The Secret Ingredient for Successful Project Leadership


Dr Lynda Bourne, PMP, FAIM, FACS

International Faculty, University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, (UQAC), CANADA
Visiting Professor, EAN University, COLOMBIA
CEO, Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd

Melbourne, Australia



When it comes to understanding how to ensure the successful delivery of organisational value, stakeholder engagement has been one of the best kept secrets. There is now an emerging recognition of the importance of people in the formula for success: recognition that projects are really about ‘people doing work for the benefit of other people’. As a result, there must also be recognition that an essential role of the project leader is to ensure effective consultation with stakeholders and to convince the organisation’s executive of the benefit of doing so.

For decades project management literature and research have identified the need to focus on stakeholder engagement as a means for delivery of value to organisations through successful delivery of a project’s objectives – whether product, service or result. At the same time organisations are requiring the project leadership to do more with less. It should come as no surprise then, that senior managers in organisations are resisting calls to spend more time (and therefore more funds) on additional communication to build the necessary relationships between the project (or organisation) and its stakeholders.

In studies of extractive industries around the world, including South America and New Guinea, it has become increasing clear that neglecting the lives and economies of the indigenous communities will cause a backlash that can lead to early closing of these projects and often radical action from those most affected. The findings of each of these studies have shown that a long-term peaceful and profitable resolution will only come from consultation with those who are affected – not just their leaders. This is an example of how timely stakeholder engagement with its consequent additional consultation, communication and negotiation will add value to the project and all the partner organisations – a practice that is not always supported by the management of those organisations.

This conceptual paper draws on some case studies of projects within the extractive industries in New Guinea and South America to develop arguments that may persuade corporate executives to apply more funding and support on stakeholder engagement activities within their own organisations. The paper will focus on the value of stakeholders to an organisation through emphasis on the connection between risk management and effective stakeholder engagement activities. It also provides guidance to project leaders on how to encourage and assist organisational leadership improve stakeholder engagement activities. Suggestions for further research will be included.

Key words: stakeholder, stakeholder engagement, maturity models, organisational value

JEL codes: M14, G32, F6


Just as each project is unique, so are its stakeholders! Whether as individuals, groups or organisations, every stakeholder and every stakeholder community has a unique and evolving set of cultures, expectations and perceptions. To deal with this environment, when managers engage with these diverse communities the traditional approach of regular reports and other ‘one size fits all’ strategies needs to be replaced, or at least intelligently enhanced, especially in major extractive programs involving affected communities (Bourne, 2015). Effective communication takes into account the complexity of the people who work with or benefit from the outcomes of the program, and works to engage the constantly changing group of people whose support and involvement are essential to success. This type of engagement requires ongoing consultation and recognition of the importance of all stakeholders to the successful delivery of value to the organisation. At the same time, the organisation’s financial imperatives require its leaders, including project managers, to do more with less. The paradox is that it takes more time and focus to effectively engage and consult with stakeholders, to maximise value and enhance corporate reputation at a time when resources including time and people are increasingly restricted. It’s necessary to spend money to make money.

The findings of studies of extractive industries around the world, including South America and New Guinea, have shown that a peaceful (and financially efficient) resolution will only come from early and frequent consultation with the communities who are most affected – not just their leaders. Stakeholder engagement with its consequent additional consultation, communication and negotiation has been shown to add value to the project outcomes and all the partner organisations no matter how large or small the project or program.

This conceptual paper draws on some case studies of projects within the extractive industries in New Guinea and South America to develop and describe the connection between risk management and stakeholder engagement, and describe ways that project leaders can the organisation’s financial community of the benefits of early consultation, instead of the compensation claims, costs of sabotage and lost reputation that have plagued extractive programs such as the ones described in this paper. Finally, suggestions for further research will be discussed.


To read entire paper (click here)

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 5th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2016. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.



About the Author

Dr Lynda Bourne

Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd.
Melbourne, Australia


Dr. Lynda Bourne
 is Managing Director of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd – an Australian based company with partners in South America and Europe. Through this global network she works with organisations to manage change through managing the relationships essential for successful delivery of organisational outcomes.  Lynda was the first graduate of the RMIT University, Doctor of Project Management course, where her research was focussed on tools and techniques for more effective stakeholder engagement. She has been recognised in the field of project management through her work on development of project and program management standards. She was also included in PMI’s list of 50 most influential women in PM.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) and a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). She is a recognized international speaker and seminar leader on the topic of stakeholder management, the Stakeholder Circle® visualization tool, and building credibility and reputation for more effective communication.  She has extensive experience as a Senior Project Manager and Project Director specializing in delivery of information technology and other business-related projects within the telecommunications sector, working as a Senior IT Project Management Consultant with various telecommunications companies in Australia and South East Asia (primarily in Malaysia) including senior roles with Optus and Telstra.

Dr Bourne’s publications include: Stakeholder Relationship Management, now in 2nd edition, published in 2009, Advising Upwards published in 2011, and Making Projects Work, published in 2015. She has also contributed to books on stakeholder engagement, and has published papers in many academic and professional journals and is blogger for PMI’s Voices on Project Management. Dr. Bourne can be contacted at [email protected]