Good Manager and Good Leader in Project Management

In our text, Chapter 10 Leadership: Being and Effective Project Manager states the following section in Managing versus Leading a Project:

In a perfect world, the project manager would simply implement the project plan and the project would be completed. The project manager would work with others to formulate a schedule, organize a project team, keep track of progress, and announce what needs to be done next, and then everyone would charge along. Of course no one lives in a perfect world, and rarely does everything go according to plan. Project participants get testy; they fail to complement each other; other departments are unable to fulfill their commitments; technical glitches arise; work takes longer than expected. The project manager’s job is to get the project back on track. A manager expedites certain activities; figures out ways to solve technical problems; serves as peacemaker when tensions rise; and makes appropriate tradeoffs among time, cost, and scope of the project. However, project managers do more than put out fires and keep the project on track. They also innovate and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. They often have to deviate from what was planned and introduce significant changes in the project scope and schedule to respond to unforeseen threats or opportunities.


I have lead and participated in my fair share of failed projects, because as stated in the text we do not live in a perfect world. I think the biggest reason my failed projects failed was due to lack of engagement and commitment in the team. When the business needs to get something done, it gets done. We have our fair share of people who can rally the team when needed, but all the small “like to haves” or “better than” projects seem to fail because people are not interested in continuous improvement when they have to struggle to keep their heads above water when trying to complete their own work let alone a project. That is why this section resonated with me, “the project manager has to innovate and adapt to ever-changing circumstances”. This type of flexibility is critical in any and all projects. I know that in my world in healthcare we have more failures than we have success, but we keep persisting because those successes are worth all the effort to get. One common thread in my successful projects that I found to be most enjoyable to participate in, was that I had a good manager and a good leader. The text describes the difference in a leader and manager in the project as, “Good management brings about order and stability by formulating plans and objectives, designing structures and procedures, monitoring results against plans, and taking corrective action when necessary. Leadership involves recognizing and articulating the need to significantly alter the direction and operation of the project, aligning people to the new direction, and motivating them to work together to overcome hurdles produced by the change and to realize new objectives.”


Have you ever participated in a project with a great leader and a great manager? Or on the other hand, have you ever participated in a project with a poor leader and a poor manager? What were the results?