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Do projects fit into leadership with infinite mindset?


Leadership requires vision and purpose, and indefinite mindsets. This is basically the opposite of a project which has a pre-set start and end by definition. How does this match together?

By Peter Roth, June 14, 2022

Infinite mindset as key value for leadership

Simon Sinek, well-known author and management consultant, propagates the infinite mindset for modern leadership. In contrast to a short-term approach such as quarterly results, annual goals, etc., these values should be used to pursue a vision and a purpose in a sustainable and long-term manner.

But what does this leadership attitude mean for projects? By definition, a project has a start and an end, is unique and therefore limited (finite). Does that mean that projects no longer have any place in leadership with infinite mindset?

As a project manager, I think a lot about the optimal management / leadership in projects and would like to show my personal reflection here. In principle, the project management also follows the general, current management principles. This includes the leadership process, leadership skills and leadership awareness and is described for example in detail in the book 'Mastering Leadership' by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams. Added to this is the specialization for projects. The whole thing is packaged and integrated into a project method, e.g. according to PMI PMBOK Guide or IPMA.

Although projects are limited by definition, in my opinion they are even more justified in a management environment with an infinite mindset. As well as quarterly figures, goals, and other time-limited activities and actions. An Infinite Mindset does not exclude them, but on the contrary, they are tools on the way to fulfilling the vision (which may never be fully achieved) and support it significantly. Thus, a project as a temporary venture should also be part of this infinite mindset and support it. Because usually a project is a powerful step to change, accomplish or develop something. However, this is not the end of the matter, but rather the beginning of something new when the project is launched.

What does that mean specifically for a project manager?

From my point of view, the project manager has to master the balancing act between infinite mindset and limited project goals. On the one hand, you must therefore keep the desired benefit of the project for the organization or the company in focus. The purpose of the project is also derived from this, which gives the project its actual meaning. On the other hand, they must operationally manage the project within budget, schedule and quality requirements, manage risks and achieve goals.

Consequently, the role of the project manager includes not only the leadership of projects (infinite), but also the operational management of a project (finite). This is one of the reasons why we differentiate in projects between long-term project benefits and outcomes, and short-term goals and delivery results. It is the combination of infinite and finite mindsets that make for success, with the latter supporting the former. This is also the reason why a project is never an end in itself, but I always see it as a service for something bigger.

However, this combination is very demanding, which is the reason why often the role will be split between two people, the project leader and the project manager. Here, too, the project manager supports the project leader. I have experienced this role splitting several times. Usually in a a larger, complex customer project or program the project leader was internal and acted as the 'project face', and I, as an external consultant, was running the project as the project manager. Even so, a few times taking on the project leader role for the internal person was part of a leadership development stage. In the background, I was able to actively advise and support the project leader with my extensive experience and the project face became a real leader. This was a great cooperation and learning. For me, the combination of a purpose-oriented, superordinate infinite mindset and the implementation with a finite mindset in projects is an ideal, promising combination for every project!