Neuhauser, 2007; Robbins, 2005). Defining roles

    and relationships, communication channels, patterns of organization, and methods of performing

    work characterize initiating structure, while friendship, mutual trust, and respect characterize

    consideration (Blanchard & Hersey, 1970). These two constructs are represented in the project

    environment by the project managers dual role of technical and sociocultural (Goodman, 1993, as

    reported in Neuhauser, 2007; Gray & Larson, 2008). The concept of technical involves managing

    the project system of schedule, cost, scope, and quality (i.e., tasks) and sociocultural involves

    leading the project team and managing the project culture (i.e., people; Goodman, 1993, as

    reported in Neuhauser, 2007; Gray & Larson, 2011). Together, behavioral leadership in the

    project environment is behaving to influence a group of people (project team) towards achieving

    goals (project system of scope, schedule, cost, and quality) (Prabhakar, 2005).

    For example, during the planning stage project objectives, the project leader uses initiating

    structure to set goals, organize resources, and establish schedules (Kerzner, 2008; Prabhakar,

    2005). Later, during the project execution stage, the project leader uses consideration to

    communicate with and actively listen to project team members and stakeholders (Kerzner, 2008).

    Jacques et al. (2008), Kerzner (2006), and Prabhakar (2005) added that some project managers

    might exercise a third option, balance, which is a preference for exercising either initiating

    structure or consideration depending upon the situation or project lifecycle stage. This concept of

    adaptability in response to the situation rests on another leadership theory that there is no one best

    style of leadership or way to influence project team members (McLaurin, 2006).

    The model produced by adding balance to Figure 1 is depicted in Figure 2 below. We

    have arrived at the behavioral leadership model project management. It is predicated on the

    project managers roles and behaviors, and it is adapted to the project environment.

    http://www.pmworldjournal.net/http://www.pmworldlibrary.net/

  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 3 of 11

    Figure 1. Relationship between the behavioral leadership model and the project managers role.

    Figure 2. Behavioral Leadership Model Project Management (BLMPM).

    Technical Sociocultural Balance

    (Situation)

    * Circa 1940s

    ** Circa 2008

    Initiating

    Structure*

    (Manage

    Tasks)

    Consideration*

    (Lead People) +

    Management Environment

    Technical**

    (Project

    System)

    Sociocultural**

    (Project

    Team)

    +

    Project Managers Role

    Project Environment

    Behavioral Leadership

    Model

    Technical

    (Project

    System)

    Sociocultural

    (Project

    Team)

    Project Managers Behaviors & (Roles)

    Project Environment

    Balance

    (Situation)

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  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 4 of 11

    4 Steps of Model Application

    Successful leaders respond with behaviors appropriate to the situation (Wright, 2012). Using the behavioral leadership model project management to think about project leadership in the

    context of the situation at hand or project life cycle stage can help the project manager respond

    appropriately versus intuitively. After determining your preferred leadership behavior (i.e.

    technical, sociocultural, or balance) by completing the self-assessment instrument at the end of

    this article, applying the model might look something like the following:

    1. Analyze project situations as they arise to;

    2. Identify the nature of the problem: technical, sociocultural, or a combination thereof, and;

    3. Respond with the like leadership behavior, technical-to-technical or sociocultural-to-sociocultural, then;

    4. Monitor the situation for problem resolution, persistence, or transformation to another problem type (i.e. technical to sociocultural or sociocultural to technical). If problem not

    resolved, repeat steps 1-4 as many times as necessary to achieve problem resolution.

    Thinking through these four steps as needed provides the project manager with a simple,

    repeatable process that helps match the appropriate behavioral leadership response to the situation.

    This ability to switch leadership behaviors in response to a project situation or lifecycle stage can

    increase the success of the project (Kerzner, 2006; Prabhakar, 2005).

    For example, a project manager that prefers the technical leadership behavior identifies a

    project schedule delay and begins investigating why, and learns that a key programmer is under-

    performing, which is causing the delay. Is the under-performance due to challenging code,

    outdated software, or multi-tasking across projects (i.e. project system), or is it due to issues at

    home, or changes in sleep patterns, or depression (i.e. project team). The project manager speaks

    with the programmer, and learns of the arrival of the programmers new baby, which is disrupting

    sleep patterns and decreasing task focus, speed, and accuracy. The considerate project manager

    extends congratulations to the programmer, and works with him to modify his office hours, which

    proves effective in the end; resolving the schedule delay. She responded with the leadership

    behavior appropriate to the situation, sociocultural, and what appeared at first blush to be a

    technical problem, was resolved.

    Conclusion

    Project leadership is a key factor in project success. A useful model for thinking about

    project leadership is the behavioral leadership model project management, or BLMPM. This model

    is simple, as it provides a basis for the project managers role, responsibilities, and leadership

    behaviors; it creates awareness of the project managers preferred leadership behavior; it has been

    well researched and shown to be a key critical success factor in project success; and project

    management scholars advocate it.

    http://www.pmworldjournal.net/http://www.pmworldlibrary.net/

  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 5 of 11

    The behavioral leadership model project management has three concepts: technical,

    sociocultural, and balance. The concept of technical involves managing the project system of

    schedule, cost, scope, and quality (i.e., tasks) and the concept of sociocultural involves leading the

    project team (i.e., people). The concept of balance involves exercising either the technical or

    sociocultural concepts depending upon the situation or project lifecycle stage. Technical has been

    found to be a strong predictor of schedule and cost performance, profitability, and speed to market,

    all outcomes of managing the project system activities (Judge et al., 2004; Keller, 2006), and

    leaders rated high in consideration are associated with higher levels of team member satisfaction,

    commitment, and performance (OReilly & Roberts, 1978).

    Project managers that recognize their preferred leadership behavior can develop their

    leadership style further, optimizing project performance. For example, if a technical-predominant

    project manager develops sociocultural skills, they engage the team on a more personal level,

    which can increase performance in the team. Likewise, if a sociocultural-predominant project

    manager develops technical skills, project performance can be enhanced through better project

    system management.

    Completing and scoring the BEHAVIORAL LEADERSHIP MODEL PROJECT

    MANAGEMENT QUESTIONNAIRE located in this articles appendices will provide the project

    manager with an understanding of their preferred leadership behavior.

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  • PM World Journal 4 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Project Leader Vol. II, Issue VIII August 2013 by Eric A. Wright, PhD www.pmworldjournal.net Featured Paper & Mohamad S. Hammoud, PhD

    2013 Eric A. Wright & Mohamad S. Hammoud www.pmworldlibrary.net Page 6 of 11

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    Blanchard, K. H., & Hersey, P. (1970). A leadership theory for educational administrators.

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