When Susanne Madsen told me she was going to write a book on project leadership, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of The Power of Project Leadership: 7 Keys to Help You Transform From Project Manager to Project Leader, and I devoured it in just a few days.
If the last few years have shown a shift of focus from processes to soft skills in the project management industry, Susanne’s new book is the manifesto that finally makes sense of it all. Mostly techies by nature and by trade, project managers are known for being extremely comfortable around hard facts and spreadsheets. As leadership and other softer skills are now expected of project management professionals, we lacked a go-to resource that would guide us through the transition.
Susanne is brilliant in her strategy with this book. She first makes a case for a changing world, and places the project manager as uniquely equipped to not just endure these changes, but lead them. From there she takes us through what motivates and drives us as individuals, in a clever attempt to unveil who we really are. When we figure that out and see that we are placed in a changing world in search for leaders, she is there and ready to hand us the seven keys that we need for the transformation.
More keys include: Lead with vision; Improve and innovate; Empower the team.
As Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner, puts it, ‘Enabling transparency across the project team and understanding what other teams are working on can mean the elimination of costly redundancies, the identification and exploitation of powerful new ideas and the facilitation of powerful cross-team collaboration’.
Starting with what I believe to be the most important point of the entire book, key number one is “Being Authentic.” Project managers deal with constraints, deadlines, conflict, change, and many other sources of stress that push us to act a certain way in order to maintain a sense of control. In the process, it’s easy to forget who we really are, and present a business persona to our team which is far removed from our true self. By confronting that issue right away, Susanne convincingly asks us to start looking inwards and sets the pace for the following six keys and the rest of the book. She also talks to other leaders and gets their insight, including LiquidPlanner’s CEO Liz Pearce.
But the true genius of The Power of Project Leadership is not Susanne’s ability to make a convincing case, but the fact that she took a subjective, hard-to-define topic, and broke it down into manageable chunks. By deconstructing leadership into seven key items, she effectively speaks to every project manager who is perhaps afraid to become a leader but understands requirements and milestones. In fact, she presents us with the tenets of a very nebulous, blurry-edged soft skill, all in the form of a checklist. Reading her book made this project manager feel both challenged and at home at the same time.
The Power of Project Leadership captures the essence of leadership, and serves it in a way that project managers are ready and eager to digest. It is a meaningful compilation of what you need to know if you want to move away from simple project management and into project leadership.