PMI-Montréal project management blog

Letters to a young project manager: Second letter

Author : François Cartier
This second letter picks up where the first left off: The right approaches to exercising better leadership. The frame of reference is the article "Speak the Language of Leadership" Bristol and Yeatts, PMI Global Congress Proceedings 2010, and the book "On Becoming a Leader" Bennis, 2009.

"Power follows ideas, not position." Bennis. In project management, it is imperative to distinguish two roles: the role of manager (manager) and the role of leader.

The two are complementary and necessary. The manager imparts his knowledge on how to optimize the resources of the project to deliver efficiently. The leader acts and influences the behavior of his resources to produce the anticipated results. The following chart compares these two roles: 





Question how and when

Question what and why

Oriented on systems

Oriented on people

Do things right

Do the right things



Oriented on control

Inspire confidence

Oriented on the short term

Focused on the long term

Accept the statut quo

Challenge the status quo

Flush the immediate result

Scan the horizon



Act like a good soldier

Be authentic


Demonstrate originality

 The manager's role is natural when the person has authority over his resources. In a matrix-type approach, where a project manager has little authority over his resources, the role of the leader is often played. But how can the young project manager transition smoothly from one role to another with ease and efficiency? How can he develop and exercise leadership?

Tip # 4: Considering that managerial skills can be taught more easily than leadership skills, the young project manager must search for one or several mentors who will allow him to question and refine hisleadership role. The mentoring program at PMI-Montreal is often the most practical solution. It is normal for us,Project Managers,to go through tough times:

  • First, if the projectswere easy, they would not need us. Most of the projects entrusted to us are complex and have little chance of success, according to statistics (ref.ChaosManifesto2013).
  • Furthermore, the young project manager can find the imposed challenge cruel and never-ending,which may result in a withering critique, a defeat, a termination.

Tip # 5: At the pinnacle of the storm, when you start to weaken, consider that this test can teach you something and that this light must accompany you to the exit. At the time you may not understand what it can bring. But this challenge could transform you and make you a better project manager.

According to Warren Bennis, the true leaders have all suffered cruel trials that have transformed them: "The Individual brings certain attributes into the crucible and emerges with new improved leadership skills.”   In conclusion, the journey through the desert is shorter when accompanied by a mentor...

The next letter will specify how to exercise one’s leadership in project mode.