Assessing Project, Program, and Portfolio Leadership


Positive Leadership in Project Management


By Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow

New York, NY, USA



There is no question that Project Management has become a key factor in the achievement of strategic and tactical organizational objectives. Project management exists in every type of business regardless of size and industry and has become a core competency for highly successful organizations. Over the years project management has evolved and advanced, and many new tools and techniques have been developed. Project managers must continue to upskill if they wish to remain viable in this continually changing project and business environment. One particular set of skills that is clearly an absolute necessity in the project management world is leadership. Organizations require people with strong leadership skills to provide guidance and management in several specific roles. The discipline of project management is actually a trilogy of distinct areas of expertise: Project Management, Program Management, and Portfolio Management. Each of these require a similar set of leadership skills and managerial competencies to survive the pressures of the position and its responsibilities. These functions are not new and have been included in business management for decades, but they have become more complex and each function requires a continuous enhancement of managerial skills.

Although there is no actual, defined, and documented analysis to substantiate this, the unofficial progression of the project management career begins with managing projects. Newly appointed project managers are generally assigned to implement small to midsize projects and, as experience develops, more complex projects are assigned. Eventually, project managers who demonstrate a combination of superior leadership, organizing, and problem-solving skills along with the ability to manage multiple projects are assigned to manage Programs. Programs can be extremely challenging and require a combination of highly developed skills. Leadership, coordination, integration, systems and strategic thinking, business acumen, and interpersonal skills are a necessity for success as a program manager. Continuing the career path, a program manager may assume the responsibilities of a Portfolio Manager. This position includes responsibility for ensuring the alignment of projects and programs with strategic objectives, making decisions that impact the organization’s financial performance, reputation, brand and managing the effectiveness of project and program managers.

The described progression does not apply to all organizations and there is no universal project management succession process but most organizations seem to follow a similar approach for managing the career advancement of project managers.

In any case, there is a need to define and communicate the competencies required for success in each of the project management responsibility levels. It is also necessary to develop a process to ensure that competencies are attained and maintained

The following table provides a basis for assessing the essential competencies of the career minded project manager. Each skill area is related to the responsibilities of a project, program, or portfolio manager. Performance review processes will be different by organization. The table is basically a list of suggested areas that could be assessed and is not intended to be complete and comprehensive. Keep in mind the need for emotional intelligence when assessing performance and maintain a positive leadership perspective when communicating about performance.

Review each skill area listed in the table and modify or add skills as needed. The table can be used to assess your own current ability in each area and create an action plan to address your specific needs. Objectively, and honestly consider how you (or your employees/ project managers) demonstrate each of these skills. Determine potential actions that may be taken to improve areas where there may be deficiencies or skill is not demonstrated and develop a plan or schedule to assess progress and professional development.


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Editor’s note: This article is one in a series on Positive Leadership in Project Management by Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow, popular speaker and author of books on leadership in project management published by Wiley and IIL in the United States. Frank is widely known as the originator of the International Project Management Day, the annual celebrations and educational events conducted each November by PMI members, chapters and organizations around the world.

How to cite this paper: Saladis, F. (2020). Assessing Project, Program, and Portfolio Leadership: Positive Leadership in Project Management. PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue X, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pmwj98-Oct2020-Saladis-assessing-project-program-portfolio-leadership.pdf



About the Author

Frank P. Saladis

New York, USA



 Frank P. Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow is a Consultant and Instructor / Facilitator within the project management profession and has over 35 years of experience in the IT, Telecom Installation and IT Project Management training environment. He is a senior consultant and trainer for the International Institute For Learning Inc. and has been involved in the development of several project management learning programs. Mr. Saladis has held the position of Project Manager for AT&T Business Communications Systems, National Project Manager for AT&T Solutions Information Technology Services and was a member of Cisco Systems Professional Services Project Management Advocacy Organization. His responsibilities included the development of Project Management Offices (PMO) and the development of internal training programs addressing project management skills and techniques.

He is a Project Management Professional and has been a featured presenter at the Project Management Institute ® Annual Symposiums, Project World, PMI World Congress, CMMA, and many PMI Chapter professional development programs. He is a past president of the PMI New York City Chapter and a Past-President of the PMI ® Assembly of Chapter Presidents. Mr. Saladis is a Co-Publisher of the internationally distributed newsletter for allPM.com, a project management information portal, and a contributor to the allPM.com project management website.

Mr. Saladis is the originator of International Project Management Day and has written numerous leadership and project management related articles. Mr. Saladis is also the author of the Project Management Workbook and PMP ® / CAPM ® Exam Study Guide that supplements Dr. Harold Kerzner’s textbook – Project Management, A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling?, 9th Edition published by John Wiley & Sons and the author of Positive Leadership in Project Management, published by IIL Publishing. He is a member of the International Executive Guild and the NRCC Business Advisory Council. He has also held the position of Vice President of Education for the Global Communications Technology Specific Interest Group of PMI ® and holds a Master’s Certificate in Commercial Project Management from the George Washington University. Mr. Saladis received the prestigious Lynn Stuckenbrook Person of the Year Award from the Project management Institute in 2006 for his contributions to the organization and to the practice of project management.  He can be contacted at saladispmp@msn.com

To view other works by Frank Saladis, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/frank-p-saladis/



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