Facilitative Leadership


Facilitative Leader and Leadership development during a mega project implementation phase: A case study

By Chrisjan R van Wyk,

Institute of Transdisciplinary Development,

Pretoria, South Africa


Organisations are turning to project managers to deliver one-of-a-kind or complex initiatives required to remain competitive. Despite the formalisation of the project management profession up to 65% of industrial capital projects fail to meet business objectives. Research literature suggests that project managers require leader and leadership skills to contribute to the successful completion of projects, meeting business objectives and ensuring customer satisfaction throughout the project life cycle. Fortunately, leader and leadership skills can be developed, but due to the uniqueness and temporary nature of projects different methodologies are required to develop these skills.

This study utilised a case study research approach and evaluated the benefits of facilitative leader and leadership development of the project management team on a mega project over a two-year period. Facilitative development combined the benefits of on-the-job training linked to a strategic business goal, action learning, coaching and the development of the emotional intelligence of the project management team.

This research shows that the development of the emotional intelligence of the project management team during the project contributed to both the personal development of each team member and enhanced the efficacy of the management team. The two-year development process entrenched the learning and development of the leader and leadership skills of the project team members. This development contributed to the successful completion and ramp up of the project. The model developed from this research can contribute to the continuous development of project managers and project teams to enhance the success rate of capital projects.


As organizations are required to change and adapt in the new millennium project management is seen as the “new” form of general management used to scope, plan and deliver one-of-a-kind or complex initiatives (Pant and Baroudi, 2008). Despite the formalization of project management as a profession and the development of systems and tools to assist projects and project managers, 65% of industrial projects with budgets larger than $1 billion (in 2010 real terms) to meet business objectives (Merrow, 2011).

The current mostly used standard approach to project management is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) (2013a) guide, developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Although the PMBOK® guide states that “effective project managers require a balance of technical, interpersonal, and conceptual skills that will help them analyze situations and interact appropriately…” they offer little in how to acquire or use interpersonal and leadership skills effectively on projects. Project leadership is required to influence management, peers and stakeholders to buy-in to the vision of the project and ensure alignment in defining the project objectives (Cleland, 1995). The uniqueness and temporary nature of projects and project teams imply that traditional leader and leadership development will not be as effective as what is used for operational organizations. The question is therefore not “is leadership development required?” but rather “how must project leadership development be approached in project organizations?” A balanced approach to teaching the technical (hard) and interpersonal (soft) skills of leadership will contribute to more successful project outcomes (Cleland, 1995; Pant and Baroudi, 2008; Day, 2000; Thompson, 2010). Leaders learn and develop through challenging work, solving complex problems and leading teams (Hirst et al., 2004).


The research objectives are: (1) to investigate and determine the benefit of leader and leadership development of the project management team during the implementation phase of a mega mining project as a case in South Africa, and (2) to determine if the leader and leadership development approach had a sustainable impact on the leader and leadership skills of the project management team.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 3rd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in May 2016.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.



About the Author

Chrisjan van Wyk

Pretoria, South Africa


Chrisjan van Wyk
has a mechanical engineering background and has been involved in projects in the metals and minerals industry since 1992. He started his career in project management in 2001. He has managed various projects as a client project manager as well as project manager for the EPCM’s or EPC contractors.

His project experience includes executing projects in steel plants, platinum smelters, base metal refineries, sulphuric acid plants, diamond processing plants, uranium processing plants, open pit iron ore mining and processing. Infrastructure projects included railway lines, water pumping systems, roads, municipal services and housing developments.

His strengths are strategic thinking, project execution strategy, leadership and team development. He believes that successful projects are delivered by successful teams and therefore places a huge focus on leadership, team development and team integration.

He completed his M.Eng in project management (Cum Laude) in 2015. He also founded a consulting company in 2015 which focuses on the leadership development of project managers and project teams to contribute to project success. He can be contacted at [email protected].