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An Improvement in Project Leadership Skills

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Though project managers have placed client needs and demands at a priority, client expectations, and the increase in global competition, as well as the enormous impact projects have on firms, have led to a further increasing demand for the use of more effective leadership skills that can assist project managers in project team leadership (Zimmerer and Yasin, 1998). Project management involves project monitoring and supervision that is global in nature, involving projects with team members from diverse professional backgrounds, cultures, languages, and nations. Again, project management does not just involve the management of people, but also time and material resources (Veal 2004). This calls for vital strategic planning, and the management of resources for effective project management delivery. The complexities in present day projects require not just management abilities, but also an improvement in project leadership skills and competencies (Zimmerer and Yasin, 1998).


Leadership, according to Jago (1982), is the application of non-coercive influence in directing the activities of individual members of an organised group in an effort to achieving the group's objectives. Leadership in this context is considered in relation to some qualities and characteristics of those who successfully implement such influences. In the context of project management, leadership can be seen as a process undertaken by an organisation in taking responsibility of team members who work with the project manager toward the achievement of project aims (Cleland, 1995). A project manager's leadership skills and competencies have become necessary in harnessing the activities of the entire project stakeholders; as a result, this has led to conception of his leadership skills as an important aspect of project control (Barber and Warns, 2005). This is particularly important given the fact that though the project manager uses skilled manpower, material resources, as well as other appropriate methods when embarking on projects, some projects do run overtime, over budget, or suffer failure in the achievement of the particular project goal (Barber and Warns, 2005). Using appropriate leadership skills, a project manager is able to forestall such eventualities where and when possible, and redirect the efforts of the team members toward attaining the desired project objectives. His ability to lead human resources associated with the project shows the leadership excellence as regards defining the project scope, time, cost management, quality and communication (Cleland, 1995). For this reason, therefore, a project manager continuously needs to develop appropriate leadership skills; competencies and styles needed down the different stages of the project's lifecycle. It implies that for a successful project delivery, the project manager needs to demonstrate not just an appropriate technical knowhow, but also a show of effective administrative and leadership skills (Burke, 2007).

The question then arises as to what the skills and competencies are, that are considered essential for present day competent project managers (Ingason and Jonasson, 2009), in the delivery of projects. In the past, technical competence was taken to be the required skill that a project manager should possess in order to lead projects to success (Zimmerer and Yasin, 1998). But in contemporary times, team building, motivation (Jacques et al, 2008), vision, management, and communication (Barber and Warn, 2005), have all been identified as being part of the necessary skills and competencies a project manager needs to cultivate for effective delivery of projects.

While the issue of project leadership has been the subject of so many research endeavours (Cleland, 1995, Washbush and Clements, 1999; Prabhakar, 2005; Jacques et al, 2008) a relatively fewer other researchers have focused on the leadership skills and competencies appropriate for a project manager's use in leading the project team members, and the impact they have in the management of projects (Turner and Müller, 2005; Geoghegan and Dulewicz, 2008). Majority of research endeavours in this area have considered the idea that a project manager's application of leadership skills in projects lead to the successful delivery of projects and this has prompted the assessment of the factors that matter in his ability to utilise available human and material resources, and also lead and manage the project team, and other stakeholders. Other research works (Turner and Muller, 2005; Pinto and Trailer, 1998), however, recognise the importance of a project manager's leadership skills when managing projects, but do not explicitly link these skills and competencies that characterise a project manager, as necessary for successful management of the project. This, therefore, forms the bulk of the debate that academic scholars in this area have preoccupied themselves.

A key area of this debate concerns the fact that some relevant literature materials (Crawford, 2007; Geoghegan and Dulewicz, 2008) that attached great importance to the leadership skills and competencies of a project manager have further identified a project manager as a success factor for projects. The view of these project management pundits is that project success can be a possible result of the application of the attributes of a project manager during project management. This is achieved with the project manager's communication, technical and motivational skills, and a host of other skills and competencies that allow him successful lead the project team members toward the achievement of the project goal. On an opposite vein, a few other project management scholars did not view a project manager as a success factor for projects (Pinto and Slevin, 1998; Turner and Müller, 2005). This group of project management scholars observe that the use of appropriate tools and techniques is what counts in the realization of project success. This presents an implication which denotes that the leadership skills of a project manager make no additional impact in project performance. A particular literature endeavour that has significantly dealt with the issue of the present study is the work of Turner and Müller (2005). Though their findings suggest that the literature does not view a project manager and his leadership competencies as a success factor for projects, they, however, recommended that for this argument to be resolved, the question of a project manager's leadership skills and competencies, and the question of possible impact in the achievement of successful project management should be measured. As a result of this recommendation, this research investigates the views expressed in other project management literature, on the impact leadership skills and competencies of a project manager have in the management of projects. To this end, there would be an investigation into what constituted project management success factors in the project management history, especially during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. This effort is realised by conducting some in-depth interviews and exploring some relevant literature at these periods to identify their arguments on what constituted project success factors, and to ascertain the place of a project manager and his or her leadership skills and competencies in project management history.


The purpose of this research is to determine if a project manager's leadership skills and competencies can act as a catalyst in bringing about successful project performance. In this context, therefore, this research tries to determine whether the application of effective leadership skills and competencies can impact on the management of projects towards the achievement of a quality and successful project performance. This will involve implementing the recommendation of the research of Turner and Muller (2005) by evaluating what constitutes project success factors to ascertain if a project manager is considered as a project management success factor, using the project management literature works and semi-structured interview.

Also, contributing to the existing body of knowledge on the impact of a project manager's leadership skills and competencies in project management, the objectives, as derived from the aim of this research are:

  • To determine the leadership skills and competencies available for a project manager's use in the management of projects.
  • To critically examine the impact of the application of a project manager's leadership skills and competencies in project delivery.
  • To determine if a project manager is a project management success factor.


This research begins with a critical review of some recent debates in the project management literature on arguments relating to leadership styles, skills and competencies appropriate for a project manager in chapter 2. It goes further to review the ideas of project management pundits on the impact these leadership skills and competencies have while managing projects. It also investigates the contribution of leadership to project managers especially as more and more project management scholars lay emphasis on project managers developing leadership skills for a better management of projects.

Chapter 3 presents the research design and the methodology used in the anchorage of this dissertation for the achievement of its aim and objectives encapsulated in a six layer research onion model presented in figure 4. This chapter begins by presenting interpretivism and induction as the philosophy and approach that engulfs this research. This chapter further highlights the use of qualitative research method and how qualitative content analysis is used in the process of data collection and analysis of the data that came mainly from the literature sources towards the development of a grounded theory for this research. To reduce the limitation that could arise from the use of literature sources alone, semi-structured interviews were used in complementing the data collected from the literature works. The time horizon and the ethical consideration in relation to data collection and analysis is equally presented in this chapter.

The analysis of the data gathered is presented in chapter 4, using the methods discussed above towards the development of the grounded theory, in achieving the aim of this research. The findings of this research are presented in chapter 5, and are related to the previous findings found in the project management literature as discussed in the review of the literature in chapter two. Lastly, the limitations of this study and a recommendation for further research are also presented in this chapter. Finally, a summary of the research is presented in chapter six and this research concludes by offering some opportunities further research can anchor on.



This chapter examines some key academic interests in the role of the project manager's leadership skills and competencies for the achievement of successful project management. Reviewing the relevant body of literature on this topic, will be necessary; as it will offer an insight into relevant concerns of the research and provide the required background in addressing the research questions identified earlier on.

Among the themes academic pundits in this area have shown interest in are identified in figure 1, they are: leadership styles, the project manager and project success, the project manager's leadership competences and the impact of leadership in project management. This chapter critically examines these areas of interest in a wider context, and their impact in achieving successful project management.


It must be noted that the study of effective leadership skills is necessary for quality project management and efficiency (Strang, 2005). A plethora of literature materials exist on the importance of leadership in the successful management of projects, but for the purpose of this study, this research will concentrate on literature sources that have direct bearing on the subject matter of the research, which are identified in figure 1.

The review of the literature would encompass leadership styles as a core area in project success. It will explore leadership approaches particularly transformational leadership style used by project managers in the process of managing the human aspects of projects, namely, the project team members, and stakeholders. The concept of ‘success' in project management and the project manager's contributions toward the achievement of success will also be critically assessed. On the other hand, literature on the project manager and his leadership competencies will be reviewed to ascertain the viability of his leadership competencies toward increasing the chances for successful project delivery. Lastly, the body of literature on the impact of leadership in project management will consider the contribution of leadership in managing projects, by making a comparison of leadership and management in leading the project team.


The question of what makes a good leader has been an age long problem. Among prominent authors that have commented on this issue include, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Lock (Collinson, 1998). Turner and Müller (2005) identified six main leadership theories that have been singled out as the main leadership schools over seventy years ago. These schools are:

  • The trait school
  • The behaviour or style school
  • The contingency school
  • The emotional intelligent school, and
  • The competency school
  • Transformational leadership school

This research will be focusing mainly on transformational leadership due to the emphasis project management literature places on it in leading project members. This research will examine the impact of transformational leadership in project management.

2.2.1 Transformational leadership in project management: The literature has associated transformational leadership with those leaders that create “a shared vision of the future and a relationship between leaders and followers based on far more than just the simple exchange of rewards for compliance” (Keegan and Hartog, 2004:609). What distinguishes transformational leaders is their ability in articulating some attractive vision of the future (Hartog and Verburg, 1997). Transformational leaders exhibit self-confidence and charisma which can and do attract subordinate to those identified vision or mission (Keegan and Hartlog, 2004). Northouse (1997) indicates that transformational leadership transforms and changes individuals. He added that this sort of leadership is open to the needs of the followers. Transformational leadership has been contrasted with transactional leadership (Leban and Zulauf, 2004) which focuses on the physical and security needs of its followers (Lamsila and Ogunlana, 2008). Most commentators have agreed that transactional leadership is based on the model that there is exchange process between leaders and followers, with leaders providing reward for the subordinates' compliance (Northouse, 1997; Strang, 2005: Sadler, 2003 and Jogulu and Wood, 2006). While the followers are motivated by the effect the transformational leaders have on them in terms of making them aware of the values and outcome of their goals, transactional leaders on the other hand, utilises reward in motivating their subordinate.

Keegan and Hartog (2004) recently noted that leading commentators have “begun to suggest that transformational leadership may be of particular interest in the project based-context” (p. 610). These commentators continue to emphasis increasing importance of motivational and emotional features of project managers as well as the importance of project managers to instil faith and commitment to their organization as part of their role (Turner and Müller, 2003). Research have shown that project managers are considered to be leading people from different profession and diverse culture, therefore the use of transformational leadership becomes necessary due to its emphasis on vision, inspirational and motivational role of leaders (Cleland and Ireland, 2002; Keegan and Hartog, 2004). While leading such talented professionals therefore, the emphasis has drifted from control and compliance to dedication, identification and loyalty, which are characteristic of transformational leadership (Keegan and Hartog, 2004).

The literature has identified the importance of transformational leadership in project management (Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Leban and Zulauf, 2004; Barber and Warn, 2005). This importance is identified in the continuous need for project managers to be forward thinking, constantly anticipating where things may likely go wrong in project, so that steps can be placed in anticipation towards resolving them where possible and recovery measure put in place should they not be preventable (Lewis, 2001). Similarly, Barber and Warn (2005) have identified idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration and intellectual stimulation as components of transformational leadership, which enable them “to explain the big picture, anticipate events and even prevent problems” (p. 1032).

In figure 2, Prabhakar's (2005) research suggests that transformational leaders who inspire and motivate their followers to face the challenges of their work appeared to achieve project success. This is achieved through the relationship transformational leaders build with their subordinates using an interactive communication that forms a bond between them.

Figure 2: Relationship between leadership variables and project success after Prabhakar (2005).

In line with the finding of Prabhakar (2005) Leban and Zulauf (2004) suggest that “transformational project manager behaviour has a positive impact on actual project performance” (p. 561). Furthermore, they stated that transformational project management is achieved through the use of project managers who are result focused through inspiration and motivation.

However, the finding of Strang (2005) shows that although the application of transformational leadership while leading project team have a tendency of fostering leader-follower relationship strong transformational leadership however, is not always required in producing effective organizational outcomes. Equally, it has been observed that while transformational leadership in project context leads to stakeholders' satisfaction, the finding of Strang (2005) suggest that it does not on the other hand guarantee organizational performance. From the foregoing, it has been suggested that transformational leadership has an important influence by reshaping the way people think, which is considered an aspect of project leadership skills (Partington, 2003).


Research has it that in the field of project management, among the few topics that are frequently discussed but rarely agreed upon is what constitutes success in project (Pinto and Slevin, 1988a). Given the fact that “the search for factors that lead to better project performance and success spans many years of research” (Dov et al, 2006:36). Table 1, presents the findings of Jugdev and Müller (2005) which identified four periods in the history of project management and the perceptions of the factors that possibly led to achieving successful project management.

Period 1: Project implementation and Handover (1960s-1980s). At this stage, simple metric such as time, cost and specifications were the yardsticks used in measuring project success because they were understood to be easy for organizational use. “Project managers focused on getting a project done, making sure it worked, and getting out the way” (Judgev and Müller, 2005:23).

Studies at this time focused on scheduling as the criteria for project success or failure, while others relied on budget and performance as the success factor (Pinto and Slevin, 1988b) and client satisfaction (Shenhar et al, 1997).The emphasis at this stage was on the effectiveness of the measures and the technical system than the behaviours of the individual members of the project (Judgev and Müller, 2005).

Period 2: CSF Lists (1980s -1990s). According Judgev and Müller (2005) this stage was preoccupied with developing some critical success factors (CSF) lists. Cooke-Davies (2002) saw critical success factors as those “inputs to the management system that lead directly or indirectly to the success of the project or business' (p.185). At this stage, the literature focused on the satisfaction of the stakeholders as what guarantees project success. At the completion of the project what matters was not job completion rather the satisfaction criterion which was “are we happy” (Judgev and Müller, 2005). End users impacts are felt as the yardstick for success which contradicts with the period 1. Among the CSFs as the literature identified were effective communications, clear objective, scope and the use of project plan as living documents (Clarke, 1999). Judgev and Müller (2005) further identified change management, organizational effectiveness and the alignment between project management and strategic management as all part of CSFs.

Period 3: CSF Frameworks (1990s -2000s). At this period, the literature questioned the concept that project success is based on stakeholders-dependent and linking success with the internal and recipient organization (Kerzner, 1987: Lester, 1998). Morris and Hough (1987) developed new framework dealing on the preconditions of project success in four categories which are:

  1. Project functionality: Does such project meet up with the financial and technical requirement.
  2. Project management: Did such project meet up with the stipulated budget, schedule and specification.
  3. Contractor's commercial performance: Did the project contractors benefit in a commercial way.
  4. Project termination: Peradventure a project is cancelled, was such cancellation done reasonably and effectively.

Cleland and Ireland (2002) approached the issue of project success from two points of view, first, project success should be measured in view of meeting the performance objectives (cost, time and scope), and secondly it could be measured using the impact of such project on the strategic mission of the firm.

Period 4: strategic project management (21st century). At this period, project success has been linked to many factors than just one common mission like organizational benefit, product success and team development (Atkinson, 1999 and Baccarini, 1999). Equally CSFs at this period incorporated “senior management commitment to provide the vision, strategy and sponsorship” (Judgev and Müller, 2005:28) and such success factor relate to the organization including the external environment. Judgev and Müller (2005) indicates that most recent literature have identified four necessary but not sufficient criteria for success that need to be in place for projects to be successfully managed, which are:

  1. Success criteria need to be agreed on with the project stakeholders before embarking on project.
  2. There should be a collaborative working relationship with the project sponsor and the project manager and they should view the project as partners.
  3. There is need to empower the project manager with some sort of flexibility as to be able to deal with unforeseen circumstances, and the project sponsor should give directives on the best way of achieving project success.
  4. The project sponsor needs to show an interest in the performance of the project.

Subsequent research by Turner and Müller (2005) suggests that during 1980s, the literature grew rapidly; with different authors listing what they thought constituted project success. Surprisingly, though the literature of this time emphasised that the project manager should be competent enough to get things done well, their finding suggests that:

“rarely does the literature on project success factors specifically or overtly mention project manager and his or her leadership style and competence. Perhaps the project manager does not contribute to project success. Perhaps there is something about the nature of projects and the project teams that means that their success is not dependent on the leadership style and competence of the manager” (Turner and Müller, (2005:57).

This very remark suggests that the impact of the project manager's leadership style possibly do not necessarily lead to project success. Andersen et al (1987) identified some pitfalls that may hinder project success and increase project failure. These pitfalls include the method that is used to plan, organize and control projects. Baker et al (1988) saw project success as achieving the project's technical specification or mission while earning a high valued satisfaction from the client, the end user and the project team as well. They equally advocated planning as against perceiving leadership as a key factor while maximizing potential project success. Table 2 presents ten project management success factors by Pinto and Slevin (1988b) in determining what constitutes project success factors. Though this table plays down the skills and competencies of a project as a success factor for projects however Pinto and Slevin (1988b) noted that a project will be a failure should some project management characteristics like human skills, project managers' administration and influencing skills not be present in the project.

In the 2000s, the interest on project success changed. As against the notion that the literature was silent about the impact of the project manager toward project success (Turner and Müller, 2005), researchers like Prabhakar (2005) and Keegan and Hartog (2004) identified effective project manager leadership as an importance success factor on projects. In Table 3, Kendra and Taplin (2004) classified project success into four categories which are micro-social, macro-social, micro-technical and macro-technical categories of which they identified behaviour, leadership and personal attributes of the project manager as a success factor under micro-social.

Other studies (Lim and Mohamed, 1999, and DeCottiis and Dyer, 1979) stressed the importance of customer's satisfaction and their welfare towards success measurement. In fact, Atkinson (1999) notes that any measurement criteria that assesses projects in terms of time and budget constrain without meeting up with client satisfaction will be misleading and incomplete. Tishler et al (1997) observes that customer satisfaction is supreme in assessing project success.

Given the importance of the aims and objectives of any project, it was surprised that the periods identified in the findings of Jugder and Müller (2005) did not include them as an aspect of project success. This is particularly necessary as a project that runs over budget and over time may still be considered successful if the project achieved its target. In other words, a project may meet the iron triangle success criteria of time, budget and quality, but if the aims and objectives are not achieved, such a project may be considered a failure.


The study of Geoghegan and Dulewicz (2008) examines the impact project manager's leadership competence have in achieving project success. They considered leadership as a combination of personal characteristics with those areas of competence. With this understanding, leadership can be conceived as the combination of skills and knowledge with personal characteristics that make a leader. Geoghegan and Dulewicz (2008) observe that project leadership is part of a project manager's competencies. In their mind “there is a recognition that an effective project manager possesses a combination of personal characteristics such as flexibility and competencies such as problem solving” (p. 59). Similarly, Crawford (2007:14) defined competence as “encompassing knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that contributes to effective performance of a task or job role”. Turner and Müller (2005) added that competence includes personal characteristics, knowledge and skills. A Project manager's competence therefore can be perceived as the combination of knowledge and skills and core personality characteristics that necessitate superior results (Crawford, 2007). Rees et al (1996) noted that effective project managers appear to be averagely intelligent and possess problem solving skill than non-effective project managers. Dulewics and Higgs (2003) identified four leadership performances which include cognitive, behavioural, emotional and motivational competencies. They went further to suggest that managerial performance is defined by three competencies which are intellectual (IQ) managerial skill (MQ) and Emotional (EQ) competencies. Again, they developed a leadership competence model with fifteen leadership competences in Table 4. These fifteen leadership dimensions were classified under three major leadership competencies of IQ, MQ and EQ.

On their part Müller and Turner (2007) found out that the ability to lead and technical knowledge are important aspects of project manager competence which are necessarily displayed based on the nature of a particular project. Geoghegan and Dulewicz's, (2008) findings suggests that there is a significant relationship between a project manager's leadership competence and project success. Their research suggest that project managers who possess high problem solving acumen are better suited for the empowerment and development of their colleagues, while project managers who are high in managing resources will be effective in budgeting. Geoghegan and Dulewicz (2008) also indicated that managerial competence contributes most significantly towards successful projects, by influencing project team. Other research (Crawford, 2001: Crawford, 2007) have equally linked project manager's leadership competencies to project success and has gone further to identify a project manager as a success factor for projects. Under micro-social dimensions of project success, Kendra and Taplin (2004) identified project managers' competence and skills as a success factor.

Although as succinctly enunciated in reviewed literature, the project manager possesses some competencies which are a sine qua non for successful project delivery, there does not seem to be a clear cut consensus on what these competencies are, as different researchers have identified different competencies that make project leaders. Furthermore, most researchers could not come to terms with the study of Geoghegan and Dulewicz (2008) that there is any relation between a project manager's competence and project success. The view of these researchers is that the use of right techniques and tools assures the achievement of successful projects (Crawford, 2007). This implies that project managers with their technical knowledge and emotional intelligent make no contribution towards the success of projects so far as the right tools are deployed in managing projects (Crawford, 2007). This is in line with some believes about project management as presented by Müller and Turner (2007c) which are: the project manager's competence with his leadership style is not a success factor on projects; secondly, any project manager is capable of managing any project. Similarly, going through the literature, Müller and Turner (2007c:3) further stated that “the project success literature studiously ignores the project manager, and his or her competence or leadership style as a potential success factor on projects”. Furthermore, Anderson et al (1987) saw the importance of personal characteristics of a project manager like his intuitiveness, while choosing a project manager, which is similar to Hong's (2002) findings that the personality of a leader has been a determining factor in project effectiveness, but however these findings as well as that of Rees et al (1996) were all silent about the impact these characteristics have towards project success. Pinto and Trailer (1998) agreed on some characteristics of effective project leaders which are; creative problem solving, tolerance for ambiguity, credibility, effective communication and flexible management style. Among the skills they identified for project managers were: planning and budgeting, technical and leadership skills. All these skills and characteristics make a good project manager; nevertheless, this research did not see these characteristic as a possible source of achieving project success.

Conclusively, two important but divergent views can be evident from the literature with regards to the project leadership competence and project success; on the one hand some pundits believe that a project manager's leadership competencies can lead to the achievement of project success, some others would not consider them as a possible source of project success.


There is no doubt that projects are being conceived, implemented and completed by people, therefore, people are at the beginning, end and core of every projects. The activities of the project team members and stakeholders are being coordinated by a project manager. Therefore management has been a core strategy in project management. Recently, the literature noted that there has been a sudden emphasis on project managers as leaders; it becomes necessary to understand if management is not enough (Veal, 2004) in project management? To have a better perceptive of this issue, the difference between management and leadership will be explored to determine why project managers should become leaders as well.

Down the decades, the literature had a different understanding of the definition of leadership. However, for the purposes of this research leadership is defined as “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members” (House et al, 2004: 56).Such definition incorporates the notion of motivation by the leader, enabling others to achieve the desired goals of an organisation. On the other hand, management is an organizational process of achieving the goals of an organisation (Verma and Wideman, 1994). Although there has been an understanding in most management theories that some managers are leaders while some leaders are equally managers, Zalesnik (1977) maintains that managing and leading are not the same.

In project-based context, Norrie and Walker (2004) addressed the difference between management and leadership by stating that management of a project deals with “the day-to-day operations of a project plan in pursuit of an agreed set of outcomes - on time and within budget” (p. 48). This implies that project management involves “the process of controlling the achievement of the project objectives” (Munns and Bjeirmi, 1996:81). On the other hand project leadership is:

“a presence and a process carried out within an organizational role that assumes responsibility for the needs and rights of those people who choose to follow the leader in accomplishing project results” (Cleland, 1995:86).

Such definition means that project leadership focuses on the project team members and how to motivate and inspire them towards achieving a project aims. What then is the difference between the titles “project manager” and “project leaders” and what is the impact of they have in delivering projects?

The basic difference in these two is seen “in the context of implementation of planned change in organizations” (Partinghon, 2003:83). PMI defined a project manager as one charged with the responsibility for project management. Bennis (1989) distinguished between a project manager and a project leaders when he stated that a leader does the right things (effectiveness) while a manager on the other hand does things right (efficiency). Project leadership in the mind of Verma (1996) “is the ability to get things done well through others” (p. 129) Cleland (1995) went further to assert that a project leader builds up vision for the project, gathers resources, and provide the inspiration and motivation needed for working alongside the project stakeholders in doing the right things towards achieving the project aims.

Some researchers (Fisher, 1993; Mclean and Weitzel, 1991; Verman and Wideman, 1994) have identified the important of leadership to project management. Norrie and Walker (2004:47) suggest that “a leader's vision helps articulate the project's objectives, goals, and products”. Therefore leadership is considered necessary for successful achievements of projects since leadership focuses on motivating people while “management” is equally important as it stresses getting things done (Verman and Wideman, 1994). Also, Verma and Wideman (1994) identify the skills in figure 3, as appropriate for project leaders. Their argument is that applying these skills effectively, project success is assured.

The findings of Zimmerer and Yasin (1998) indicate that project leadership contributes up to 76% of project success. Gray and Larson (2002) saw the importance of leadership to project management in their ability of coping with changes in project scope and schedules and the ability to deviate from what has been planned as events unfold in order to achieve successful project management. Another study identified the importance of project “leadership” on the emphasis it lays on satisfying the customers through conducting the activities of the “project team members towards the required product(s) under typical project constraints” (Verma and Wideman, 1994:4).

While project leadership has been identified as necessary for project success (Verma and Wideman, 1994; Zimmerer and Yasin, 1998) it has also been noted that “strong leadership, while usually desirable, is not always necessary to successfully complete projects” (Gray and Larson, 2002:318). The reason for such statement as the literature states is that well-defined projects that are not been confronted by many surprises need little leadership, while strong leadership is needed to redirect the activities of the project team members in projects with uncertain environment such as in software development where plans most times deviates. Conclusively, it is has been be stated that among the things make project managers valuable in organizations is “the ability to both manage and lead a project” (Gray and Larson, 2002:318). Therefore it becomes necessary that management and leadership are both utilized in projects so that the limitations of each can be overcome by the other.


This chapter focuses primarily on the methodological stance and research strategy adopted for this research. The whole methods and techniques that this research anchored on for the purposes of data collection and analysis is discussed and adequate reasons given in justification for the choice of these methods. To proceed with this, it is necessary not to lose sight of the purpose of this piece of research which is an investigation to determine if project managers' leadership skills and competencies can act as a catalyst in bringing about successful project performance.

Therefore, to achieve this aim and objectives of this research, a research design that incorporates a six layer research onion model (Saunders et al, 2007) that describes the research method and processes has been developed. The layers include: research Philosophies, Approaches, Strategies, Choices, Time horizons, Techniques and procedure (or research method) layers. The research design encapsulated in the six research model onion is better demonstrated in figure 4.


The importance of identifying the research philosophy that underlines any research has been observed by Saunders et al (2007) because it reviews the researcher's assumptions and interpretation of the external world. Therefore the research philosophy chosen for any particular research influences the method, approach, techniques and the strategies used in answering the research questions. Interpretivism which is the underlined philosophy behind this research is an epistemological position which argues that social world should not be studied using the same principles or procedures of the natural sciences (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Positivism on the other hand favours the application of the principles of natural sciences in studying the social reality (Bryman and Bell, 2003); positivism is therefore used when there is an existing theory that needs to develop some hypothesis.

This study focuses primarily on the subject matter of social sciences - people and their institutions in different projects. For this reason, this research have chosen interpretivism as its research philosophy because of its hermeneutical foundation (Wright, 1971) and its appropriateness in understanding how the leadership skills and competencies of a project manager can affect the outcome of projects. This contradicts with the positivist philosophy that explains human actions as distinct from an independent reality (Weber, 2004) through the use of scientific model (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Projects can be understood as a temporary organisation with human behaviour as an aspect of projects. This, therefore, calls for a philosophical approach that critically interprets rather than empirically seek the explanation (Weber, 2004) to understand if the leadership skills and competencies a project manager possesses has impact on the activities of the project team and stakeholders towards achieving a successful delivery of projects or not.

Inductive approach was chosen to formulate theories based on the data collected and its interpretation (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Inductive process therefore focuses primarily on building up theories with the data gathered than testing theories in the case of deductive approach. According to Glaser and Strauss (1967), inductive research approach helps in developing grounded theory. This approach does not begin with a theoretical framework (Saunders, et al, 2007); rather the findings of this research are used in establishment if leadership skills and competencies of a project manager impacts on project performance.


To achieve its target business research adopts two major paradigms of research methods which are quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative method is a research approach that focuses on data collection and analysis based on quantification and measurement of data with its origin from the scientific model (Bryman and Bell, 2003). On the other hand, qualitative method is a research strategy that puts emphasis on word in the collection and analysis of data (Bryman and Bell, 2003). For the purposes of this research qualitative method is preferred to quantitative method because it follows the philosophical bedrock of this research which is centred on inductivism and interpretivism, which concern interpreting peoples words and feelings and in this context, the feelings of the entire project stakeholders towards a successful project performance. Qualitative research method deals “not only with objectively measurable ‘facts' or ‘events', but also with the ways that people construct, interpret and give meaning to these experiences” (Gerson and Horowitz, 2002:199). Since this study focuses on the value placed on the use of effective leadership skills and competencies in the management of projects and the interpretation of their impact in projects by project management pundits, therefore, qualitative research method is preferred in data generation and analysis.

However, some critics of qualitative research method maintain that its findings can be affected since the researcher can and do influence the outcome of the findings (Bryman and Bell, 2003). However given the fact that this research aims at generating and formulating ideas the use of qualitative method is preferred to quantitative method that focuses on quantifying the result of research findings.


Primary and secondary data sources were used in this research to complement each other. Using secondary data which is the main source of data for this research entails using materials that is already collected by other researchers for the purposes of achieving research aims and objectives (Saunders et al, 2007). In this instance it involves using them to determining if leadership skills and competencies of a project manager can increase the possibility of a success project performance or not. Figure 5 shows three forms of secondary data as differentiated by Saunders et al (2007) which are documentary secondary data, which include academic book, journals and video recording, multiple source which include government publication and industrial or organisational report and survey-based secondary data which include government census and statistics.

Based on the above classification this research used two sources of secondary data which are documentary data from thirty-three project management journal articles, five project management textbooks and multi source data from six Project management Institute documents on project leadership. The journal articles were professional and peers reviewed and were mainly articles from International journal of project management and Project management Institute in order to guarantee reliability in the data collected. This research used the model developed by Pattern (1990) in Table 5 which is a process of assessing literature articles before using them for another research, to ascertain the quality of these literature sources before using the data collected from them to achieve its purpose. Using this model was also necessary to ensure that only literature materials found to be relevant in answering the research questions of the preset study were included into the database for this research.

Secondary data which include both qualitative and quantitative data (Saunders et al, 2007) has been understood to be useful in research (Saunders et al, 2007). Baines and Chansarkar (2002) attribute the advantage of using secondary data to its permanence over time and the fact that it is relatively ease for collection. Also, having a pre-existence of data (Hakim, 1993) is an advantage as existing and new data collected can be compared. In this instance, the data from the literature materials were compared with data from the semi-structured interview. However, some researchers according to Hughes (2000) consider secondary data as inferior to primary data, and the difficulty associated with controlling documentary data have been spotted by Saunders et al (2007) as the problems attached to the use of documentary data. However, given the understanding of Stewart and Kamins (1993) that the use of secondary data can be advantageous as they can be evaluated prior to their use, this research found reason to use secondary data. Owing to the fact that there are times when secondary data may not match the research question of the new research, the present study collected a limited amount of primary data through seven semi-structured interviews which were designed to complement the limitations of the use of secondary data.

Semi-structured interview is an interview structure that allows the respondents to provide rich data because of its flexibility allowing the researcher to focus on the issue of investigation (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Therefore, this research preferred semi-structured interview to investigate the themes that emerged from the secondary data, with the participants commenting on issues around the themes, which centred on the research questions. Also, the use of semi-structured interview was preferred over focus groups, because it was felt that one-to-one interviews would give the participants the required privacy to articulate their views and be more open to make contribution unlike the case with focus group that involves peers and colleagues being interviewed at the same room and time. The interview guild used in this research covered a range of issues like leadership in projects, project manager, skills and competencies of a project manager, and project success. A full detail of this is provided in appendix 7.2. Since this research deals with projects in general, it was necessary to get a sample of project managers for the semi-structured interview from project managers based in the UK for accessibility and from different project types. These interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed with meticulously transcribed after three weeks of the interview.


The method of analysis chosen for this research was grounded theory. Grounded theory is a process of establishing a theory based on the data collected (Strauss and Corbin, 1998, cited in Bryman and Bell, 2003). The processes of data analysis in grounded theory is known to be iterative as the analysis of data starts after some data have been collected and the outcome of the analysis most times shapes and determine the collection of subsequent data (Bryman and Bell, 2003).

Coding was the grounded theory tool used in this research, this is a means of breaking down data into different component parts after a thorough and careful review of the literature works and the responses from the participants given different names to them (Bryman and Bell, 2003). There were no preconceived codes as the case with quantitative research; rather the interpretation of the research data shaped the emergent codes in this research. In particular, the literature works used for this research were subjected to open coding, which Bryman and Bell (2003) saw as a process whereby data are broken down, examined, compared, conceptualised and categorised. With this process, this research was able to make comparisons of the data collected which helped in establishing a theory on the impact of project manager's leadership skills and competencies in achieving a better project performance.

Furthermore, this research used qualitative content analysis in the data analysis. This involves searching-out for some emerging themes in the materials used, while leaving the process implicit (Bryman and Bell, 2003). In this instance it involves searching-out for emerging themes in the literature materials used for this research and counting the frequency of their occurrence. The themes and categories that emerged from the qualitative content analysis were used as a guild in generating more data using in-depth interviews in the view of developing a grounded theory.


Saunders et al (2007) noted that every piece of research is undertaking within a given time frame. The time horizon for this piece of research is cross-sectional, which is as a result of time stipulated for this research. Unlike longitudinal study that involves studies of a longer period of time, cross-sectional studies is a study taking within a short period of time. The use of cross-sectional study allowed this research compare some independent variables of different studies and literature of different t periods. Most importantly, cross sectional studies enabled this study make comparison on the issue of project leadership and its influences in different project management literature in the history of project management.


Since this research focused on secondary data there was need to ensure that these articles and materials used were duly referenced and acknowledged. Obviously, certain concerns can be raised about the use of secondary data in research, which include the vulnerability of individuals who participated in the original study, inter alia. Also, unguarded use of secondary data can affect the foundation of the information excerpted, since the information was obtained by other researchers. For this reason, data collected from the literature was used with strictest confidence to avoid all possible harm to the participants of the original research. Also, this research conducted open and complete voluntary interviews thereby granting the participants the comfort to withdraw their consent if the need arises during the process of the interview, especially with regards to using the result of the interview in achieving the purpose of this study.


This chapter presents the data collected for the purpose of this research both from the literature sources and from the qualitative interviews. As was previously indicated in chapter one, the overall aim of this study was to determine if the competencies of a project manager can act as a catalyst in bringing about successful management of projects. To achieve the aim of this research, there was need to review the material facts from literature sources, to ascertain the tangibility of their contents, and in-depth interviews were conducted with a view to addressing the issues that this research is concerned with.

4.1 Analysis of the Literature Materials

The following paragraph presents and analyses the data gathered from the literature materials in line with the general objectives of this research, and with the view of developing grounded theory on the subject matter of this research endeavour.

4.1.1 What are the skills and competencies available for a project manager's use in managing projects?

The data collected indicates that for any project to be successfully managed, some essential qualities are necessary for a project manager's use (Curran et al, 2009). It was however gathered that the literature had no consensus on what these leadership skills and competencies are, as different pundits and proponents within this area of study presented diverse views. However, data collected and the results presented on Table 6 are derived from the review of the literature sources in an attempt to discover in order of priority the leadership skills and competencies available for a project manager's use while managing projects and the ones which appear to be consistent from the different literature materials.

These competencies in Table 6 were found to be reoccurring from the literature and were suggested to be effective in the management of projects. Notably, four managerial competences were identified which are communication, managing resources, empowerment and team leadership, and two emotional competences (EQ) identified were motivation and influence, while vision was the only intellectual competence (IQ) identified as perhaps necessary when managing projects.

Leadership skills and competencies were indicated to help the project manager facilitate the delivery of projects by using them to achieve the aims and objectives of projects. The result of data collected shows that with the application of these skills and competencies like problem solving ability, communication, motivation, team building, influence and empowerment, a project manager is able to keep the project team members and the stakeholders focused in achieving project goals.

4.1.2 Do the leadership skills and competencies of a project manager lead to successful projects?

The result of the data collected on the impact of the application of a project manager's leadership skills and competencies, shows that this issue has constituted an age long debate among pundits in this academic area and that project management literature has a diverse view on the issue. Figure 6 summarises the data collected from the content analysis of the literature materials which projected four themes which are: leadership skills and competencies of project managers are necessary for successful projects; secondly, skills and competencies of project managers as unnecessary for project success; thirdly, particular competencies of project managers as a necessity for project success; and fourthly, the lack of opinion on the impact of a project managers' skills and competencies in successful project delivery.

It was gathered that the first theme was supported by 25% of the whole literature sources reviewed. This is evident in statements like the instant that “There is a statistical significant relationship between a project manager's leadership competencies and project success” (Geoghegan and Dulewicz, 2008:60). Subsequently, research has it that “Effective project manager leadership is an important success factor on projects” (Prabhakar, 2005:53). The above statements concur with the notion that a project manager's leadership skills and competencies enable him or her to deliver projects successfully. These pundits note that in the application of the skills and competencies, project managers are able to impact on the team members and drive their motivation to the achievement of project success.

The second theme, on the other hand, was supported by 57% of literature sources used. Research has it that: “The literature on project success...has largely ignored the impact of the project manager, and his leadership style and competence, on project success” (Turner and Müller, 2005:59). The most possible reason for this notion as the literature states is that: “the project manager's competence makes no contribution to project success; as long as he or she uses the right tools and techniques, the project will be successful” (Crawford, 2007, p. 120). This group of scholars believe that a project manager's competence does not make any additional impact on the achievement of project success, because any project manager can comfortably manage any project (Turner and Müller, 2007a) without possessing special skills or competencies. Their understanding, therefore, is that the use of the right tools when managing projects is the most important thing in project delivery.

Again, sourcing from the literature, it was gathered that11% of the literature sources analysed supported the third theme, this is evident in the claim that “certain of the project manager's leadership competencies are correlated with project success [sic]” (Müller and Turner, 2007a:27). This very remark suggests that there are some leadership competencies a project manager possesses that do lead to a successful project delivery. Among the competencies these academic pundits put forward as correlating to project success are communication and emotional competencies which include motivation and influence. The above remark however, implies that not all the project leadership competencies guarantee successful projects, like his strategic perspective. Furthermore, 7% of the literature sources supported the fourth theme, and this is captivated in thesis statement that the project “sponsor wants a project manager not just with appropriate competence ..., but also with appropriate focus to work” (Müller and Turner, 2007:299). The above statement recognises that project managers have some leadership competencies but does not go further to show if they can be a source for the achievement of successful project management. This shows that there are some scholars in this area who place emphasis on the leadership competencies project managers possess, but were not concerned on what impact they have in the management of projects.

4.1.3 Is a project manager a project success factor?

The result of the data collected to ascertain if the project manager is seen as a success factor in project management shows that academic pundits in this area have continued to debate if a project manager with his leadership competencies can be grouped to into project management success factors. However, the result of the data collected from the relevant literature sources and presented in figure 7 suggests that two themes exist in the debate. While some project management literature works view project managers as a project success factor, some others do not consider a project manager as such.

It was gathered that 28% of the literature sources used for the data collection indentified a project managers as being among project management success factors. This is aptly captured in the statement that “Research has shown that the project manager is one of the most important success factors of projects” (Toor and Ofori, 2008:3). Another research stated that “Effective project manager...is an important success factor on projects” (Prabhakar, 2005). These statements does not just see project a manager as being among project management success factors, but placed him or her at the apogee of project management success factors.

On the other hand, 72% of the remaining literature sources used for this research did not include the project manager as part of project success factors. This view is summarised thus: “Rarely does the literature on project success factors specially or overtly mention the project manager and his or her...competence” (Turner and Müller, 2005:57). Comments like the instant portray a negation of the view of the project manager as a success factor in project management delivery, and even the possession of leadership competencies is not enough for project management literature to view the project manager as a project management success factor. This group of project management pundits observe that time, cost, client (ender user) satisfaction, project aims, and objectives are among what constitutes project success factors.

On the overall, data that was collected to determine what constitutes project success showed that the literature grouped project management history into periods and identified different project management success factors to these groups. Table 7 shows these periods and the project success factors attached to each.

The list in Table 7 shows that during the first period covering the 1960s-1980s, the project success factors at this time did not include the project manager. The seven success factors identified in the second period included effective communication, which is a part of the project manager leadership skill as a project success factor. The third period completely excluded the project manager in what constituted project success. The last period with fourteen project success factors included communication, vision, and technical competence as among what makes project success.


The analysis of the data collected thorough seven semi-structured interview is presented below in a narrative format and the interview questions where structured towards the themes that emerged from the content analysis of the literature sources used in achieving the purpose of this research.


To determine if leadership is considered necessary in projects, the interview respondents were asked how important leadership in project management is. The result of the data gathered shows that the entire respondent identified project leadership as an important aspect of projects. Such response from the entire respondents perhaps suggests an overwhelming recognition of the importance of project leadership in management of projects. According to one of the respondents “Yeah absolutely, I think that other project managers will agree with me that project leadership is not just an aspect of project management but it is at the core of every project”. One of the reasons that project leadership was considered necessary is because the project team members and the stakeholders need to be led accordingly so that they can contribute in achieving the projects aims. For this reason therefore, one of the respondents observed

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