Leadership Is Taken, Not Given:
The Defining Moments for Projects and Their Managers
This paper addresses the project managers' common challenge of leading projects without having any traditional leverage in their organization. Project leaders most routinely meet resistance at four parts of the project: project Definition, Planning, Execution, and Closeout. This paper covers the high-level theory of each of these processes, demonstrates the challenges therein, and redresses each of them with practical approaches to achieving best-case scenarios.

The priority of this paper is to present the practicable instead of the ideal, the optimal instead of the perfect. In an environment where things will go wrong, feelings will be hurt and sacrifices will be made, how can we maximize our projects' chances for success?
Project managers face a paradox. The ultimate responsibility of project success falls on us, so clearly we are the leaders. Yet, the matrix structure of organizations leaves us with very little tangible power—we can’t lead through traditional leverage (eg: hiring and firing) and, since we’re not in direct, day-to-day interaction with the project, we can’t even lead by example.

As easy as it is to get caught up in the hard skills that directly relate to our job description—making documents, setting schedules, using project management technology, etc—this isn’t what separates the effective from the ineffective. The crux of project management really lies in the above paradox—in taking the lead on projects without being given any traditional power.

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