Project LeadershipProject Management

Taking the Plunge: Transforming from Mere Manager to Lucrative Leader

What exactly distinguishes a project leader from a project manager? Susanne Madsen has interviewed Benoit Jolin, Head of Global Supplier Experience at Expedia, to uncover his secrets to being a successful project leader.

Qualities to Keep, Mistakes to Avoid

There are two components that separate leaders from managers. First, a manager needs to possess the proper qualities to become a leader in the first place. They earn their authority and lead by influence. Second, their drive lies in the proper execution of the project. Past performance reflects future achievement.

Then there are the mistakes project managers make that hold them back from being leaders: losing sight of the end goal, inadequate ability to assess risk early, and not possessing enough courage. Project managers too often lose sight of the big picture and get stuck in an endless loop of the now, procrastinating moving forward. They do not look at assumptions in the early stages that hold validity and, consequently, do not take the appropriate steps to resolve what will be future conflicts. They also lack the courage required to be assertive and take action. They become so narrowly focused on appeasing the stakeholders that judgment becomes clouded and forcefulness is lost. Project leaders know what they are doing and simply need to believe that about themselves.

Making these types of mistakes can have terrible consequences. For starters, the economic loss will far from please any stakeholder in the company. Knowing when to cut losses and walk away is vitally important in avoiding these debilitating losses. There is also the concern that those involved may become bored and disengage. Having early successes and frequent “wins” will combat this problem and keep those involved focused and interested.

The Next Step

Jolin goes on to give some insightful tricks for a project manager to take the next step and become a full-blown leader:

  1. Be in the know.
  2. Focus.
  3. Embrace the details.
  4. Your drive will drive others.
  5. Fight ignorance.
  6. Don’t panic.
  7. Listen.
  8. Feel what your clients feel.
  9. Work for and with great project leaders.

It is imperative that a leader understands exactly what the customer wants and is able to focus on achieving it. Finding a project that lights a spark of passion will result in a better quality product and will help the leader to focus. It is equally important to remain calm and be aware of external factors that may impact the project.

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