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Episode 192: PM Leadership Tools: Be The Project Champion (Project Leadership Series) (Premium)

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Episode 192: PM Leadership Tools: Be The Project Champion (Project Leadership Series) (Premium)This interview from our PM Podcast Project Leadership Series is another one that I did with Susanne Madsen ( The project leadership tool that we look at today is... Be The Project Champion.

So you might be wondering what the difference is between a project leader and a project champion? Or whether being a leader doesn’t automatically include the champion aspect? Well... I did too.

The answers to these questions and more will be revealed in today's installment of our leadership podcasts series.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #192. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at and I am Cornelius Fichtner.

You are listening to a premium episode only available to our premium subscribers. Thank you very much for your support!

Today, we continue The Project Management Podcast’s Project Leadership Series with another interview that I did with Susanne Madsen. The project leadership tool that we look at today is “Be the Project Champion”.

So you might be wondering what is the difference between a project leader and being a project champion? Or whether being a leader doesn’t automatically include the champion aspect as well? Well, I did too.

So let’s get right into the discussion with Susanne.

On your marks, get set, enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Susanne Madsen, project and program manager, mentor and coach.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Susanne and thank you very much for coming back onto The Project Management Podcast™.

Susanne Madsen: Thank you very much, Cornelius. It is a true pleasure to be here again.

Cornelius Fichtner: Wonderful! Well, this is still The Project Management Podcast’s leadership series and one question that our listeners might have had when they saw the title of this episode: “Be the project champion” Why on earth are they talking about championing a project as part of the leadership series? What would you answer them?

Susanne Madsen: Well, I would say that being a project champion is really part of being a project leader. It’s all kind of inter-related. Project championship is about having a winning mentality and wanting to go the extra mile which is very much what we expect from a project leader as well.

So it’s about going beyond in my mind what a conventional project manager would do. Because this is really about fully understanding the client’s business drivers, what the motivating factors are for doing the project in the first place, what the vision is and then using that vision to inspire and motivate the team and that’s what I particularly able us being a project champion but that’s part of what you would expect a project leader to do as well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright. Before we move on to looking more deeply into the champion, let’s quickly look at your definition then of what the differences between a “regular“ project manager and the project leader. What are some of the traits that a leader needs?

Susanne Madsen: Yes, of course! So taking the traditional project manager first. I suppose traditionally, it is someone who is predominantly focused on tasks, events, processes, outcomes and coordinating things to create that outcome and it may even be someone who more looks at team members as people who are doing tasks so they can seek a task off against the Gantt Chart.

A project leader is really quite different. It’s at a different level altogether. It is someone who to a larger extent I would say focuses on people and on creating results through motivating and inspiring individual team members. So it’s really about getting each individual to contribute to an overall vision and also tapping into their hidden potential. I mean that there are many differences, right? But a project manager will typically be very good at coordinating things and running with something which is already defined. So someone gives you requirements: “Okay, I’ll build those requirements for you.” Where the project leader is much more part of driving the requirements and driving the vision and looking at the end to end solution.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! And now let’s take the next step: How is the leader then different to the project champion?

Susanne Madsen: Okay! So that’s a good question because I would say the nuances here: Project championship is part of project leadership.

Well, I see the project champion particularly focusing on the subset of project leadership that’s to do with really understanding the end goal of a project and really transcending a little bit into the client’s area and into what you would probably traditionally see a change manager doing which is much more understand the business drivers behind the project, the business case, the overall vision and the success criteria for getting there.

The champion is someone who takes that full end to end responsibility and doesn’t just say: “Okay, you give me requirements. That’s where my job starts. I now deliver an outcome to you, a project outcome. That’s where my job ends.” No, it is someone who takes that full view and make sure that there is continuity right until the business benefits of the project have been implemented.

Cornelius Fichtner: But isn’t being a project champion is something that any good project manager should be doing anyway, I mean understanding where the project begins, where it ends, knowing the business benefits, focusing on the customer?

Susanne Madsen: Ideally, yes! But in my experience, people are not doing it and I think there are some reasons for that. Project managers have a lot on their plate. They are potentially very focused on the detail. I suppose many of them are trying to reduce their responsibilities because they have so much on rather than more on.

So yes, ideally, but I see very few project managers who actually really transcend this and who really go and probe the client. Does this really make sense? I mean how many projects have you seen where something is delivered to specification even but it doesn’t end up adding benefits. And the client doesn’t end up using it and that’s because there was a disconnect between what the client thought they wanted and what they really needed. And I can only see that, the project champion was missing. Someone who understood the end to end process and who really understood what needed to happen also on the business side in order for it to become a success. So ideally, yes, it’s something which everybody should be doing but I don’t see it happening. I don’t see project managers really living up to that.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! What would you then say is the number one skill that I need in order to be a good project champion?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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