Rethinking Leadership and Governance


Project management in the time of Covid


By Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia

In March 2020, Australia closed its borders and the whole nation went into lockdown in response to news that COVID-19 had arrived. The virus had been transported by arrivals by air and by water (cruise ships). At the time of writing (April 2022) we are ’living with COVID’; businesses and communities are gradually opening up, but people are still dying with the virus[1]. We are now dealing with new issues of staff shortages, rising prices and empty shelves in the supermarket. A federal election is looming, and our political leaders are vying to provide solutions for how to repair our economy and improved working conditions and the lives of citizens.

The disruption of the virus reminded people that circumstances can change rapidly[2] and without warning. This topic was discussed in last month’s paper: Uncertainty – time to rethink? suggesting that it was time to review pre-pandemic practices, and to consider how we might improve life for ourselves and for our community. This month the subject is governance and leadership – how to use this opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and re-build our culture and environment – a ‘new normal’.

This series: ‘Project management in the time of COVID’ is primarily about ideas for how organizations and PM practitioners can rethink how PM practice is performed, but any analysis of current applications of governance and leadership must be by its very nature top-down. Projects are selected, funded, and supported to deliver value to an organization as the result of the actions of governments or the actions of the organization. Project governance and project leadership are in most part sub-sets of the organization and environment in which the project work is performed. Projects are developed by and for organizations to support policy, strategy and reforms that often have their origins in the work of Governments to regulate and improve the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.

This paper is organized as follows: the first section defines governance and leadership; the next section describes Australia’s pre-pandemic environment in terms of those definitions followed by an overview of our first two years of lockdowns. The final section discusses how reviews and reforms of governance and leadership practices may be applied to develop a new normal to counteract the problems of the past.

Governance and leadership are mutually inclusive. Leaders define and support good governance, leadership is enhanced by good governance.

Definitions: Governance

Definitions for governance and project governance vary only in the level of detail:

  1. Governance encompasses the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance and administration are all elements of governance. Governance Institute of Australia
  2. Corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  3. Corporate governance is the framework of rules, relationships, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in corporations. It encompasses the mechanisms by which companies, and those in control, are held to account. ASX Corporate Governance Council
  4. Project governance is the management framework within which project decisions are made and outcomes of a project are realized. Its role is to provide a repeatable and robust system through which an organization can manage its capital investments—project governance handles tasks such as outlining the relationships between all groups involved and describing the flow of information to all stakeholders. Wikipedia

Key concepts of governance from these definitions are:


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Editor’s note: This series is by Dr. Lynda Bourne, author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (2009), Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders (2011) and several others.  She is a globally-recognized expert on project stakeholder engagement, risk management and other PM-related topics. 

How to cite this paper: Bourne, L. (2022). Rethinking Leadership and Governance: Project Management in the time of Covid, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue V, May. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/pmwj117-May2022-Bourne-Rethinking-leadership-and-governance-in-time-of-covid.pdf 

About the Author

Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia


Lynda Bourne DPM, FACS is a senior management consultant, professional speaker, teacher and an award-winning project manager with 50 years professional industry experience. She has been focussed on the delivery of stakeholder management and other project related consultancy, mentoring and training for clients world-wide.

She has presented at conferences and seminars in South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, New Zealand and Australia to audiences of industry leaders and project managers in the IT, construction, defence and mining industries and has been keynote speaker at meetings and workshops within organisations in the finance and utilities sector.

In 2010 she was engaged as visiting professor at EAN University, Bogota, Colombia, teaching leadership in the Masters of PM Program for five years.

Most recently she was a member of the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, lecturing in IT management subjects, in particular, stakeholder management, communication and leadership.

Lynda Bourne has authored the following books:

  • Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2009)
  • Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle: A guide for developing stakeholder management maturity in organisations (2010)
  • Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2011)
  • Making projects and programs work: What really matters for achieving successful project and program outcomes (2015)

She can be contacted at lynda.bourne@gmail.com

To view other works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/

[1] There have been more Australian COVID deaths in 2022 than in 2020 and 2021 combined.
[2] Loria, K. (2021). Life Lessons from the Pandemic.www.CR.org, August 2021.