Leadership and the Project Manager-Critical Skills for Success and a New e-Book

I’ve worked around new product development projects my entire career and I’ve served as an executive sponsor for many development and strategic projects, but not until I began teaching project management to graduate students, did I fully understood the very distinct leadership challenges of these professionals. 

Not dissimilar to the plight of the product manager, the project manager is an informal leader charged with a remarkable amount of responsibility, most often with very little of the authority conferred by title or position in the organization’s hierarchy.

The complexities of this high-responsibility, low-authority position are increased when you consider the realities of most project environments.  In essence, the project manager must bring together disparate resources—often borrowed or assigned and priority-conflicted individuals, and motivate those individuals to develop as a cohesive team and to deliver high quality results.  No small task on a good day. 

Last and not least, the challenges of leading projects are highlighted very clearly in the fact that project failure rates are extraordinarily high.  While it’s never safe to generalize, there are many sources that indicate the high percentage of project failures (versus original cost, schedule or quality estimates) in new product development, IT infrastructure implementation and certainly in execution around strategic objectives (projects).  A report by the consulting firm, Ernst & Young offered survey results that indicated that 80% of the most common reasons cited for project failure are people issues. 

Where do I sign up for this job?!

As I’ve become more enlightened to the challenges and nuances of the project manager, I’ve developed a great regard for the best of these professionals that I’ve worked around and interacted with during my career. 

Great project managers are also great leaders.  The best of the project managers are senior contributors that understand their role is more about helping the group succeed than it is about conducting status meetings and revising and distributing reports.  And while these great project managers understand and employ the tools of project management effectively, they are smart enough to understand that they are much more effective when they combine the “art of leadership” with the “science of project management.”

Developing as a Senior Contributor in Project Management:

My focus in my post-corporate life is on supporting the development of senior contributors, and it was serendipitous that I was given the opportunity to conduct a deep dive into the world of project management during the past few years.  It seemed fitting to capture my thoughts on developing as a senior contributor in project management in my first e-Book.

The Interactive e-Book: 

Leadership and the Project Manager—Developing the Skills that Fuel High Performancewas written to serve as a “Quick-Start” to developing as a senior contributor for anyone (certified or not) that is charged with leading and managing projects.

Key topics include:

  • Why developing leadership skills is critical to your success
  • Identifying and avoiding the common pitfalls of project managers as leaders
  • Growing your leadership credibility
  • Why feeding people PMBOK dogma in a hurricane is a bad career move
  • Improving your communication skills
  • Understanding where to focus to develop as a senior contributor
  • Developing and managing great sponsors
  • Dealing with feedback
  • Creating the high performance project team 

…and many others. 

A Social Networking Component to the e-Book:

The e-book is free, no registration required, and in a bow to my passion for the power of our social networking world, I’ve included links in every chapter to the corresponding content on this website where you can interact with each other, add your comments and even tell me the errors of my thinking!  I’ve actually not seen this done before, so perhaps we in the project management world can add our own little footnote in the emerging social networking world, while helping each other grow and develop.

Your Input Will Drive Version 2.0

I am not making a secret of the fact that this version is part of my learning process on what it takes to develop and deliver practical, high-impact content in a “Quick Start” format via an e-book. 

I’ve received some great feedback already from early reviewers, including the need for me to invest in professional graphics.  I have no qualms promising content and graphics improvements in version 2.0! Most importantly however, I’m interested in your feedback on the ideas and your suggestions for strengthening the content.  Who knows, perhaps this merits a print book in the near future.  You decide and I’ll do the work.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The work of organizations is increasingly conducted in projects.  The growth in certified project management professionals continues at a hefty clip and increasingly, non-certified business professionals are learning and utilizing the tools of professional project management.  This is all good.

However, as the most experienced and successful project managers will tell you, your mastery of the people and communication issues are ultimately what will help you improve your batting average for project successes. 

Jump in, read the e-book, put the suggestions and ideas into play and share with us how it’s working and where you are running into challenges.  Hey, this would be easy if it were not for the people.  Fortunately, people are all that we have.  

By | 2016-10-22T17:12:09+00:00 May 19th, 2009|Career, Leadership, Project Management|5 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Andrew Meyer May 19, 2009 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Thanks, looking forward to reading it. Your writing always makes me think.


  2. Dan McCarthy May 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Art –
    Congratulations on the new e-book! I’ve downloaded my copy and look forward to reading it and sharing it with others!

  3. Art Petty May 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Andy and Dan, thanks much for the comments and for downloading the doc. I am most appreciative of your time and welcome your feedback. -Art

  4. Drew DePriest May 29, 2009 at 6:10 am - Reply

    Art – great read, especially for a young PM such as myself. I brought up the “all the responsibility, none of the authority” point in another class, and the other PMs present immediately responded in agreement.

  5. D. Scott Smith October 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Art- I enjoyed the post and the e-book. I will be sharing this via LinkedIn and Twitter (@d_scott).



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