As projects increase in complexity and diversify across countries and cultures, the pivotal role of project integration is fundamental to achieving project results.
Effective project integration cannot be achieved without effective project leadership, therefore project integration and project leadership must be entwined.
Exemplary project leadership is an aspiration of many, but in reality it’s an elusive goal.
Every project is different and to produce the ‘whole’ by adding together the sum of its parts relies on an understanding of a myriad of different techniques and multiple project processes, integrating them with the common denominator of managing and leading human beings.
It is important therefore to understand the differences between management and leadership:
- A Leader is a person who rules, guides or inspires others, while leadership is the process of influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
- Leadership is organising a group of people to achieve a common goal. Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits, situational interaction, function, behaviour, power, vision and values, charisma and intelligence, among others.
- Management is the act of coordinating the efforts of people to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management is the planning, organising, staffing, leading, directing and controlling of an organisation (a group of one or more people or entities) for the purpose of accomplishing a goal.
Leadership may encompass such words as passion, vision and influence, as well as charisma and exemplary interpersonal and communication skills, while management descriptors are more likely to be about goal and objective setting, organising, controlling/monitoring, directing, and delivery of bottom line results.
Projects are unique and situational in context, so whether you need a leader or manager will vary. There is no perfect answer, in as much as there are no ‘perfect leaders’.
Leaders of yesterday, like Brunel, were not perfect – they had not been classically trained in project management nor the methods of project integration but they knew integration management was an element that coordinated all aspects of a project.
It was a given that project integration, when performed properly, ensured that all the processes of a project ran smoothly.
The Clifton Suspension bridge, completed in 1864, was as much about successful understanding of people, integration and leadership as the Millau viaduct, completed in 2004 in the South of France. Two stunning projects of different eras, different technologies, but delivered by people in projects.
Leaders then, as now, need to understand who they are in order to be able to adapt to different leadership styles.
The unpredictable and unique differences that arise in significant and sizeable projects necessitate leaders who can adapt their style to suit the circumstances they face – being able to take stock, reference and reflect on where you are within the project to adapt and to cope with any of the prevailing conditions.
It should be no surprise when we look at the leaders of the past who were pioneers of innovation, engineering and science, that they were also project managers par excellence.
True leaders, whether they knew it then or not, remain experts in the field of integration management.