Leadership in a Project Environment

Tips and Techniques to Help You Succeed



By Laszlo A. Retfalvi P.Eng. PMP PMI-RMP

General Manager
Retfalvi and Associates

Ontario, Canada




In today’s complex project and business environment, organizations must not only address the effective management of projects, but also the leadership of projects in order to succeed.  Leadership competence, even more today than ever in the past, is no longer seen as an optional project management skill, but a key part of being a successful and respected Project Manager. We need to recognize this new norm – there is simply no way around it.

As reported by PMI®’s PMI (2017) Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027, the project management-oriented labor force in seven project-oriented sectors is expected to grow by 33 percent, or nearly 22 million new jobs through 2027 of 11 countries on 5 continents surveyed. If organizations fail to adequately address talent management and equip Project Managers with the skillsets required to fill anticipated future project management roles, significant initiatives will be at risk.

In order to ensure this occurs, Project Managers and project management practitioners must clearly understand that it takes true project management leadership to successfully drive aggressive and complex projects. Project management leadership combines select project management and leadership attributes with a risk-smart attitude and accountability-based behaviour to achieve professional and personal success.

The goal of this paper is to review the Project Management Leadership Model© and provide proven tips and techniques to help Project Managers understand, assess, and strengthen needed leadership skills to meet todays and future industry expectations.


One would think that with the advance of agile based techniques, abundance of project management training, and the proliferation of various project management certifications, we would see a corresponding increase in project success.  This does not appear to be the case.

As reported by PMI®’s PMI (2018) Pulse of the Profession 2018- Success in Disruptive Time, although there has been a reduction since 2013 in the amount of money that organizations waste due to poor project performance, of the 5402 professional surveyed, this value remains at 9.8 %. This equals $99 million for every $1 billion invested. Also reported was 57% of projects finished within their initial budgets, 52% of projects finished within their initially scheduled times, and 5% were considered failures.

Almost every time we pick up a magazine, receive an e-mail, or read a blog, an organization or individual is promoting some type of project management related training. Different types of vendors promising mastery of a topic in a few short days or promoting the investment of new methodologies or workflows. All these promotions, referred to by the author as silver bullets, promise to help individuals become better Project Managers.

Experience has shown that many Project Managers have not developed the right mix of skills and behaviours to be effective and successful. It almost seems that the technology and tools that we use today, such as e-mail, instant messaging, or social media, are considered more important than the actual soft skills that Project Managers so dearly need.

In a way, these powerful tools cause us to skip or ignore the basics. As a result, our risk awareness suffers as we place our ability to listen effectively on the back burner. This lack of understanding of our current situation results in a significant lack of accountability.

In the opinion of the author, the end result is that we would rather focus on what is easy and glitzy, not what is important. This needs to change.



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How to cite this article: Retfalvi, L.A. (2020).  Leadership in a Project Environment: Tips and Techniques to Help You Succeed, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VI, June.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/pmwj94-Jun2020-Retfalvi-Leadership-in-a-Project-Environment.pdf



About the Author


Laszlo A. Retfalvi P.Eng. PMP PMI-RMP

Retfalvi and Associates
Ontario, Canada



Laszlo Retfalvi is General Manager of Retfalvi and Associates.

Previous roles include Vice-President of the Program and Risk Management Office (PRMO) at Allen Vanguard Corporation, Director of the Program Management Center of Excellence at Shared Services Canada, and Director of Integrated Sensor Systems at General Dynamics Canada. Previously, Laszlo held roles with the Irving Corporation and SED Systems.

A seasoned 30+ year veteran of engineering, project management and business in private and public sectors, Laszlo and his teams have successfully managed and delivered products, systems, and services to Military, Para-Military, Public, Government, and Private Customers.  Areas of expertise include independent reviews, risk workshops, schedule and cost risk analysis.

Laszlo is an award winning instructor, author, and coach. With a passion to help individuals succeed, Laszlo is currently an Instructor at University of California Irvine Extension. Laszlo is also an Instructor at Oregon State University Professional and Continuing Education. Areas include Project Planning, Risk Management, Leadership and High Performance Teams.

Laszlo is author of The Power of Project Management Leadership: Your Guide on How to Achieve Outstanding Results (CS Publishing March 2014) including the Project Management Leadership Model©, a framework to develop personal project management leadership excellence. A recognized industry speaker, Laszlo has published and delivered over 70 papers and presentations internationally, including PMI® ProjectManagement.com Risk and Leadership Community of Practice Premium on Demand webinars with over 50,000 views to date.

Laszlo has been happily married to Lisa for over 33 years and they have two wonderful sons, Andrew and Alexander.

Laszlo may be reached at laszlo@retfalviandassociates.com or on LinkedIn.