How to Grow Better Managers in IT

Growing better leaders and managers within a company can be a difficult task for any company to overcome. Because of this difficultly it is important to first understand the difference between leadership, and management.

There is no easy definition of leadership or management however; Leadership to me is the act of inspiring, or motivating an individual for both the company’s requirements as well as ones own personal requirements to achieve both personal and organizational goals. Leadership entails many different responsibilities, and is composed of many complex elements.

The two most essential elements that make up Leadership are the leader and the follower:

1. The leader – Leaders need to set the vision, set the goal, and the objectives of the project. The leader is also the person who is doing the inspiring, and motivating of the followers. A successful leader will have the abilities to both inspire and motivate while setting the goals and objects of the project. According to Wilemon and Cicero, leaders in project management have been broken into 4 different leadership styles. (Kerzner, 2009)

A. High Technical Expertise – Project Management Leaders that have a higher technical expertise usually end up overexerting ones self with the technical aspects of the project, and therefore the technical details of the project are the primary focus.

B. Difficulty Delegating – Project Management Leaders that have difficulty delegating the technical tasks and the responsibilities of the technical tasks, usually overexert themselves with the technical aspects of the project. Since delegation doesn’t go well they take on these responsibilities themselves if they have the ability to do so.

C. High Technical Interest – Project Management Leaders that have the higher interest in the technical abilities but not the expertise; usually will be more defensive of the project manager’s role as a technical specialist.

D. Low Technical Expertise – Project Management Leaders that have little to no technical expertise will put pressure on the administrative functions of the project along with the other nontechnical project functions.

2. The Followers – The followers are the people that are being led by the leader. These are the people that the leader motivates to complete projects on schedule, successfully, with motivation and inspiration.

Overall the Leaders are one of the main keys to success for any project. Understanding the different styles and doing best to focus on all aspects of leadership is what drives good leader to be great.

Managers are different than leaders in the sense that they manage people, deliverables, timelines, and assist in making financial decisions of the project. Managers have to follow corporate policies, and encourage and drive subordinates to also follow these corporate policies. This can be a difficult task as managers must follow these policies even though that does not mean that they agree with them. A manager mustn’t show the subordinates their feelings on these policies.

Managers are similar to leaders in the sense that they both are trying to help the followers. Managers are different than a leader however in the sense that they are mentoring the followers and helping them develop personal skills, whereas; leaders motivate and demonstrate by example.

In managing technical teams or technical projects, training and mentoring are vital to success. Providing encouragement, keeping employees feeling important, and showing employees they are valuable is essential.  This is an excellent way for managers to self motivate employees. Growing better leaders and managers creates a daisy chain effect on the employees that work for the project managers.

When organizations become large enough and larger scale projects arise informal project management doesn’t always work and will become unmanageable. Because of the complexity of projects more formalized project management guidelines should be used or developed. Formalized projects can be used in full or in part of a project. To determine this one can ask 5 questions to determine if formalized project management should be used. (Kerzner, 2009)

These 5 questions are:

  • Are the jobs Complex?
  • Are there dynamic environmental considerations?
  • Are the constraints tight?
  • Are there several activities to be integrated?
  • Are there several functional boundaries to be crossed?


When or if these questions have the answer yes at a minimum partial formalized project should be orchestrated. This can be done with the help of the Project Management Institute (PMI) whom writes suggested standards and guidelines which through an agreed upon consensus are developed. These guidelines are in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and are a fantastic guide to follow for a formalized project.

There are many benefits to these formalized projects which are broken down into 5 main groups.


  • Initiating
    • Scope of the project is defined
    • Financial resources are committed
    • Internal Stakeholders Identified
    • External Stakeholders Identified.
    • Planning
      • Collect Requirements
      • Define the Objectives
      • Define Project Teams
      • Develop the course of Action and Create Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
      • Create Timeline
      • Estimate Costs
      • Determine Budget
      • Identify Risks
    • Executing
      • Manage Project Execution
      • Acquire Project Members
      • Manage Stakeholder Expectations
    • Monitoring and Controlling
      • Verify and Control Scope
      • Perform, Manage, and Report Quality Control
      • Manage and Control Risks
    • Closing
      • Close Phase
      • Close Project

Each of the 5 groups of the PMBOK formal management style has important guidelines that help organize, and assist in making projects run faster, smoother and complete with a higher success rate of completing on time, in scope, and meeting the stakeholders needs.

The PMBOK gives project managers a guide to follow such as the outline created above to easily follow and make sure all aspects of a project are covered. This will assist with helping the timeline be more accurate and finishing the project near the initial project deadline.

The benefits of creating a project scope are that the project can stay on task, includes all the required items of the project and only the required items of the project are completed to complete the project successfully. Having a project scope will need to be as strict as possible however there are times where the project scope needs to be reassessed and changes to the scope may happen.

For example, I work with workers compensation benefits for employees. Currently I am working to directly communicate with pharmacies to offer workers medications without having to pay if they are approved on approved medication lists that our pharmacists have identified as medications that would be related to that type of injury. We have established the communication link between the pharmacies however in establishing this communication we realized for this project to work successfully we need to restructure one of our databases to account for something that that pharmacy needs, therefore we needed to reassess the scope of the project as a database restructure was currently out of scope.

When collecting the requirements for the project it is possible for the project scope to be reassessed as not all elements of the project might be known when the scope is defined. This is another great benefit of using the formal project management model to document, understand and be able to assess these changes with little to no modification to the project timeline, or costs to the stakeholders.

Other ways that management and leadership styles tie directly into formal project management like listed above (2c), managers and leaders will be part of project teams. Knowing your team will allow the managers to assess the members of a team and identify what aspects members of the teams will need assistance with, who will need more help, or mentoring. Leaders will be able to determine who needs more motivation, and who possesses certain traits and attributes that will allow them to excel in the role given.

Another way that these styles relate is that it will create better documentation. Better documentation is better for everyone to not only understand what aspects of the projects they should be focusing on, but also to allow people from other aspects of the projects to understand or assist on another aspect of the project.

Most of the voiced concerns and cons I have seen for formal project management, is that formal project management offices create wasted overhead, excess paperwork, and excess documentation, which result in losing productivity.

In closing, IT projects are known for going way over budget, missing deadlines, and not meeting the stakeholder’s needs. Using Formal project management along with proper managerial and leadership skills, one is able to take these unrealistic goals and make them a reality.

Kerzner, H. (2009). Project management: a systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling. Wiley.

Management, P. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Project Management Inst.



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