Posted on May 8,2014 in Leadership // Management // Project Management

The Fourth Constraint: Leadership

Dr. Tom Henkel, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, College of Business Program Management Department Chair

When it comes to project management, success is measured by effectively meeting the triple constraints of completing the project on time, according to budget, and within the client’s scope/quality requirements (PMI, 2013).  On the surface, this approach seems to concentrate solely on the technical aspects of project management. However, people perform projects, and even though project managers bring highly technical skills and experience to the workplace, it is interesting to note that research studies have shown that many projects continue to fail.  Therefore, it is only logical we begin this blog by accepting the premise that effective leadership is a fourth constraint for enhancing the success of a project.  Otherwise, better leadership results in stronger overall performance and a more balanced triple constraint.

As a result, the success of an organization’s project relies critically on the project manager’s ability to build a team fully engaged with its work and the project.  This is not an easy task, especially when one considers that Gallup Inc. (2013) reports that only one in eight employees (13%) in the United States is engaged at work.  Canada leads the way with 29% percent of its workforce staying engaged.  Conversely, 63% of workers worldwide are disengaged with their work and another 24% are actively disengaged with their work.  Gallup Inc. (2013) adds that disengaged employees are not likely to be hostile or disruptive in the organization; however, they do the minimum work required, may waste valuable time, and take little or no interest in the organization’s mission and goals.  Thus, these employees are coasting through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work.

Therefore, it becomes very clear that leadership is most important when ensuring project team members are fully engaged with their work and the project’s success.  This goal becomes even more challenging when working with project teams in a global, virtual environment where effective communication is more difficult to achieve and should not be taken for granted.  Thus, project team members’ and stakeholders’ engagement becomes a critical factor revolving around a variety of issues on a continuing basis during the life cycle of the project.  As a result, a project manager’s personal effectiveness is based on acquiring, developing, and guiding the project team while achieving project objectives and balancing the project triple constraints of time, scope, and cost while also meeting the customer’s quality expectations.  That personal effectiveness includes skills such as leadership, team building, influencing, and motivation (PMI, 2013).  Subsequently, it becomes no secret that project managers must acquire and provide vital leadership skills to build, maintain, motivate, and engage project team members to achieve the project’s objectives.

In summary, the objective of this blog is to illustrate how organizations can greatly benefit from having project managers who not only have technical skills and knowledge, but who also provide leadership in achieving project success.  A project manager accomplishes his or her work through the project team members and other stakeholders (PMI, 2013).  Therefore, a project manager must be capable of providing the type of leadership that inspires project team members to be fully engaged in fulfilling the expectations of the client and other prime stakeholders.  Does a project manager need  technical skills and experience?  The answer is a resounding yes.  However, a project manager without effective leadership puts a project at risk for success. Thus, if the question is whether a project manager’s leadership is a key element for project success?  The answer is also a resounding yes.



Gallup Inc., (2013). New Gallup poll shows 70 percent of Americans are disengaged from their jobs. Retrieved from https//


Project Management Institute, Inc. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (2013) (5th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • You made some valid points in your article, Tom. It was very well written.
    Effective leadership is essential in any team effort, not just in PM.


    • Sometimes leadership is seen as a “ubiquitous” skill/talent for any multi-person endeavour. That can cause on to wonder, “Is leadership emphasized enough as it relates to specific professional competencies?” Clearly the triad of “cost-scope-time (cost-performance-schedule) are necessary conditions. This post seems to indicate that possibly more attention to leadership could be appropriate.