On Leadership

A collection of viewpoints on leadership by recognized thought leaders from around the project management world



By Yu Yanjuan

PMR Magazine




There have been many quotes on leadership since ancient times.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” This is ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s description about good leadership.

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” This is definition of leadership given by Peter Drucker.

In the field of project management, leadership is mentioned with increasing frequency. “Projects, programmes and portfolios increasingly rely on leadership,” IPMA ICB 4.0 noted. In the 6th version of PMBOK Guide, there is a new section about the role of project managers, talking about PMI talent triangle which includes leadership.

So what is leadership? PMBOK Guide defines leadership as “the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to guide, motivate, and direct a team to help an organization to achieve its business goals”. In IPMA ICB 4.0, leadership means providing direction and guidance to individuals and groups. It involves the ability to choose and apply appropriate styles of management in different situations. Besides displaying leadership with his or her team, the individual needs to be seen as a leader in representing the project to senior management and other interested parties.

And IPMA has released Human Leadership Manifesto: Unleashing human potential over employing human resources; Diversity and dissent over conformity and consensus; Purpose and trust over command and control; Contributions to networks over position in hierarchies; Creating leaders over leading followers; and Courageously exploring the new over efficiently exploiting the old.

On social media, there are quite a lot of articles that make distinctions between managers and leaders. A good manager is not necessarily a good leader. Peter Docker has pointed out, “Management is about handling complexity. Leadership is about creating simplicity. ” Grace Hopper says, “You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forget leadership.”

Leadership is not only competence that can be attained via learning,but also an art, as Warren Bennis said, “To an extent, leadership is like beauty: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”

In multi-cultural rapidly-changing digital age, what does good leadership look like? What are the important leadership competences? Here are a collection of experts’ viewpoints.

Yu Yanjuan
PMR Magazine


Collection of Viewpoints

Good leadership provides purpose, direction and space to maneuver for people to get things done. It´s of utmost importance to engage the right people. This means, searching and selecting talents matching the tasks given in a project. And then, let them organize the tasks by themselves, do not intervene and trust that the team will find a suitable way towards the target state. The leader is like a gardener, you will plant the seeds, provide the necessary ingredients and protect the growth from adverse influences. Support the development of the team, for example through facilitation, supervision and mentoring. But the more you intervene, the more the team will lean back and wait on your interventions (and stop doing it on their own).

Good leaders are humble, not dominant, supporting the growth of others and not being too much focused on themselves. One leadership competence is forward looking, understanding future scenarios, developing roadmaps and “making sense” to activities of an organization. Second, setting the right context for a project team is more helpful than performing micro management. A leader is taking care for the business case and the strategic direction, providing suitable resources and space for the team. The skills listed in the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline related to the competence element “leadership” include but are not limited to personal self-awareness, listening skills, emotional strength, capacity to express and share values, creating team spirit, communication and (virtual) team development. I personally add “cultural awareness” to this list, especially in a culturally diverse context this competence is crucial for success.

– Reinhard Wagner



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Editor’s note: This collection of viewpoints was originally published in PM Review magazine in China (http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/). It is republished here as a courtesy to PMR and the various authors. Republished with permission of PMR.

How to cite this article: PM Review (2018). On Leadership: A collection of viewpoints on leadership by recognized thought leaders from around the project management world; PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue IX – September.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/pmwj74-Sep2018-PMR-On-Leadership.pdf


About the Author

Yu Yanjuan

Beijing, China




Yu Yanjuan, Bachelor’s Degree, graduated from the English Department of Beijing International Studies University (BISU) in China. She is now an English-language journalist and editor working for Project Management Review Magazine and website. In the past, she has worked as a journalist and editor for China Manned Space Agency website and Student English Times. She once worked part-time as English teacher in training centers. For work contact, she can be reached via email [email protected] or Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanjuan-yu-76b280151/.