PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to investigate the lived experience of the project leader and generate additional insight into the relationship between the social and technical aspects of the actual practice of project leadership, focussing on a particular type of project that is prevalent in practice but largely overlooked in mainstream literature. It is referred to here as a “loosely coupled transient” (LCT) project.Design/methodology/approachUsing an exploratory, inductive approach, the research investigates the lived experience of 30 project management (PM) practitioners to try to deepen the empirical and conceptual insight into the nature of the leadership challenge and what it takes to be successful in the LCT project setting. The research design includes an extra data-collection phase to allow the initial findings and their interpretation to be further validated and refined in the field.FindingsThe empirical findings highlight the importance of three socio-behavioural roles: context building, culture-bridging and political brokering, in addition to the more traditional technical coordinating role, and examine their implications for future research and practice.Research limitations/implicationsThe findings emerging from this study are based on the insights provided by 35 exploratory interviews and while they provide the authors with useful insights into the socio-behavioural roles that practitioners consider necessary, they should now be further examined through more focussed, systematic research.Practical implicationsThis study points up that project leadership requires new forms of ability and intelligence described in this study as contextual, cultural and political forms of intelligence. Practitioners suggest the findings have a potential usefulness in the selection and training of future project managers.Originality/valueThe study attempts to provide a fresh perspective on social phenomena that are context specific, of relevance to PM practice and of interest to the academic community. It contributes to previous PM research by furthering the analysis of actual PM practice that takes place within the project setting by giving explicit consideration to the importance of understanding the contextual, cultural and political influences on leadership in the project setting.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 6, 2017
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