It suddenly dawned on me... here was yet another instance of project managers being expected to lead in a way that traditional training ignores.
It was last month. I was leading the ever stimulating Change Management Practitioner course in London to a small group of intelligent delegates from various backgrounds.
As we discussed various people's ideas on leadership we came to those of Peter Senge, as presented in such famous works as the Fifth Dimension and the Dance of Change. Senge says that the traditional ways we categorise leaders in deficient. We think of executive leaders (those towards the top of organisations) and line leaders, the leutenants. This borrows from the traditional hierarchic view of organisations where leaders perfectly nest groups under them.
However, he proposes a third class of leader: network leaders. These people work in the interfaces between departments, in the 'cracks' or gaps within the organisation's hierarchy.
So where, I asked myself, do project managers place themselves. Those leading internal projects usually have to call upon others in different parts of the organisation to help and work with them. Because of this, projects have an irritating way of messing with the hierarchy. Project managers are - or should be - Network Leaders. Some of the best in the field I have observed have strong networking and influencing skills, skills marginalised by the orthodox obession with task, process and document management. Good project managers, break down tribal barriers within organisatons and and get unlike groups to work fluently together.
Maybe we need to revist the sort of skills mix we need from project managers.