People have always planned, organized, implemented, and evaluated projects of many sizes and varieties. Until the industrial revolution, this was done in a very informal manner.
By the late nineteenth century, an ever-increasing amount of work was being mechanized and the study of mass production management was born. Many of the planning, organizing, leading, and controlling concepts and techniques that were developed at this time are still in use and also form a foundation for other developments.
Beginning at about the middle of the twentieth century two new trends in how to accomplish work started to coalesce. Many leaders recognized that the "science of management" was not enough, and many approaches to leadership were developed. While leaders from different walks of life continue to publish books on their secrets of success, students of leadership have been developing the discipline by looking for commonalities in the various schools of thought.
Project management is the second discipline that started to emerge in the middle of the twentieth century. People started to realize that planning, organizing, leading, and controlling one-time work efforts (projects) was not the same as for ongoing operations. The temporary nature and unique output of projects meant that they needed to be conducted in a different manner.
Both leadership and project management have become better defined—yet limited by their definitions. This has led to the desire to combine the knowledge and skills from the two distinct fields, and we call the combination project leadership.
Project leadership needs a framework, as does any other organized field. The project part of the framework is clear—we have introduced a four-stage project lifecycle model similar to those commonly used by project managers. The leadership aspect is a new challenge. We have distilled the many helpful ideas down to the seven major project leadership categories that must be performed during each of the four stages of a project's life for a total of 28 specific project leadership tasks.
There is both an art and a science to project leadership. The science is understanding what the project leadership responsibilities are at each point in the life of a project. What are the decisions that need to be made, which project leader(s) should make the decisions, and how are they connected to other project leadership responsibilities? The science also includes techniques that can be used to help project leaders make decisions, such as brainstorming, multi-voting, and consensus development.
The art of project leadership is the judgment or wisdom that can be developed to make the best decisions. Many project decisions are far from black and white. Many project decisions have implications for clients, workers, other participants, technology, money, time, etc. Both through experience and by studying project leadership as a discipline, the art can be developed.
In the rapidly changing world of today and tomorrow, an increasing number of people spend large amounts of time working on projects. People leading projects need to understand both the the science and the art of project leadership. The science is the identification of specific project leadership responsibilities at each project stage. The art includes understanding when to accept project realities and when to use courage in making difficult but necessary project decisions.
We encourage all project leaders—at whatever level they are—to thoughtfully consider the various project leadership challenges identified in this book, to relate them to the challenges they face on their projects, and to email us with their comments, suggestions, and examples. Good habits take time to fully develop. There are 28 specific challenges for project leaders. A leader who tries to apply one per week to his or her own work will make progress toward becoming a more effective project leader.