Leading Through Difficult Times


Positive Leadership in Project Management


By Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow

New York, NY, USA



I think it’s safe to say that difficult times can be expected to be experienced by the project manager and team at some points in time during most project life cycles. The level of difficulty depends on several factors:

  • The complexity of the project
  • The degree of planning and preparation
  • Degree of uncertainty (risk)
  • The skills of the project manager – leadership, management, negotiation, problem solving etc.
  • Personalities of the stakeholders
  • Upper management involvement (and meddling)
  • Politics
  • Resource availability
  • Changing requirements
  • Many other factors!

The most difficult times for a project manager (or any leader) are those associated with  periods of great uncertainty during which environmental factors (factors that cannot be directly influenced by the project manager and team) threaten the stability of the project (or organization) and the confidence of the people within the team or organization. Truly effective leaders are aware of the potential bad times that may be encountered and place significant effort in panning for them while enjoying and celebrating achievements and progress of the teams they lead. A major element of that enjoyment is the pride a leader feels when teams work together to deliver high performance, meet objectives, and display a winning attitude.

It is especially during periods of prosperity and success that effective leaders maintain a watchful eye on the uncertainties that lie ahead. For example, we have seen in this the current world economy, the rapid advances in technology, the impact of Artificial Intelligence and many other factors, that change occurs rapidly with little or time for detailed preparation. The economic and technology lessons learned the last 6 months alone have caused many organizations to redefine themselves in terms of strategic direction, product offerings, research and development, and financial capability. What appeared to be a relatively secure market position for many organizations has been transformed into a quagmire of uncertainty. This is where the true leader emerges. It is important to work towards stability in times of crisis. Understanding that stability and control is not actually 100% plausible, the leader should attempt, during a period of extreme crisis, to establish a “known and stable state” to allow tome for diagnosis.

A lesson can be learned from the emergency room at any given hospital. A patient is transported in. The situation is serious. No time for a diagnosis at this time. The ER team springs into action performing a triage to determine the immediate action required. Vital signs are checked and the goal is to stabilize the patient. Once that has been accomplished a detailed diagnosis can begin.


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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. (2019). Leading Through Difficult Times; Positive Leadership in Project Management, series article 3. PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue XI, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/pmwj88-Dec2019-Saladis-leading-through-difficult-times-positive-leadership-article3.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/