Leadership and Project Management

One of the more interesting questions I am often asked about project management is: do I need leadership skills to be an effective project manager? And I use the word “effective” carefully, because, to me, all effective project managers have strong leadership skills PMP certification. That’s not to say you can’t become a project manager with poor leadership skills, but you are unlikely to become an effective project manager.

One of the most insightful descriptions of leadership I have read was given to the student-officers at a Training Camp at Fort Sheridan, by Major C. A. Bach during World War One. These men were about to be commissioned and sent to the front in France. Excerpts of his talk follow. So what is leadership, and can you teach yourself these skills.

“In a short time each of you men will control the lives of a certain number of other men. ….When you join your organization you will find there a willing body of men who ask from you nothing more than the qualities that will command their respect, their loyalty and their obedience. They are perfectly ready and eager to follow you so long as you can convince them that you have these qualities.

When the time comes that they are satisfied you do not possess them you might as well kiss yourself good-bye. Your usefulness in that organization is at an end. In a few days the great mass of you men will receive commissions as officers. These commissions will not make you leaders; they will merely make you officers. They will place you in a position where you can become leaders if you possess the proper attributes.”