January 17, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Leadership and the Project Manager – What Leadership Role to Adopt?

Source: The Project Manager, Author Louise Worsley

This article is about the important aspect of leadership and what type of leadership role the project manager should adopt.

In projects, the leadership role of the project manager must be focused on ‘action’ leadership while the sponsor must take the ‘visionary’ and political leadership positions for the project to have any chance of success.  This will be explained by looking at the Pentagon model of project leadership.

Pentagon model of project leadership

The pentagon model of project leadership suggests five distinct leadership roles.  These do not operate in isolation, but are necessary elements contributing to the leadership of change. Individuals may take on several of these leadership roles, or more than one person may contribute to one area. However, an absence or failure of leadership in any one of these key areas will put at risk the entire project or programme.
Leadership and the Project Manager


Ethics and the personal responsibilities of the project manager

The professional bodies in project management all have a code of ethics for project managers.  The PMI’s code of ethics is summed up as:

As practitioners of project management, we are committed to doing what is right and honorable. We set high standards for ourselves and we aspire to meet these standards in all aspects of our lives—at work, at home, and in service to our profession.

The Association for Project Management identify that project managers have personal responsibilities that go “beyond those immediately implied by their contract with employers or clients”.  This is expanded upon further and two statements are particularly relevant to this discussion.  The project manager should:

  • act in the best interests of their employer and clients in all business and professional matters,  having regard to wider public interest concerns and those of any employer or colleague;
  • declare and appropriately manage all matters which are, or could be construed as, a conflict of interests.

On complex projects, project managers are inevitably faced with conflicts of interest.  The most important personal attributes for successful project managers relate to having the integrity (and in some cases bravery) to expose these concerns, and the tenacity to engage as vigorously as required with all stakeholders to seek out the best possible solutions. Managing conflict, in the sense of identifying and finding negotiated solutions to often complex competing stakeholder agendas, is part of the day-job for project managers involved in politically sensitive projects.

Louise Worsley is Director of PiCubed and lectures on the UCT executive development programme.  You may contact her at: info@pi3.co.za

Please share your thoughts about Leadership and Project Managers in the comments section below.


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  1. The Project Manager | Information Technology says:

    […] complex Projects, Project managers are inevitably faced with conflicts of interest. The most important personal attributes […]