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Project Management Skills and the Creation of Better Leaders

Project Management Skills and the Creation of Better Leaders

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By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University

There are seven wonders of the world. They range in majesty from the Great Pyramid at Giza to the Great Wall of China to the Taj Mahal to Timbuktu. Some are nearly 5,000 years old and are estimated to have taken many years, if not centuries, to complete.

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Have you ever thought how the creation of these wondrous structures was managed? Time, energy and resources were definitely contributors. But a systematic methodology was also needed to complete the task. Systematic methodology, defined as project management, can be used for scalable tasks ranging from writing a report to planning a vacation to designing a summer cottage.

What Is Project Management?

Project management is defined by Brett Harned of TeamGantt as “a critical practice that applies knowledge of process, skills, tools, deliverables, and techniques to project activities to ensure a solid path to project success by meeting goals and requirements.” That is the essence of project management — using key concepts to execute a project from start to finish.

Project management includes the strategic administration of people and resources to reach the goal by executing both administrative and technical oversight. According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), project management encompasses 10 key steps: integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement and stakeholder.

Examples of Project Management

First, let’s define the term project. Simply put, it is a specific plan, design or scheme. The essence of project management is that its key concepts can be used anywhere: from the boardroom to the home, from professional to amateur and from macroscale to microscale.

In business, a project is an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular goal. Take a moment to look around you and identify three projects. Chances are each project utilized the same concepts to reach the goal. These concepts include:

  1. Clearly defined goals and objectives
  2. Established timeline including milestones
  3. Oversight of budget, resources and human capital

These common concepts, if executed in an orderly and systematic manner, can be transferred from project to project; each is an essential attribute that one looks for in a leader. Project management is used to create and deliver a seven-layer wedding cake, to develop a new bus route, or to send deep sea divers to the depths of the ocean. Project management benefits companies in several ways, such as ensuring that projects get done on time and within budget.

Leaders vs. Managers

The words leader and manager are often interchanged, and rightfully so. Until recently, there wasn’t much of a distinction between a leader and a manager.

However, managerial skills can be taught and are usually assigned according to position. In contrast, leadership skills are an innate part of everyone’s psyche, which means leadership will be evident in every position in an organization. In the book, “We Are All Leaders: Leadership is Not a Position, It’s a Mindset,” author Fredrik Arnander highlights that “In a time of rapid technological change and economic uncertainty, businesses that thrive will do so through empowering employees at all levels to take an active role in leading themselves and their organisations to success.”

So how does a mastery of leadership and managerial skills relate to project management? Project management provides structure to the oversight and supervision of projects by creating a systematic methodology to execute them.

An organized way of doing things increases productivity, creativity and collaboration. Key aspects of successful projects depend on a structured environment to reduce stress, prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities. Simply put, a project manager leads the way by correctly managing people and tasks.

About the Author

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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