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Pragmatic Leadership in Stakeholder Management

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One of the key roles of a successful project manager is to provide effective leadership to a range of stakeholders, including the project team, suppliers and contractors. But leadership is not as simple as having a position in the organization chart and managing processes.

Pragmatic leadership is a choice you make to influence other people's thinking to act in the interests of the project and the organization. Pragmatic leadership adds the power of directed motivation and a commitment to success that significantly improves routine operations within the project and becomes essential when problems are encountered.

It's a balance between managing and leading. Management skills and technical knowledge are important in determining the appropriate work, but leadership generates the motivation that translates into willingness to do the work.

The art of leadership in project management is developing commitment from your stakeholders -- making the successful completion of your project important to each individual. This needs more than effective management processes.

Effective management defines schedules, work assignments and performance criteria. It's about compliance and procedures to ensure quality, safety and other key requirements are met. Management is largely taught and focuses on process skills.

Leadership is about creating commitment to the work. A great leader understands the task and inspires the team. Leadership is a more complex process derived from combinations of self-esteem, confidence, credibility, the ability to communicate clearly and a willingness to listen and engage with people.

Leadership skills can be learned, but they have to be based within a leader's inherent personal characteristics to be authentic.  

Leadership adds the power of directed motivation and a commitment to success that significantly improves routine operations within the project and becomes essential when problems are encountered. The bigger the disaster, the more important it becomes to have a committed team-- to survive a major setback, each individual needs to be willing to do what's necessary.

How do you see your pragmatic leadership skills developing?


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This is fine for the stakeholders you mention - project team, suppliers and contractors - but the reality is that your key stakeholders are not people you have direct influence over - namely the project sponsors, clients and other end users, usually the ones who pay your salary.

These stakeholders require a much more subtle kind of leadership and really you move away from stakeholder management into relationship management. This requires a very different set of skills and is where so many project managers are found wanting!

I liked your article as it provokes thought.

I would submit that the use of language is so important in that our words shape our world and the results we produce. "Practical" leadership will shape and limit the results of a project manager. If practical results are required and all parties are willing to settle for practical, then by all means be "practical" in one's thinking, language, and actions.

If extraordinary results are truly the intention, then extraordinary thinking, language, and action are required! The extraordinary is declared and the project manager is now accountable for being extraordinary....and holds him/herself accountable for that and is highly intentional, communicating to the team the intention, and holds them accountable.

Being extraordinary as a leader is a bit like exercise, it takes persistence and consistency. Team members enjoy being accountable, accomplishing extraordinary results, and breaking through the very same limitations that seemingly hold others back.

The Leader - is an active listener, invites ideas, speaks of the values, manages integrity, and takes on the real underlying issues that are not distinguished in managing scope, schedule, and budget alone.

Thanks for this post.

Leadership is challenging but also very motivating. To deliver a project in time and in budget is of course positive and important, but even if missing some of those baselines, it's many times more rewarding in a complexe and demanding project if the team and all stakeholders also really can feel the success.

That they are proud of being part of the project and having fun yet working a lot. That drives me, but it is also the challenge. I need to learn how to systematically face every challenge, complaint or problem as an opportunity to steer the boat from the headwind to the tailwind.


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