Episode 350: Want to be a Great Project Leader? Start by being a Great Manager! (Premium)
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This episode is sponsored by The Agile PrepCast. PDU for PMP®:
Shyamsundar Ramanathan (http://maximisepotential.blogspot.com/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/shyamsundarramanathan) has been a manager and project leader for well over a decade and he says that he has enjoyed every minute of it. To him, our work is both an art and science. It has specific actions that need to be taken and the results will be predictable.
And in his article “9 Ways to Become a Great Manager” he argues the following:
“There is a lot of hot air around leadership and I totally agree that leadership is very important. However management is absolutely imperative to achieve the vision set by the leader. If we have a leader who can manage and a manager who can lead then we would have an ideal mix of traits to ensure the success of the organization. Sometimes management is also defined as getting the work done through others.”
What interested me about his article was to take it a step further and ask: Does being a great manager also help me in being a great project leader? And… Which management skills help me being a great project leader?
In other words, we will explore how management skills help us be great project leaders.
Shyam would like us to mention that the views he expresses in this interview are his own and not those of his employer.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #350. This is a Premium episode of The Project Management Podcast™. You can find us at www.pm-podcast.com and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you so much for being a subscriber and supporting the Podcast.
Shyamsundar Ramanthan has been a project manager and project leader for well over a decade and he says that he has enjoyed every minute of it. To him, our work is both art and science. It has specific actions that need to be taken and the result will be more or less predictable.
And in his article "Nine Ways to Become a Great Manager," he also argues the following: There is a lot of hot air around leadership and I totally agree that leadership is very important. However, management is absolutely imperative to achieve the vision set by the leader. If we have a leader who can manage and the manager who can lead then we would have an ideal mix of trades to ensure the success of the organization. Sometimes, management is also defined as getting the work done through others.
What interested me about his article was to take this a step further and ask: Does being a great manager also help me being a great project leader and what management skills help me at being a great project leader? In other words, we are going to explore how management skills help us be great project leaders.
And again before we start the interview, Shyam has asked me to specifically mention that the views he expresses in this interview are his own and not those of his employer.
And now, here's to the manager within every project leader. Enjoy!
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Shyam and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: Thank you, Cornelius, for having me on.
Cornelius Fichtner: Our topic today is being a great manager will make you a great project leader. But first off: How do you personally see the difference between management and leadership?
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: Yes, I think this discussion has been beaten to death to be honest. I think you know people like, I think Ronan Bennett or Peter Drucker have said that leadership is doing the right things and management is doing things right.
I think, I have the utmost regard for them but I think it has become too simplistic to really separate management and leadership to that extent. But I still think there are differences so what I would say is management is ensuring that the vision of the leader is executed and managers focus a lot on process and whereas leaders are looking at the bigger pictures. They look outward. They set the vision and not all leaders would be interested in managing.
And you know one interesting which I read. I think it was "Developing the Leader Within You" by John Maxwell. He says: "Who have heard of a world manager but world leader, yes." So what I'm trying to say is most people seem to just love being called a leader whereas manager, management is not a concern. But I really think both are important and I think the separation itself is something which I don’t think is needed. I don’t think people should say: "Okay, you're a manager so you can be a leader" or "You're a leader so you can manage". I think there are a lot of commonalities with some differences but I think that's my view on management and leadership.
Cornelius Fichtner: I think my next question is pretty much redundant then because I was going to ask you whether you think this interview is more intended for managers or project leaders. So what do you think?
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: My answer is both. I think both are needed because the more you learn about something, the better you become. So if you are a manager and I think everybody listening is a manager. Another interesting thing is this: When you have to manage, manage yourself but with others, lead them. So I think that's also a nice metaphor for us. So when you have to manage, manage yourself. But when you have to lead, lead others.
Cornelius Fichtner: Just like our last interview that we did together, this interview is based on an article that you wrote. And in that article, you say: "Management is absolutely imperative to achieve the vision set by the leader." How exactly do you mean?
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: Yeah, exactly! See again, when you think of a leader, somebody like JFK is obviously a leader, right? Vision of sending the man on the moon, that's the type of vision that leaders are expected to set. But what I'm trying to say is yes, you set the vision but after that what happens? You need a committed team to achieve that vision.
If you set an audacious vision, the only way it can be achieved is if you have a strong manager who understands the vision, establishes processes and gets the job done. So it really requires one who has focus, who can understand what is required and gets into the nitty-gritty details of selecting the team, hiring the right people and then setting them tasks and monitoring them and then reporting them on a regular basis. So this key thing can be done only by a manager.
Cornelius Fichtner: And once again, since you say management and leadership shouldn’t really be separated. In this particular vision that you have, the manager and the leader is the same person. So I as the leader, I set the vision. But then I also have to become a manager and manage the implementation of this vision. Is that right?
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: Yes that's right! But I would like to just…I'm not saying that every leader can be a manager. So I want to be clear about that. All I'm saying is the separation of completely of leadership and management and seeing them as two different people is not really necessary.
There are a few people who can do both. But in a lot of cases of course if we are talking really at the top of an organization, let's say that you have a number one CEO who sets the vision then you probably have a number two who does the execution. The number two may not have the things to become a number one and the number one may not have the things you need to become number two.
But in the case here, I would say that if your organization is having the budget. It has the finances to have two different people to do this. That's great, you can have that. But I think you know if as a manager, you can develop the leadership skill. What it does is if it's just like two in a box. If you were able to give that type of value to your organization then you do both these disciplines in an excellent manner. That saves some cost and time for the organization as well.
Cornelius Fichtner: Let's bring this back to what we are all about here, project management. This is going to be a very similar question that I've already asked you. What would you say is the job of the manager as compared to the job of the project leader?
Shyamsundar Ramanathan: Yes, so managers would probably be more focused on the people side of the business whereas the project leader would be responsible for making sure that the project is on schedule, it is on budget making sure the risks are tracked. And that is the key distinction.
And obviously, some of the project leaders are expected to manage the team as well but I'm saying the managers would probably be more interested in understanding what each individual's need, what each individual needs to make sure the project is successful making sure the needs are met. So it's more from a people perspective. They might also be interested in doing the performance appraisals and other things. But as a project leader's primary focus will be on making sure the execution part of the project is taken care. So I see that as the difference.
Cornelius Fichtner: In your article on which this interview is based, you have 9 recommendations and these 9 recommendations, they talk about how being a great manager will help you. And I'd like to hear how these will help us make better project leaders. So let's go through them here. The first one you have in there is set clear goals and objectives. And this is something that most project leaders already do, right?