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Chapter 2 of Project-Oriented Leadership (978-0-5660-8923-7) by Ralf Müller and J Rodney Turner

Models of Leadership Competence

 

Our proposal is that the projects manager’s competence, including his or her leadership style, contributes to project success, and that different profiles of competence are appropriate for different types of project. In order to explore this proposal, we need to understand what we mean by competence, and investigate what has been written on leadership competence. In a general management context, it has been shown that the manager’s competence, including his or her leadership style, contributes to the success of what they are managing, and different leadership styles are appropriate in different situations, and so we expect that the same would be true for projects. Also, understanding the models used in a general management context provides a perspective through which we can explore the leaders of projects.

In this chapter we begin by introducing a model of competence, and then review how thinkers on leadership over the last 80 years have investigated the different components of the model. We identify several perspectives of leadership, and show what has been written in a general management context, but also how these perspectives have been reflected in writings on project management.

A Model of Competence

Figure 2.1 shows a model of competence developed by Lynn Crawford (2007), based on a substantial review of the competence literature. There are three components of competence, each consisting of several elements or dimensions of competence.

Input Competence

The first elements are called input competencies, and are the knowledge and skills required to perform the role being undertaken, whether an artisan role, a professional role, a management role, a leadership role, or two or three of those combined. Knowledge will be in the form of explicit knowledge or implicit knowledge, (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995). Explicit knowledge is reflected in qualifications obtained. Implicit knowledge, which is related to skills, is primarily reflected through experience gained in similar roles.

 
Figure 2.1 Components of competence (Crawford 2007)

graphics/fig2_1.jpg

Source: Reproduced from Gower Handbook of Project Management, Gower Publishing, Aldershot, 2008.

Personal Competence

Personal competence is much more inherent. People bring with them certain traits, behaviours, attitudes and emotional responses to situations which affect their performance. A question that is constantly asked is whether leaders are born or made. You are born with a genetic tendency to adopt certain traits, behaviours, attitudes and emotional responses, and those are then shaped further by your upbringing, and the society and culture within which you are raised. So you are born (and raised) with a certain profile of personal competencies. But then, through further education and training, and through personal development, both conscious and subconscious, you can change your personal profile to better match the society and context within which you are living and working, and thereby improve your performance. So leaders are born with a profile, but they can modify it to improve their leadership ability in different circumstance. But you can only change it so far, and so may be a good leader in some circumstances and not in others.

Output Competence

Output competence is the ability to perform in accordance with the requirements of the role being undertaken, whether an artisan, professional, management or leadership role, or two, three or all four together. The requirements may be defined by standards, which may be:

  • occupational standards as defined by trade bodies or national vocational qualifications;

  • professional standards as defined by bodies such as the Association for Project Management, International Project Management Association or Project Management Institute;

  • organizational standards such as job descriptions.

 

Total Competence

Total competence is composed of input, personal and output competence.

Contingent Requirements

The performance requirements of the role will be different in different circumstances, that is, they will be contingent on the circumstances. Features of the situation which will change the performance requirements will include the external context, the nature of the situation itself, the nature of the role being undertaken and the nature of other people in that context, including subordinates and other team members.

Perspectives on Leadership

Table 2.1 overleaf, shows how writings on leadership from the past 80 years have reflected this competence model. It shows what has been written in a general management context, and how that has been reflected to date in a project management context. Very little has been written about the input competencies of leadership, which is more than management component of the manager/leader role, but all the other components of the competence model have been covered. We will review each element in turn, and finish by introducing an integrated model which will form the basis of the following chapters. But first we would like to take a small historical aside, reflected in the first line of Table 2.1

Historical Perspectives

Confucius: First we go back to ancient China and Confucius. Confucius identified four virtues (de) leaders should possess, (Collinson et al. 2000):

  • relationships (jen, love),

  • values (xiao, piety),

  • process (li, proper conduct),

  • moderation,(zhang rong, the doctrine of the mean).

 

We shall see that in the writings from the last 80 years there has continued to be a focus on people and relationships, values and vision, and following due process. What recent writings have forgotten about is the doctrine of the mean, sometimes called the Goldilocks principle. Confucius thought the leader should take a balanced approach. But modern managers tend to do everything in extremes. Whatever the flavour of the month is they follow avidly: up-sizing; down-izing, right-sizing; left-sizing. Then when next month a new fad comes along, out it all goes and the new fad is followed avidly. Rather than recognizing that some elements of the old fad were excellent and laying the excellent elements of the new fad over the old, the old is chucked out completely and the new one embraced completely until another fad comes along. Confucius suggests a more balanced approach.

 
Table 2.1 Perspectives on leadership

Perspective

Period

Main idea

Example authors

Project context

Historical perspectives

500 BC

Relationships, values, process, moderation

Confucius

 

300 BC

Relationships, values, process

Aristotle

 

Traits

1930s–1940s

Effective leaders show common traits

Leaders born not made

Kirkpatrick and Locke (1992)

Turner (2009)

Behaviours

1940s–1950s

Effective leaders adopt certain styles or behaviours

Leadership skills can be developed

Blake and Mouton (1978)

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1988)

Turner (2009)

Frame (2003)

Emotions and attitudes

1990s–2000s

Emotional intelligence has a greater impact on performance than intellect

Goleman et al.(2002)

Lee Kelly and Leong (2004)

Dolfi and Andrews (2007)

Clarke and Howell (2009)

Outputs

1930s–1990s

Two styles Transformational: concern for relationships

Transactional concern for process

Barnard (1938)

Bass (1990)

Keegan and den Hartog (2004)

Contingency

1960s–1970s

What makes an effective leader depends on the situation

Fiedler (1967)

House (1971)

Turner (2009)

Frame (2003)

Integrated model

2000s

Effective leaders exhibit certain competencies, including traits, behaviours and styles

Emotions, intellect, process

Certain profiles of competency better in different situations

Dulewicz and Higgs (2005)

Turner & Müller (2006)

Aristotle: We go forward 200 years to ancient Greece. Aristotle also suggested that the managers should build their relationship with their team in three consecutive steps:

  • build relationships (pathos);

  • sell their values or vision (ethos);

  • persuade with logic (logos).

 

Unfortunately many managers leap in at the third step, trying to persuade with logic: ‘You have to do this, because … because … because I am the manager’. Perhaps that is a difference between an adequate manager and an inspirational leader, the manager knows what has to be done and how and why. The leader knows that first they must build relationships with their team, and sell their values and vision to lead the team rather than just push them.

Personal Competencies

Over the years, people have treated the dimensions of personal competence separately, looking at traits, behaviours and, most recently, emotions and attitudes.

Traits: People began exploring the traits of effective leaders in the 1930s. More recently Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) suggested that effective leaders exhibit the following traits:

  • drive and ambition;

  • the desire to lead and influence others;

  • honesty and integrity;

  • self-confidence;

  • intelligence;

  • technical knowledge.

 

Through his work at Henley Management College in the UK, Rodney Turner identified seven traits of effective project managers (Turner 2009, first edition 1993).

  • Problem solving: The purpose of every project is to solve a problem for the parent organization, or to exploit an opportunity (which also requires a problem to be solved). But projects also entail risk, and so during every project you are very likely to encounter problems. Project managers must be able to solve them.

  • Results orientation: Projects are about delivering beneficial change. But if you plan in terms of the results your plan is much more robust and stable than if you plan in terms of the work to be done. Thus project managers need to be focused on results.

  • Self-confidence: This is part of a project manager’s emotional intelligence. They must believe in themselves and their ability to deliver. We shall explore this later.

  • Perspective: Project managers must keep their projects in perspective. A project manager must be like an eagle. They must be able to hover on high and see their project within the context of the parent organization. But they must have eagle-eyed sight to be able to see a small mouse on the ground, and to be able to sweep down and deal with it, but then also be able to rise again to hover above the project.

  • Communication: And the project manager must be able to talk to everybody from the managing director down to the janitor. Sometimes the janitor knows more about project progress than anybody else, because he or she talks to everybody.

  • Negotiating ability: Project planning is a constant process of negotiation. As a project manager you ask people to work for you. You must convince them that it is worthwhile and beneficial for them to do that.

  • Energy and initiative: And when the project gets into trouble, the project manager must be able to lift everybody else onto his back and carry them out of the hole.

Behaviours: Most of the work on behaviours characterizes leaders by how much they exhibit styles based on one or more of the following parameters:

  1. concern for people or relationships (jen, pathos);

  2. concern for production or process (li. logos);

  3. use of authority;

  4. involvement of the team in decision-making (formulating decisions);

  5. involvement of the team in decision-taking (choosing options);

  6. flexibility versus the application of rules.

 

Blake and Mouton (1978) developed a two-dimensional grid based on concern for people and production, and identified five types of leader (see Figure 2.2). They suggest that four of the five styles are appropriate in different circumstances; the impoverished style is never appropriate.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) looked at the use of authority, and suggested a one-dimensional line that snakes its way through the Blake and Mouton grid. There is increasing use of authority from impoverished leaders to country-club and team leaders, with authority-obedience leaders having the greatest use of authority.

Davidson Frame (2003) and Rodney Turner (2009) have suggested four styles of project leaders (see Table 2.2), depending on the extent they involve the team in decision-making, in decision-taking, and how flexible they are. They suggest the four styles are each appropriate at different stages of the project life-cycle (see Table 2.3), and with different types of project team.

 
Figure 2.2 The Blake and Mouton Grid (after Blake and Mouton 1962)

graphics/fig2_2.jpg

 
Table 2.2 Four styles of project leadership

Parameter

Laissez-faire

Democratic

Autocratic

Bureaucratic

Team decision-making

High

High

Low

Low

Team decision-taking

High

Low

Low

Low

Flexibility

High

High

High

Low

Laissez-faire style: This style is appropriate at the research or feasibility stage of a project. On a research project the project team members will be leading experts in their field. The project manager can only guide, suggest and lead. He or she cannot instruct. Also when a contracting company is bidding for work, the bid manager will often be junior in strict hierarchical terms to some of the other team members, who may include the contracts manager, engineering manager and potential project manager. Again the bid manager can only guide and not instruct. The other team members respect his or her expertise, and take the guidance, but won’t accept orders. The team type is called egoless; it is not a forum for the project manager to express his or her ego, nor anybody else, as THE boss.

 
Table 2.3 Project leadership styles, project team types and the project life-cycle

Leadership style

Stage

Team type

Team nature

Laissez-faire

Feasibility

Egoless

Experts with shared responsibility

Democratic

Design

Matrix

Mixed discipline working on several tasks

Autocratic

Execution

Task

Single discipline working on separate tasks

Bureaucratic

Close-out

Surgical

Mixed working on a single task

Democratic: In the design stage of the project, the team includes several professionals, people who are experts in their field, but now junior to the design manager. Several different professionals may each contribute to the design of different parts of the end deliverable (the new asset being delivered by the project). Their relationship with the design of the product is as a matrix, each member of the design team contributing to the design of several parts of the end deliverable. The team members are the experts; they will formulate the decisions. But since several different professionals are contributing to each part of the facility, the manager has to set the overall strategy, and take the final decisions about what will happen. The manager listens to what the team members have to say, but then rules on the final decision.

Autocratic: During the construction phase, the project team members are formed into task forces, each task force building a different part of the plant. The manager needs to be autocratic. Time for discussion is over. The facility is being built and it must be built as designed. Changes cost money, and so the team members must just do as they are told.

Bureaucratic: During the close-out stage of the project, the team forms into a single task force to tidy up all the loose ends. The project manager is like a surgeon in a hospital, leading a team working on a patient. The manager must now be bureaucratic. There are many check lists to be completed, work to be finished off, inspections and tests to be done. The manager must make sure that ticks are put in all the right boxes, and closely follow the procedures to make sure that happens according to the rule book.

Emotions and attitudes: Goleman et al. (2002) suggest all managers have a reasonable level of intellectual intelligence (IQ). They suggest that to do an MBA course requires an IQ of 115. Thus many of the traits and behaviours above are necessary conditions of effective leadership, and will be shared by all inspiring leaders. But they will also be shared by many people who are not good leaders. What differentiates good leaders is not necessarily their intellectual intelligence, but their emotional response to situations. Goleman et al. (2002) identify 19 emotional competencies grouped into four dimensions (see Figure 2.3).

  1. personal competencies:

    • self-awareness

    • self management

     

  2. social competencies:

    • social awareness

    • relationship management.

     

 
Figure 2.3 Competencies of emotional intelligence

graphics/fig2_3.jpg

Figure 2.3 shows that we start with self-awareness. Being self-aware we can do two things: self-management and become socially aware. From these two we can progress to relationship management.

Goleman et al. (2002) identify six management styles, exhibiting different profiles of their nineteen competencies. There are four positive styles:

  • visionary

  • coaching

  • affiliative

  • democratic.

 

and two that they describe as toxic styles:

  • pace-setting

  • commanding.

 

Through a survey of 2,000 managers, they identified situations in which each style works best. The first four have preferred situations, but all four work in most contexts in the medium to long term. They suggest that the two toxic styles will work in turnaround situations, where rapid recovery is necessary. But if they are applied in a routine environment they will cause adverse reactions in the people being led. The two project managers from the construction company who were transferred to manage an internal change project (Introduction) probably had either a pace-setting or commanding style. Projects are short term, and so you can apply these styles from project to project. But even though an organizational change project is short-term, they don’t work for such a project.

To date, very little work has been done setting project leadership within the context of the emotional intelligence school. A research project sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) was recently completed at Southampton University (Clarke and Howell 2009). However, a contribution was made by Liz Lee-Kelly and Leong (2003) almost by chance. They were researching how the project managers’ competence at managing five of the nine PMI PMBoK® knowledge areas contributed to project success. (The five areas they were investigating were scope, organization, quality, cost and time, as defined by Rodney Turner, 2009.) What they found was that there is a significant relationship between the leader’s perception of project success and his or her personality and contingent experiences. Thus the inner confidence and self-belief from personal knowledge and experience are likely to play an important role in a manager’s ability to deliver a project successfully. The project manager’s emotional intelligence, his or her inner self-confidence, has a significant impact on their competence as a project leader, and hence on project success. This is further supported by the work of Dolfi and Andrews (2007) who showed that the project manager’s optimism grows with experience.

Output competencies

Work on output competencies has focused on different types of leader, and mainly those who lead by focusing on process and those who focus on relationships. We drew attention to this when discussing Aristotle; there are people who manage through due process, and inspirational leaders who lead by forming relationships and inspire by selling their vision. But we will see later that both are appropriate leadership styles in different circumstances.

Chester Barnard (1938) identified two types of chief executive of companies – those who manage by process and those who focus on relationships and communicate their values – which he called cognitive and cathectic respectively. Bernard Bass (1990) identified two similar styles, which he calls transactional and transformational respectively. Transactional leaders emphasize contingent rewards, reward followers for meeting targets, manage by exception, and take action when tasks are not going to plan. Transformational leaders exhibit charisma, develop vision, engender pride, respect and trust, provide inspiration, motivate by creating high expectations and model appropriate behaviour, give consideration to the individual, pay attention to followers and gives them respect and personality. Furthermore they provide intellectual stimulation and challenge followers with new ideas and approaches.

Bernard Bass (1990) assumes that transformational leaders are always best, but as we shall see this is not the case. Anne Keegan and Deanne den Hartog (2004) assumed that project managers need a transformational leadership style, and set out to show that to be the case. In the event they found a slight preference for transformational leadership, but not a strong preference. We think the reason for this is that complex projects need a transformational style, but less complex projects need a more conscientious, structured style. This has been borne out by the research described in Chapter 4.

Contingency

As we have seen, most of the authors investigating the components of competence assume that different styles are appropriate in different circumstances, but that was formalized by the contingency perspective. Contingency theories tend to follow the same pattern:

  • assess the characteristics of the leader;

  • evaluate the situation in terms of key contingency variables;

  • seek a match between the leader and the situation.

 

One contingency theory that has proved popular is path-goal theory (House 1971). The idea is the leader must help the team find the path to their goals and help them in that process. Path-goal theory identifies four leadership behaviours:

  • supportive leaders

  • participative leaders

  • achievement-oriented leaders

  • directive leaders.

 

The first three are similar to the positive styles identified by Goleman et al. (2002) and the fourth to their toxic styles. House (1971) suggests that the appropriate style will depend on the nature of the situations and of the subordinates.

An Integrated Model

The integrated model attempts to identify the traits, behaviours and emotional competencies of effective leaders, and then develop profiles for different types of leaders and the way they perform. It then attempts to identify different profiles appropriate in different circumstances. After a review of the literature on leadership competencies, Vic Dulewicz and Malcolm Higgs (2003) identified 15 competencies which influence leadership performance (see Table 2.4). They group the competencies into three types: intellectual (IQ), managerial (MQ) and emotional (EQ).

In Table 2.4, we have shown how the leadership competencies might apply to Confucius’s four virtues (De). Dulewicz and Higgs also identified three leadership styles for organizational change projects, which they called Goal Oriented, Involving and Engaging (see Table 2.4). The goal-oriented style is similar to the transactional style, and the engaging style similar to the transformational style. Through a study of 400 managers working on organizational change projects they showed goal oriented leaders are most effective on low complexity projects, involving leaders on medium complexity projects and engaging leaders are best on high complexity projects. Thus, Dulewicz and Higgs (2005) showed that on organizational change projects:

  • certain leadership styles lead to better results than others;

  • different styles are appropriate depending on the complexity of change;

  • transactional leaders are appropriate for simple projects and transformational leaders are appropriate for complex projects (with inspirational leaders on medium complexity projects).

 

We describe the 15 leadership competencies suggested by Dulewicz and Higgs in more detail in Chapter 3, and their model forms the basis for our suggested leadership profiles of project managers in Chapter 4.

 
Table 2.4 Fifteen leadership competencies (after Dulewicz and Higgs 2003)

Group

Competency

Confucius

Goal

Involving

Engaging

Managerial (MQ)

Managing resources

Engaging communication

Empowering

Developing

Achieving

Process

Relationships

Relationships

Relationships

Values

High

Medium

Low

Medium

High

Medium

Medium

Medium

Medium

Medium

Low

High

High

High

Medium

Intellectual (IQ)

Critical analysis and judgement

Vision and imagination

Strategic perspective

Moderation

Values

Moderation

High

High

High

Medium

High

Medium

Medium

Medium

Medium

Emotional (EQ)

Self-awareness

Emotional resilience

Intuitiveness

Sensitivity

Influence

Motivation

Conscientiousness

Moderation

Moderation

Moderation

Relationships

Relationships

Relationships

Values

Medium

High

Medium

Medium

Medium

High

High

High

High

Medium

Medium

High

High

High

High

High

High

High

High

High

High

Personality and Team Behaviour Versus Leadership Style

That concludes our explanation of the competence model of leadership. In the next chapter we describe how the integrated perspective applies in a project context. But before we leave this chapter, we would like to differentiate between leadership styles, and personality factors and profiles for team behaviour. Several personality profiles have been developed to explain performance in teams, for instance the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Briggs-Myers 1992), the 16PF (personality factor) profile (Cattell et al. 1970), and profiles by Merideth Belbin (1986) and Charles Margerison and Dick McCann (1990). These authors suggest a team leader should aim to balance personality types across a team. Don’t have a team made up entirely of Belbin’s completer-finishers, because you won’t have anything to complete, and don’t have a team made up entirely of plants because all you will have is a bunch of bright ideas and you won’t be able to begin to sift the wheat from the chaff. You need a balance of Belbin’s eight personality types across the team. (Belbin’s eight team roles are shown in Table 2.5, together with two more, the specialist and comic, added by Rodney Turner 2009.)

Some people (incorrectly) put the team behaviour profiles forward as leadership styles, indicators of success as a leader. They are not intended for that. Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) have shown there is no correlation between Belbin’s personality profile and performance as a leader, and only weak correlation between the 16PF personality factors. Goleman et al. (2002) also address the issue. They say a person’s emotional intelligence is a measure of their personality, but their success as a leader is not dependent on their personality but on the leadership style adopted. A person is born with their personality, but they can vary their leadership style by drawing on different emotional competencies depending on the circumstances. They can also learn to develop different leadership styles to suit different circumstances by developing their emotional competencies.

 
Table 2.5 Classification of team roles (after Belbin 1986)

Team role

Characteristics

Contribution

Plant

Creative, imaginative, unorthodox

Solves difficult problems

Resource investigator

Extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative

Explores opportunities, develops contacts

Coordinator

Mature, confident, good chairperson

Clarifies goals, promotes decision making, delegates

Shaper

Challenging, dynamic, enjoys pressure

Overcomes obstacles through drive

Monitor-evaluator

Sober, strategic, discerning

Sees all options, judges accurately

Team worker

Cooperative, mild, perceptive, tactful

Listens and builds, reduces conflict

Implementer

Disciplined, reliable, conservative

Turns ideas into practical actions

Completer-finisher

Painstaking, conscientious, anxious

Searches out omissions, delivers on time

Specialist

Single-minded, self-starting, dedicated

Provides scarce knowledge and skills

Comic

Unflappable, robust, resilient

Relives tension

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