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The importance of leadership in project management has long been acknowledged as one of the key ingredients for project success. Indeed, in a more general sense, the last few years have seen a tremendous resurgence of interest in this vital topic as books and articles explore in ever-increasing detail the various aspects and effects of leadership in organizations. These studies all point to the vital role that leadership plays in enhancing innovation, creativity, new product development, and competitiveness in an international marketplace.

Leadership is vital within the project management realm. Project managers play a key lynchpin role in their organizations, serving as the link between various stakeholder groups and working to create a strong and cohesive team atmosphere, all while maintaining budget and schedule constraints. Indeed, because of the essential centrality of project managers, many authors note that leadership skills are one of the most important qualities that managers can possess.

While there are currently a number of books on leadership in the popular and academic literatures, few such books attempt to develop a comprehensive understanding of the wide variety of leadership behaviors. That is, many such books focus on one or two critical components of leaders exclusively—for example, personality characteristics or team-building skills. Far rarer are the books that attempt to develop a more complete model of the role of the project leader in modern corporations, addressing such diverse but equally important roles as those of visionary, strategic manager, ethical leader, and so forth.

This book represents our attempt to develop a comprehensive, project management-oriented approach to project leadership. Project Leadership: From Theory to Practice is designed to fill an important and heretofore previously unexploited niche in the manager’s bookshelf through presenting a practically written discussion of the important but diverse roles that leaders play and the impact that they have on successful project implementation. As the chapter titles indicate, we have developed a pragmatic guide to project leadership, making clear the direct links between general leadership theory and direct project management practice.

The idea for this book came about as the result of a team-taught course for the M.B.A. program at Penn State-Erie. Students had been increasingly interested in a course in applied leadership, and the management faculty members decided to pool their talents and create a course that was comprehensive (offering breadth), while focusing on gaining and applying leadership skills (intended to provide depth). Writing this book was a challenge in itself, as it required the collective efforts of five individuals to work in collaboration, to support and correct each other, and serve as both inspirational sources and critics of each other’s efforts. It was truly a case of our having to live what we teach every day, through putting into practice the steps necessary to create effective teams.


Our approach is a combination of theory and practice. In the first chapters of the book, we lay a groundwork foundation, using some important guiding principles from the research on leadership and leader behavior, to put the idea of project leadership within its proper context. It was necessary to first demonstrate some of the relevant models of leadership before the reader can better understand the key role that leader behavior plays in successful project management. Once readers are led through the diverse duties and aspects of leadership behavior, they can better understand the comprehensive, ubiquitous nature of project leadership, learning to develop their leadership abilities in a variety of different but equally important dimensions. Our intention is to help project managers do a better job of running their projects through the valuable lessons that can be learned from understanding and applying the current state-of-the-art in research and practice on project leadership.

This book covers a variety of topics related to the study of project leadership. The first chapter will establish a framework of leadership in which we will demonstrate that leading is a multifaceted process, involving aspects of vision skills, ethical and political knowledge, strategic management and goal setting, and project team building. Following development of our full model, follow-on sections will explore each of these key areas in more detail, analyzing personality and trait theories of leadership, contingency models, and so on. Finally, we offer a concluding chapter, which offers some final, practical advice to project managers on how to make the most effective use of this information in developing or honing their own leadership styles.

In Summary

As we noted above, it is impossible to engage in a task of this nature without developing a keener sense of the importance of teamwork and leadership in any collective endeavor. Collaborations are always difficult because they comprise both the best and most difficult aspects of the writing process—gaining the advantage of multiple viewpoints while having to create a work in a purely consensual manner. That this book succeeded is due primarily to our desire to share the results of our experience in a pragmatic fashion. It is also the result, in no small part, of the success we have had in presenting similar material in a team-taught environment that has enabled us to appreciate more fully each other’s work as teachers and scholars. We hope that project managers who read this work are left with a better understanding of the various perspectives of transformational project leadership and realize two other important points. First, that leadership training is a journey all can take (leadership behavior can be learned), and, second, we never completely arrive at our destination (there is always more to know). And so, the journey begins.

Jeffrey K. Pinto
Peg Thoms
Jeffrey Trailer
Todd S. Palmer
Michele Govekar

November 1997

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