Preparing for a presentation I’ll be giving tomorrow at this year’s PMOz Project Management Australia Conference, I’ve been reflecting on the relationship between Project Management and leadership, and how today’s Project Managers can become tomorrow’s CEOs.

In my experience and judging by the numerous surveys and research papers that have been created around this subject, there is a persistent undervaluing of project management expertise in corporate performance, which I find surprising given the number of parallels that can be drawn between an effective Project Manager, and a successful business leader.

Consider the following extract from a recent job ad:

The successful applicant will possess –

·         Excellent communication skills

·         The ability to manage a flexible and diverse workforce.

·         Strong Resource Management skills – human, financial and material.

·         The ability to set and achieve goals, manage expectations and coach a team.

·         The ability to identify and manage risk and compliance issues.

Is this a CEO or Project Management role?

With talent management emerging as a key strategy for leading global companies in a post-GFC economy, organisations need to be looking to promote from within and nurture their existing human resources – including, dare I say particularly project managers – if they want to create a strong internal leadership culture in the years to come.

Unfortunately, there is little chance that this will happen overnight and for the time being, it’s up to the individual to focus on his or her professional development, on their training, education and business management capabilities if their ambitions lie in leadership.

The Project Manager who invests today in their own professional development – specifically their leadership, communication and strategic planning skills – is surely on the path to becoming the successful CEO of tomorrow.

Are you a CEO with a Project Management background? Or a Project Manager who wants to be CEO? Do you agree that there are parallels here to be recognised and nurtured?

Tony Gleeson