8 March 2017

Uncertainty – why it shouldn’t be a bad word to a project manager

Embracing uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes.

Nothing in life is more reliable than the constant of uncertainty. It’s inevitable.

uncertaintyAnd in managing projects, even the most brilliant project managers struggle with uncertainty. We use milestones to anticipate outcomes, and risk management to prevent disasters, but what about those unseen, unknown issues we can’t manage until they land on our plate?

We need to start to understand the complexity and uncertainty of a project in order to control and manage it.

Project managers have two main functions: managing tasks and managing relationships. However, all the focus is too often placed on the formalised areas of management, planning and task management, and not enough on the softer relationship-management side, and this softer side is generally where the uncertainty lies.

‘Critical path’ is too often our God. But critical path only makes sense in a perfect world, and critical path thinking can make the uncertainties that exist into more of an issue than they need to be. Strictly enforcing the discipline inherent in critical path thinking can all too often lead to issues, which would be less damaging if we instead adapted to a more ‘conditional’ style of management. Different projects call for very different approaches. Uncertainty is all around us, and sometimes the uniqueness of a situation is just that – unique. We need to embrace it, rather than mitigate against it.

Not all methodologies work for all projects, not all tools are universally suited, and individual project characteristics need to be carefully considered. Too often we decide to place an ill-fitting framework on a project, hoping it will order things, and too often this fails – how often do projects overrun, miss budgets, specifications and schedules?

While uncertainty is sometimes a bad word to a project manager, it doesn’t need to be. Embracing the uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes. Sometimes, the best way to run a project is just not the ‘critical path’ way. Deviation from this way of thinking can sometimes reap real rewards. Remember that every situation is unique, every project is unique, and each brings its own particular brand of complexity and uncertainty.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to do things a little differently when planning a project? How about taking the time to determine the uncertainty profile of the project first, before assigning tasks and timelines?

By doing this, we embrace the uncertainty a little bit more. And that isn’t a bad thing. Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

‘If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour’.

1 March 2017

Time – A Most Valuable Resource But Always Fleeting

As project managers, we all know that there is never enough time – but are we right? Is it conceivable that there is usually enough time, but we just don’t manage it well?


“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

We also know that feeling – “I didn’t see the time going”, “I didn’t realise it had got so late”, and “I have so many things to finish before close of business”. At the same time, we all know effective people who get through their work within the normal working day, and still manage to lead a hectic social life as well.

It is time to take control of your own time.

To quote Drucker again: “Know where your time goes”.

Do you know where your time goes?

Do you even know what your time today was spent on?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you should! You owe it to yourself, and as a project manager you owe it to your profession.




For the next 5 working days, keep a record of how you spend your time in 15 minute blocks, throughout your day. Keep it in your phone, or on your laptop, or in a notebook. At the end of the 5 days (and not until the 5 days have elapsed!), analyse your time under the following categories:

  1. Very productive
  2. Marginally productive
  3. Barely worth doing
  4. Waste of time

Having done this, if you find yourself mainly scoring 3s or 4s, then you have a time management issue. If this is so, continue this recording of your time into the future until you have sorted out the problem. If you apply yourself to this exercise, the problem will sort itself.

Do this privately. Don’t let anyone else see the results. That way you can be totally honest with yourself. It is only for your own benefit.

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

As a result of applying this you will:

  • be far more productive
  • be a much more effective Project Manager
  • feel more in control of your life
  • have a better work/life balance
  • be less stressed, less worried
  • be better company socially
  • be a nicer person
  • be more likely to improve your promotion prospects


“Heck, by the time a man scratches his behind, clears his throat, and tells me how smart he is, we’ve already wasted fifteen minutes.” – Lyndon B. Johnson


Article by Peter F. Drucker

24 February 2017

Project Management as a Service… the new black!


We live in a service economy. These days more and more things come as-a-service – cars, software, bikes, paper, food, news content…. So why not Project Management?

At The Project Foundry, we believe in Project Management as a force for good in every business, not a necessary overhead. We also believe that ‘PMaaS’ can help your business grow, save you time and money, and take away some of the growing pains of rapid expansion. And we’re well placed to know!

So let’s say you’re running a rapidly growing SME. First off, that’s a great complaint. But sometimes success brings its own unique set of challenges. In the past, you’ve been able to oversee every internal project personally, because you could just about make time for it. But when an organisation gets to critical mass, managers need to manage the business, not get bogged down in the weeds.

That’s where we come in. And that’s where Project management as-a-service from The Project Foundry delivers. We operate an in-house, virtual PMO, so when we come on-board with your business, you get the benefits of a fully functioning Project Management Office right from day one, complete with established project management best-practice and methodologies, and carefully chosen Project Managers with the perfect blend of skills to run your projects.

Better still, you get the oversight of our team of senior programme managers, who have seen it all before, and are always just a call away when the most difficult situations arise. You get all the support and governance of an enterprise-level Project Management Office, without any of the headaches involved in setting up and maintaining it.

And the great benefit of PMaaS is that you can turn it on and off when you need. Implementing a new IT system? Moving office? Finally putting in the infrastructure you need? No problem. You just pay for what you use.

Call one of our team today to see how our Project Management services can help get your business moving in the right direction.

24 August 2016

Risk Management – Always bet on black

Risk management - always bet on black

It’s Vegas Baby!

In this article I’ll pose the question whether the problem is that people (or executives or both) don’t know what risk is or choose to ignore it. We will see what the implications of either and/or both are.

The streets at Edwards Air Force Base, where the majority of both the Air Force and NASA aeronautical flight testing and research takes place, are not named for generals. They’re named for pilots killed on test flights. It’s a reminder to all who work there that the junction between technology and nature can be a dangerous place.
(Lane Wallace, Why We’re So Bad at Managing Risk, 2010).

The streets at Edwards Air Force Base, where the majority of both the Air Force and NASA aeronautical flight testing and research takes place, are not named for generals. They’re named for pilots killed on test flights. It’s a reminder to all who work there that the junction between technology and nature can be a dangerous place.
(Lane Wallace, Why We’re So Bad at Managing Risk, 2010).

In the same article Lane goes on to talk about the catastrophic oil spill in the gulf. She points out that BP is not new to offshore operations or the risks inherent in drilling into the earth. Lane asks the question “how did the company misjudge the dangers, risk and consequences of an accident so badly?” Herein lies the crux of it. Financial return will trump any and every other concern.

Leaving the stark reality of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Challenger space shuttle accident and the emotive discussion on where the blame lies. Let’s have a conversation about the industry we all work in, an industry where technology and people co-exist and collaborate for commercial reasons.

Substituting risk management failures for NASA and BP disasters I want to know how we keep getting it so wrong… so often? My assertion is that Lane Wallace thinks the easy answer is, there’s a financial incentive for going forward, and a financial disincentive for holding back. Is that it? Does it all come down to money at the end of the day, no matter what the consequences? Or is it more nuanced?

Richard Leblanc wrote an article 25 Reasons for Risk Management Failure (2015). Having spoken to directors and officers about risk management he presented 25 reasons for risk management failure. The link to Richard’s article will be included at the end of this post. For now I want to include a subset from Richard’s list to see do they all, some or any of them resonate with you:

  1. Lack of enterprise risk management expertise on the board.
  2. Governance gaps over a material risk(s) within the board or across committees.
  3. Directors incapable of identifying and fully understanding the risks, or worse yet, don’t want to understand. Committees show no interest when they should be shocked.
  4. Internal oversight functions reporting to management instead of the board. A complacent board does not correct.
  5. Directors do not insist on a real-time line of sight over material risks and their mitigation/treatment.

I like that Richard lets the voice of those he interviewed do the talking for him instead of sermonising. Richard does conclude (in his introduction) that “based on my experience assisting boards, including boards that have failed and boards that cannot afford to fail… I have never encountered a risk management failure where the board was not at fault, based on what the board said or did, or failed to say or do.”

Lane Wallace points out that “risk is an elusive, and ultimately unconquerable, opponent.” That said Lane advises to “expect the unexpected. And plan accordingly.” Expect the unexpected. And plan accordingly. We don’t. Why? Richard Leblanc presents the reasons. “I have never encountered a risk management failure where the board was not at fault, based on what the board said or did, or failed to say or do.” The three wise monkeys strain of the C-ostrich, Do-ostrich disease has reached epidemic proportions. Is it, like risk, an ultimately unconquerable opponent?

I’ll leave you with this question? When is the next Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the Challenger space shuttle accident going to happen? Place your chips. Roll the dice. It’s Vegas baby!

Please read Richard’s article (http://corporatecomplianceinsights.com/25-reasons-for-risk-management-failure/) to see the full list. It’s insightful and frighteningly familiar.

For an even more frightening example of risk management failing please read Lane’s article: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/06/why-were-so-bad-at-managing-risk/57522/

27 July 2016

Project Management Quality – Where do you see it?

Serra Pelada (English: “Bald Mountain”) was a large gold mine in Brazil 270 miles south of the mouth of the Amazon River. The mine was made famous by the images taken by Sebastião Salgado showing an anthill of workers moving vast amounts of ore by hand. Because of the chaotic nature of the operation estimating the number of miners was difficult, but at least 100,000 people were thought to be present, making it one of the largest mines in the world. “I could hear the gold whispering in the souls of these men,” said Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.


project management 
When you look at this photograph what do you see? Do you see men buried in mud while they dig for gold? In the context of project management what do you see? Let me be more precise. In the context of quality what do you see? Look at the photograph again? Think in the abstract. Where do you see quality? Is it the gold or is it the people?

At The Project Foundry we don’t invest in gold. We invest in people.
Call us on +353 1 445 2218 or contact us here to find out what we can do for you.


5 July 2016

Politics and Project Management. It’s only a game, right?

politics of project management

I guess the answer to that depends on whether you see the game through the prism of the agitator or the agitated.

Are there ways to win the game of politics and if so what are they? You can play fair. Will you win? To be honest I don’t like your odds. You can play dirty. Will you win? You might. Will you feel good about yourself afterwards? I suppose it depends how many times you have been to war. “God hardens the heart of several kings to they would make war” (Joshua 11:20)


It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.” (Sun Tzu’s The Art of War).


Ok, so politics isn’t war or it shouldn’t have to be. War is exhausting not to mention destructive. Politics is not really a game either but it is something that we, as project managers, need to be aware of and manage.

Before we think about winning the game of politics I’d like to bring your attention to Eight Leadership Lessons From Bad Politicians (Thom S. Rainer). Using Thom’s words “Let’s be fair. Many politicians are good and strong leaders. They have a high ethical standard… but some politicians are bad. They put self first. They seek power first.” Thom asks: “can we learn anything from bad politicians?” Before you answer can I re-phrase Thom’s question slightly and ask can we, as project managers, learn anything from bad politicians? Forget, for a moment, about winning games? Can we learn anything to help us deliver success for our organisations and value for our customers? Really isn’t that the name of the game?


Let’s look at the eight lessons we can learn from bad politicians according to Thom S. Rainer:

  1. Tell the truth. True leaders tell the truth. No matter what. No matter the cost.
  2. Don’t deflect responsibility. Great leaders take responsibility for that which they can lead.
  3. Don’t lead by placing blame. Great leaders are more concerned about what they can do well than what someone else does poorly.
  4. Communicate clearly. They make certain that the truth is communicated in such a way that others understand it clearly.
  5. Be aware of the lure of power. Great leaders are servants. Their motive is first to serve others.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice yourself. Leaders who make a difference will put their careers… before the good of those they serve.
  7. Lead by conviction, not by popularity. Great leaders will do what they sense is right rather than trying to win… popularity.
  8. Don’t sacrifice the needs of the future for the convenience of the present. Great leaders will make courageous decisions today, even if they aren’t popular decisions.

Now “here’s your moment of Zen” (Jon Stewart). Do these traits remind you of people you work with or should work with? If these are the traits of the good politician then if you are like me you work with or have worked with this good politician’s evil (doppelganger) twin.

So how can you defeat the evil twin and win the war between good versus evil? For starters you have to recognise you are in a game of sorts and you need to learn how to play it.

Mindful of traits of individuals who practice bad politics (the opposite of those outlined above) you need to work within the system and play (the game) by the rules. Check out Corporate Politics for Project Managers 101 (Dale Myers’ blog) because I’m about to use his recommendations for beating that evil twin:

  • Learn the political landscape of your organisation.
  • Actively manage your reputation.
  • Keep your options open / don’t take sides.
  • Don’t badmouth others.
  • Focus on your circle of influence.
  • Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
  • Remember it’s not personal.
  • Think and look for “win-win” solutions.
  • Consult your core values.
  • Expect betrayal.

Dale calls corporate politics an “ugly game”. He’s right but it’s a game nonetheless that we, as project managers, have to play. It is just a question of how we play it.

Great people have great values and great ethics.” (Jeffrey Gitomer)


16 June 2016

Out Of Scope:Defining different types of scope and their places in a project

woodenBuilding the wooden box

To make a wooden box go to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Wooden-Box (“How to Make a Wooden Box”) and follow the 8 steps:

  1. Choose the wood.
  2. Gather your supplies.
  3. Measure and mark your boards.
  4. Cut your boards, if not already to size.
  5. Assemble the sidepieces using a butt joint.
  6. Attach the sides to the base.
  7. Attach a hinged lid to the box.
  8. Fill any nail holes.


Has he gone crazy I hear you ask? Some would say yes but that’s a different story for a different day. Bear with me for a moment. It will make sense, I assure you. Please keep the analogy of the carpenter and the wooden box in the back of your mind as we discuss out of scope and in-scope.

There are two places in a project where scope is defined. High-level scope is defined in the project charter. Low-level scope is defined in the business requirements document.

High-level scope consists of two main elements:

  • Deliverables: Defining your deliverables goes a long way to defining the overall scope of the project.
  • Boundaries: Boundary statements help to separate the stuff that is in scope and out of scope. Examples:
    • We will implement the CRM solution to the Irish geographical region and prove it there before implementing it to the UK geographical region once it meets certain criteria.
    • We will implement a change control model for the Lunar programme and perform cost/benefit analysis before implementing it for all other programmes.

Back to the carpenter and his wooden box for a moment. Imagine the high-level scope as the wooden box with the outside sides of the box as the boundaries separating what is in-scope and out-of-scope and the inside sides of the box as the deliverables of the project.

Oh how I hate using phrases like generally speaking or typically but needs must. Generally once the project starts there are not a lot of requests to change deliverables or boundaries. Most of the change requests are changes to the business requirements.


Filling the wooden box

The business requirements help to define the detailed scope from the high-level scope.

We spoke about the inside sides of the box being the deliverables of the project. Business requirements describe the details of these deliverables. Let’s use our analogy again? If the scope is the box with the outside side of the box as the boundaries and the inside sides as the deliverables, the requirements are what you fill in the inside of the box.

There are two types of requirements:

  • Features: these are the characteristics of the deliverables. If you were building a bridge this might include the number of vehicles that the bridge can hold, the strength of the steel, the length of the bridge, the weight that the bridge can hold.
  • Functions: this describes how people, things, stuff interacts the deliverables and how the deliverable interacts with other deliverables. For example a financial batch process for processing transactions and within it how billing transactions are processed. In the context of these billing transactions how people input the data into the system to complete an invoice. In this example we are referencing process, functions and people.

If you remember how the pieces of the box fit together, you’ll have an easier time defining the scope of your project and what’s out of scope for your project. You’ll also build a really nice wooden box for keeping stuff in.

1 June 2016

N – Don’t be a NARC: no project Accountability, Responsibility and Control

Accountability is one characteristic that is present every time success is realised on a project. Think about it. In a perfect world everyone would possess the requisite self-discipline to deliver in every situation. But the fact is it is not a perfect world. People avoid responsibility. People don’t like or want to be held accountable. Controls are often unused or not in place at all.

With accountability, we feel compelled to achieve what we say we’re going to do. When we accomplish something, regardless of how small it is, we get that endorphin kick and once hooked, we want it again.

Let’s ask the rhetorical question. Should project managers care about accountability? Only if you want to succeed!

narcLet’s state some assumptions. We are all intelligent people. The sponsors, project managers and team members on our projects are intelligent people. They understand the critical value of accountability to a project’s success. Am I correct in my assumptions or am I mistaken? If I am mistaken why is it the case that we (the intelligent people that we are) do not understand the value of accountability (responsibility and control) to a project’s success?

Before we get on to answering this question let’s paint the doomsday picture. If your organisation is a NARC organisation then (partially) quoting Henry Wadsworth’s poem (“The Day Is Done”, 1944) “It’s late, so let’s fold our tents”. Why? Because there is no reason to lead the project because the project is doomed to failure.

Why is (making) (asking) encouraging team members to take account so difficult? In no particular order and in no way meant to be an exhaustive list but often times the members of a project team report to a different organisational leader (remember the weak matrix organisation from last week’s post?) The implication being that the project manager’s direct authority is flaccid at best and non-existent at worst. The project is considered a lower priority to the daily (business-as-usual) responsibilities.

So how do we ensure accountability?

  • Set (clear) expectations.
  • Track (measurable) progress.
  • Integrate with organisation’s staff performance review system.

Set (clear) expectations

The outcome of setting clear (unambiguous) expectations is a matrix of tasks and accountabilities by role with named resources for each role.

How do you reach this outcome? Use people maps, influence maps, mind maps or whatever tool you are most comfortable with to capture all the people parts of a project. From it you can develop your RACI matrix. With it in place workshop and challenge your matrix and focus on real-life situations to make it real.

For each task in your matrix ask yourself a few questions for example:

  • If a business-as-usual issue occurs (from low to critical in business-impact/customer-impact) will the project team member lose focus on their assigned project task? Try and measure the impact if this happens.
  • If a team member’s (functional) manager asks them to complete a business-as-usual task (again) what is the impact?
  • If the project comes into conflict with a department’s priorities what will the outcome be and (again) what is the impact?

In most cases the outcome of such (real-life) scenarios will be to derail the project. As such it is an invaluable exercise to go through with a project team from sponsor down to think through the potential conflicts, determine priorities and communicate these decisions upfront and ahead of the project commencement.

Part of the exercise will also be to rank the likelihood of these situations occurring and weighting them accordingly.

The benefit to involving the whole project (ecosystem) team is the prioritisation, reasoning and process for resolving the issues becomes collaboration. An incidental (but invaluable) by-product is the sense of ownership that comes with inclusion. Miraculously your project will exceed (your/their) expectations!

Track (measurable) progress

Track progress! As Alexander The Meerkat says “Simples”. If you don’t know how you are doing then how do you know you are on track and worse if you are not on track how can you fix it? The trick is to not wait until the end but to track progress continuously. Pay particular attention to the most important tasks. Which ones are those? The answer is the tasks that are on the critical path. What is the critical path? Longest sequence of activities in a project plan which must be completed on time for the project to complete on due date.” (www.businessdictionary.com)

So track progress. Is Alexander right? Is it simple? It can be once you do it right.

Remember earlier we talked about a collaborative approach to set expectations. I would advise the same when it comes to tracking progress. Promote inclusiveness. Communicate it. Ask questions. Seek out opinions. You are tracking progress of the project. It is not the project manager’s soliloquy. Find out how core team members see progress. If critical path milestones are too far out, find out which tasks along the path to the critical path milestone are most likely to run into trouble. Don’t just track time. Track the result of a task against the criteria you (and your project ecosystem) have determined for success (be it quality, cost, service levels, performance).

Integrate with organisation’s staff performance review system

People focus on what’s measured. Does their performance on the project make a difference to their career success? How can you ensure it does? Integrate the performance of the people working on the project into their career objective settings and performance reviews.

There are several approaches to achieving this objective:

  • Publish and communicate metrics on a frequent basis.
  • Partner with the organisational leaders associated with your project team members.  Make sure the project objectives are a part of each team member’s career objectives.
  • Provide continual feedback (both positive and constructive), recognition and performance updates to the project team members and their managers.

Without a doubt accountability plays a vital role in ensuring success but it takes effort.  Will you put forth the effort to institute accountability practices in your project?

See you next time! If you have liked what you have read please like and remember to share.

18 May 2016

Matrix organisations – Become Neo to succeed as a Project Manager




1. isolate (one system, process, department, etc.) from others.

“most companies have expensive IT systems they have developed over the years, but they are siloed

Silo is often used to describe large organisations structured around functional areas. The analogy is particularly apt given the strong (tower-like) vertical structures in place and variously tenuous or missing horizontal connections. Typically functional managers direct these silos and these fiefdoms can be impregnable or penetrated. In this kind of structure any project that crosses the boundaries of the functional silos has to breach these intangible but powerful barriers.

Picturing a project manager in a weak matrix structure, what comes to mind is a glorified administrator who reports on projects but has little influence over them. We’ll call this project manager Anderson. More administration than management and little or no action put the chances of success very low.

Some reasons for this prognosis:

  • People contributing to the project change their commitment in terms of capacity or schedule or more usually are directed to change their commitment, leaving Anderson to continuously readjust the project around their flip-flopping. 
  • Stakeholders impose unexpected changes while the schedule and budget remain unmoveable. Anderson can only say yes, and update the project plan in order to accommodate the change, however unrealistic. 
  • People don’t engage or don’t seem compelled to engage. Typical passive-aggressive behaviour includes not answering emails, not returning phone calls or even not attending meetings, leaving Anderson wasting his time chasing them. 
  • People elude responsibility or avoid work but Anderson must keep them on the team. 
  • Despite all of the above Anderson is accountable for the project’s results.

In a weak matrix organisation these situations are not uncommon and if Anderson escalates such an issue to management, the latter will usually protect his people and disregard Anderson’s request because let’s face it: in a weak matrix organisation Anderson has no power.

NeoThankfully all is not lost.

Anderson worked as a hacker. He took the name Neo, after he was freed from the Matrix.

There are ways to overcome the project management challenges in a weak matrix structure.

Build good relationships with functional managers

How? How can Neo collaborate with the functional manager to keep control over the project and make it successful?

Agreeing on who does what between Neo and the functional manager is critical to avoid conflicts that may arise from overlapping responsibilities. Neo should focus on high-level activities and deliverables and monitor progress. The functional manager, on the other hand, is responsible for translating these high-level objectives into actions that will be performed by his/her teams.

When dealing with multiple functional managers providing information at various times and in diverse formats, assessing project status and keeping a realistic plan up-to-date is an incredibly challenging task. Setting up flows of information early on will make the project manager’s job considerably easier.  Avoid bringing cumbersome project management artifacts to the table. Instead, use simple communication materials that provide the right level of detail for functional managers.

Neo should take the lead to establish these rules. It helps keeping control over the project as well as demonstrating his added value. The functional manager will appreciate that Neo takes the initiative to organise collaboration as long as it’s not done in a directive fashion.

Power by influence

Neo has limited authority. Instead he leads by negotiation. He does not direct but coordinates.

Power by authority is overrated. Real, lasting power comes from influence, which in turn leads to trust. Trust depends on (1) respecting the stakeholders’ roles and interests (2) understanding the functional and technical aspects enough to coordinate activities (3) genuine interest in the project’s and the organisation’s success.

Reporting is a great influencing tool. By choosing which (objective) information to show, when, and to whom, Neo can exert powerful influence.

Understand the matrix

Neo has to develop deep organisational knowledge to identify and digest relevant information. This is called situational awareness. In a weak matrix organisation where dilution of roles and responsibilities exist, over-communication is a necessary evil. Neo is at its centre.

On the flip side it places Neo in an ideal position to represent not only the interests of the project but also of the organisation.

In conclusion, although Anderson has little formal authority in a weak matrix structure, Neo has considerable power in the form of influence. Neo develops unique strengths over time. First, he has broader organisational knowledge than any stakeholder taken individually. Second, he has corporate-level credibility because he is apolitical and not aligned to any specific department. Third he is the only one mandated to report at project-level.

5 May 2016

Leadership: a dangerous path –from the A-Z of Project Management series


Do you feel lonely as a leader? Forbes asked its readers that question in an article (published 23 February 2012 “Do You Feel Lonely As A Leader? Study Says You’re Not Alone”) The authors cited survey findings that “half of CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness”.

While not experiencing the rarefied air of the ivory towers that CEOs inhabit, the role of the project manager as a leader can also be a lonely and sometimes treachourous one.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Studying leaders in history shows us what happens when leadership goes awry and allows us to examine the consequences that might start in a local (controlled or relatively controlled) environment but reverberate out.

As project managers, there is much to learn from great, significant, effective, failed but always inspirational leaders. While not directly in our milieu there is much, upon reflection, that is relevant and useful.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Studying leaders in history shows us what happens when leadership goes awry and allows us to examine the consequences that might start in a local (controlled or relatively controlled) environment but reverberate out.

In his eBook, 365 Inspirational Quotes: Daily Motivation For Your Best Year Ever, Kevin Kruse shares the quotations that have (in his words) “inspired me as I’ve launched my companies, written books and raised my children.” Below are his top 100 leadership quotes of all time.

  1. A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu
  2. Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Proverbs 29:18
  3. I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
  4. You manage things; you lead people. —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
  5. The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePre
  6. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis
  7. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. — General George Patton
  8. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch
  9. A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon Bonaparte
  10. You don’t need a title to be a leader. –Multiple Attributions
  11. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell
  12. My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. —General Montgomery
  13. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker
  14. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
  15. The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground. —Sir Winston Churchill
  16. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders. are made rather than born. —Warren Bennis
  17. To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. —Andre Malraux
  18. He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle
  19. Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy
  20. I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. —Ralph Nader
  21. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. —Peter Drucker
  22. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. —Publilius Syrus
  23. A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  24. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. —Theodore Roosevelt
  25. Leadership is influence. —John C. Maxwell
  26. You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case. —Ken Kesey
  27. When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out. —Napoleon Bonaparte
  28. Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. —Harry S. Truman
  29. People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. —John Maxwell
  30. So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. —Peter Drucker
  31. The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. —Tony Blair
  32. The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh
  33. The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. —Kenneth Blanchard
  34. A good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible. —Polybius
  35. A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. —John Maxwell
  36. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. —Rosalynn Carter
  37. The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly. —Jim Rohn
  38. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton
  39. A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. —Douglas MacArthur
  40. A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward. —Ovid
  41. No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. —Andrew Carnegie
  42. Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. —General Dwight Eisenhower
  43. The leader has to be practical and a realist yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist. —Eric Hoffer
  44. Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. —Brian Tracy
  45. A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. —Max Lucado
  46. Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. —General George Patton
  47. As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. — Bill Gates
  48. All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. —John Kenneth Galbraith
  49. Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway. —Eleanor Roosevelt
  50. Don’t necessarily avoid sharp edges. Occasionally they are necessary to leadership. —Donald Rumsfeld
  51. Education is the mother of leadership. —Wendell Willkie
  52. Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. —Stephen Covey
  53. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. —General Colin Powell
  54. Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths. —John Zenger
  55. He who has great power should use it lightly. —Seneca
  56. He who has learned how to obey will know how to command. —Solon
  57. I am reminded how hollow the label of leadership sometimes is and how heroic followership can be. —Warren Bennis
  58. I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. —Herbert Swope
  59. If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities. —Maya Angelou
  60. If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. —Benjamin Franklin
  61. If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams
  62. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. —Thomas Jefferson
  63. It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself. —Latin Proverb
  64. It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. —Nelson Mandela
  65. Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead. —Ross Perot
  66. Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal. —Vince Lombardi
  67. Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. —John C. Maxwell
  68. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. —John F. Kennedy
  69. Leadership cannot just go along to get along. Leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day. —Jesse Jackson
  70. Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise. —Woodrow Wilson
  71. Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. —Norman Schwarzkopf
  72. Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. —Colin Powell
  73. Leadership is the key to 99 percent of all successful efforts. —Erskine Bowles
  74. Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. —Bill Bradley
  75. Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. —Tom Peters
  76. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. —Stephen Covey
  77. Never give an order that can’t be obeyed. —General Douglas MacArthur
  78. No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. —Abraham Lincoln
  79. What you do has far greater impact than what you say. —Stephen Covey
  80. Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. —Chinese Proverb
  81. One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. —Arnold Glasow
  82. The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on. —Walter Lippman
  83. The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision. —Ken Blanchard
  84. The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. —Harvey Firestone
  85. To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult. —Friedrich Nietzsche
  86. To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way. —Pat Riley
  87. True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well. —Bill Owens
  88. We live in a society obsessed with public opinion. But leadership has never been about popularity. —Marco Rubio
  89. Whatever you are, be a good one. —Abraham Lincoln
  90. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt
  91. A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops. —John J Pershing
  92. A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. —John Maxwell
  93. There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage. —Fuchan Yuan
  94. I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t. —Dee Dee Myers
  95. A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men. —Stephen King
  96. My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. –Unknown
  97. A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. –George Patton
  98. The supreme quality of leadership is integrity. –Dwight Eisenhower
  99. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership. –Dwight Eisenhower
  100. Earn your leadership every day. –Michael Jordan

I would like to add one if I may. The worthiness of inclusion is… debatable.

  1. I’ll keep it short and sweet – Family. Religon. Friendship.. These are the three  demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. – Montgomery Burns (The Simpsons)
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