Book review: Leadership Skills for Project and Programme Managers

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Book cover image

Leadership Skills for Project and Programme Managers is the second in the Focus on Skills series from TSO. Actually, I don’t know which number in the series it is, as the three books were all launched at the same time. It’s the second one I read, so it’s the second review to appear here.

I thought this was an interesting premise for a book, after all, we are project managers, not project leaders, and while there is an element of leading for anyone at the head of a team, I wasn’t sure what the book would cover that fell outside the scope of Franklin and Tuttle’s Team Management Skills.

They addressed this challenge head on, in the opening pages by being very clear about what they define as the differences between management and leadership.

The book follows the lifecycles as set out by PRINCE2® and MSP®, covering what leadership tasks need to be carried out at each step. It’s a difficult task to pinpoint exactly what leadership is – it’s often described as a characteristic rather than by describing what leaders actually do – but Franklin and Tuttle manage to explain at each stage what leadership looks like and what activities need to be completed.

They do this through a fictional case study, and snippets from interviewees. They even go down to the level of printing a potential announcement from a project and analyzing it to show how the tone is kept positive, which sentences show the human cost of business problems and how the speaker foreshadows success.

The part I like the most is Appendix A which covers prioritizing leadership activities. It presents an example leadership strategy, which covers the various activities of leadership and how long you should dedicate to them each week.

The amount of stuff you should be doing as a leader is immense: the authors estimate that half your working week should be set aside for planned leadership activities. You would find it difficult to balance leading with project managing, although I know we all find the time to do bits of both.

The book is aimed at “anyone who is responsible for persuading, motivating and energizing their colleagues to get started on a piece of work, convincing them that they are heading in the right direction or encouraging them to see how their work fits into the bigger picture” (p3).

That definition encompasses project managers and project sponsors. I feel much of the text is aimed at project sponsors – although I’ve never worked with one who can dedicate half their week to my project. having said that, project managers do need to be capable of leading as well.

We’re often responsible for large, international teams and if you can’t lead, you can’t be effective at managing the details. This book has loads of ideas, so even if you don’t adapt them all, you’ll learn something about the nitty-gritty of leading.

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