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Leadership in Projects – A Recipe for Success


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Author A A Roberts and R F Dewhirst


Extensive literature surveys, research in the project environment and personal experiences both within and consulting to project teams have revealed some consistent ‘people factors’ that contribute most to ultimate project success. Outside of purely technical and business case issues, there are a small number of leadership characteristics – probably only ten – that if correctly applied can positively leverage a team’s impact on project success.

Of the top seven project success characteristics that were consistently highly rated in a recent study, five of them were around leadership. The authors have focused on this topic, noting that good leaders need to display the following traits:

  • passionate commitment to delivery
  • consistent modelling and reinforcement of correct values and behaviour
  • focus on managing relationships well and energising teams and individuals
  • carefully clarifying project vision from front-end loading stages onwards
  • effective decision making.

Not every project manager can and does practise these behaviours all of the time, but being aware of them and receiving training or facilitation in improving their application of these skills can equip project managers with the essential tools to markedly improve their own performance and that of their teams.

This paper draws upon experiences in the field and provides lessons – both good and bad – to illustrate. As well as examining leadership traits, the way in which a leader can establish, organise, motivate his or her team and ultimately lead them to success is examined. The paper shares methodologies that have been successfully used to track status within a team and generate appropriate recovery plans where required.

In particular, the paper will examine a case study based on an amalgamation of real project issues in some challenging situations using virtual teams (ie physically distant teams located in different centres) to illustrate the importance of strong and positive leadership in achieving success across geographies, time zones and languages.


Roberts, A A and Dewhirst, R F, 2016. Leadership in projects – a recipe for success, in Proceedings Project Evaluation 2016, pp 49–58 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).