Are You a Project Manager or a Project Leader?

Let’s start with a different question… “What’s the difference?”.

Among the many words that can be used to describe a leader, a few that stand out are:

  • a strategic thinker
  • a visionary
  • a connector – of processes, people, and plans

While a manager is more often described as:

  • tactical
  • in ‘the present’ mode
  • an implementor

We add the word ‘project’ in front of those and we can highlight the difference between a project manager and a project leader.

Traditionally, a project manager is there to get it done, on time, on budget and on scope. 

A project leader’s role is very different. He/she is asked to:  

  • connect the project and project pieces to the bigger picture, to the strategic plan, to the WHY?
  • help to improve the internal processes to the benefit of the projects coming afterwards
  • and to work with people to plan for professional growth

This is much more of a strategic role – and so important to the organization.   Yes, we want to get the work done – the project completed – but we also want the project organization to mature over time.   The project leader should:

  • Look at the bigger picture to help everyone on the team understand the why.
  • Look for ways to improve the processes to help future project resources.
  • Work with individuals to grow as professionals, inside or even beyond the current organizations.

So… are you a project manager or a project leader?


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