The Six Deadly Sins of Project Management Leadership

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Sin 2: You think you’re the smartest person in the room

Ron Johnson, the now fired chief of JC Penney, came to the job with a radical vision for the company. When he explained some of his ideas for change, senior management told him many of them would never work. They were right. But Johnson, who was wildly successful as the head of Apple’s retail stores (a much different business than selling discount clothing), was so convinced of his “rightness” he ignored their advice. The result: an unmitigated financial and public relations disaster. Ironically, he’s gone, but his advisors stayed on.

Antidote: You may have great ideas, but so does your team. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Listen more, speak less. As Larry King said, he never learns anything when he’s talking. You won’t either.

Gone are the days of top-down structures. In today’s “flatter” and more cross-functional world, leadership is needed everywhere. Organizations require that everyone, including their project managers, take up the baton. For too long, project managers were viewed by others, and themselves, more as mechanics assigned to “fix” a problem, rather than a critical leadership resource responsible for implementing the organization’s strategy.

The successful twenty-first century project manager (PM) must exhibit a wide range of leadership skills to guide cross-functional teams in the pursuit of delivering value and excellence through projects, programs, and other major initiatives. Beware of the following six sins of project management leadership, identified by J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, executive vice president, ESI International, as any one of them will undermine your ability to function at the highest levels of performance.


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