5 Ways a Project Leader is Like an Entrepreneur

I firmly believe that we are coming upon an era where the Project Manager will be seen as a leader, an influencer, and a key player in the success of businesses striving to achieve their vision and purpose.

In this era, the Project Manager becomes the Project Leader.

Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to connect with and learn from many project managers that embody the essence of leadership, even to the point of entrepreneurship.

I believe this is what drives these project managers to the top of their field.

These Project Leaders (embrace the term and own it!) possess a number of entrepreneurial qualities that I think we should all learn from and cultivate.
I am a firm believer in leaders being made, not born.

Here are some of the ways in which a Project Leader is Like an Entrepreneur

  1. Leads through Influence
    Project managers are dependent on their teams to deliver results and achieve a common vision.As a freshly minted project manager, I thought the way to get results from people was through command-and-control.I.e. I tell you what to do, you do it, the project gets done, and we’re all happy in the end.

    Turns out we weren’t all happy in the end. Even if results were achieved, they were short-lived and were not sustainable.

    Leaders recognize that in order to gain a team’s loyalty and commitment, they need to learn the art of indirect influence. There is power in motivating people to want to do the work, versus feeling like they have to do the work.

    The key to influencing others is authenticity.
    Be yourself, be genuinely interested in others, and look out for your team’s best interests.

    Loyalty to the team, to the project objective, and to you as a leader will naturally follow, producing long-term results.

  2. Confident
    It’s been said that “It’s not what you sell, it’s the package you sell it in”.While I don’t completely agree (in that I think there always has to be substance and a need for what’s being sold), there’s something to be said for having a strong, confident presence.A leader who is confident in their ability to achieve goals and rise above challenges will inspire the same confidence in their team members.

    We’ve all had projects that face the threat of failure.
    In those times, confident leadership can inspire your team to come together and find innovative solutions to your project’s toughest challenges.

  3. Persistent
    Entrepreneurs don’t give up.They step way outside the box, believing they can create something without anyone’s permission, and get us all to sign up for it.
    And even if it doesn’t work out so well the first time, they keep at it, until they find something that does work.Project leaders must be resilient and persistent in the face of sometimes volatile human relationships, constantly changing requirements, market shifts, resource constraints, and organizational structure changes (read: re-orgs).

    In the heart and mind of an entrepreneur and project leader, failure is not an option.

  4. Innovative
    Innovation can take many forms.Entrepreneurs may not always be the first to think of or produce something. However, their innovation may lie in having found a non-typical (but effective) way to market their product, a new use for an existing solution, or a completely new target market.Project leaders are innovative in their approach to project challenges, are willing to color outside the lines, and refuse to be constrained by the mentality of “That’s just the way we do things around here.”
  5. Passionate
    Yes, I left the best for last.I truly believe that people who do what they love can change the world.Whether you’re an entrepreneur, project manager, software developer, designer, quality engineer, artist, stay-at-home parent,  or something completely different, the path to success is to find what you love, and find a way to do it.

    Successful entrepreneurs and project leaders have a passion for the work that they do, and the people that their work impacts. This passion is the secret potion that activates all their other qualities and makes them extraordinary in their field.

    Are you ready to be extraordinary? What are you passionate about? How can you incorporate that passion into what you do on a daily basis? Are you ready to find the answer and thus the key to your success?

Hala Saleh, CSM, PMP, is a project excellence passionista with experience working on and managing projects in the software development, consumer electronics, and financial services fields.  An Agile enthusiast, Hala has implemented a range of project management methodologies, including Agile as well as traditional waterfall frameworks.

Having traveled and worked with teams both in the U.S. as well as abroad, she has developed an open‐minded approach to managing projects and leading people.  Hala possesses a passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, continuous improvement, and maximizing the potential of teams and individuals.

Writing since she learned about journaling in the 3rd grade, Hala believes telling stories is the best way to connect people to ideas. She tells her stories on her blog at www.halasaleh.com. Hala can be found on Twitter @HalaSaleh1.

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3 thoughts on “5 Ways a Project Leader is Like an Entrepreneur

  1. Great post Hala! I totally agree with your outlook and perspective on Project leadership. The game is changing fast, and so is the role of the Project manager. We are in a digital error, which requires an agile and flexible mindset. Project managers are being called upon to lead and have been elevated in many companies to high positions of authority. The future for professional project manager is very bright and exciting. I am looking forward to seeing you on PMTV.

  2. Hi Tony!

    Thanks for reading, and for your comment.

    The purpose of my article is to point out specific ways (not necessarily ALL the ways though) in which project leaders are similar to entrepreneurs.

    I believe there are entrepreneurial skills required to make the evolution from project manager to taking on more of a leadership role, and wanted to get people thinking about those skills.

    In general, I can see your point about project managers and entrepreneurs having differing profiles, and in many cases, those differences may be what makes each REALLY good at what they do.

    However, I am a believer of exceptions to the rule. I believe that it is during the moments where we go outside of our “boxes” and definitions that we become better able to stretch as people, in whatever role we’re in.

    As such, I think it does project managers a lot of good to take on (or at least learn something about) qualities of people from all other walks of life. In the same manner, I believe entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from project managers, and so on.

    Let’s embrace each other’s best qualities and learn something from them! :)

  3. I have no doubt that project managers and entrepreneurs can benefit from some shared leadership skills. Both need to be outcome oriented. And I agree with the relevance of these 5 qualities to project leadership. But something doesn’t sit quite right!

    I would suggest, statistically and in terms of psychometric profiles, good PMs and entrepreneurs come from distinctly different subsets of the overall population – with little correlation/overlap. Any thoughts on qualities that must be different?

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