PMOs Supporting Modern Project Management – Servant Leadership

Modern project management has been mainly focused on the different methods and delivery approaches for managing projects and programmes. Waterfall, Lean, SCRUM, Kanban, Agile – the list goes on.

Utilising the right approach for the right project is key, yet the biggest success factor for successful projects remains the same – effective leadership and management of people in project environments.

Over the next few weeks we are going to cover several different frameworks, approaches and techniques that the modern project practitioner can utilise in their day-to-day work that make a difference to people and their performance levels. We also share ten different things your PMO can be thinking about to make a real difference to the performance of your PMO.

We’re going to look at the following areas:

This article covers the first, servant leadership.

Servant Leadership

What is servant leadership?

Simply put it’s about putting the needs of others before yourself. In project management that might be the Project Manager working in the best interests of his team – considering their perspectives, involving them in decisions being made, supporting them to do their job.

It’s about building trust, better relationships and better engagement.

Not only does the PMO need to understand how servant leadership approaches can work in the delivery organisation, it’s also beneficial to the PMO itself – who doesn’t want a highly engaged and motivated team?

This model from the Center for Servant Leadership gives a clear overview:

Early Servant Leadership Work

The Center for Servant Leadership is based on Robert Greenleaf’s 1970s work – he’s considered to be the founder of servant leadership as a concept.

From his work came Larry Spear‘s work which focused on servant leaders having 10 behaviours or traits:

And Sipe and Frick focused on the seven pillars of servant leadership – further characteristics of servant leaders:

We can combine both of those to give us:


Recent Servant Leadership Works

Linden et al in 2014 ‘captured the development (antecedents) of servant leadership, its consequences (outcomes), and the mediating and moderating processes through which servant leadership behaviours result in key outcomes.’

Servant leadership has become more prominent to those working in the change field because of its links to the role of Scrum Master in Agile approaches to delivery. There are plenty of resources out there about what makes a good servant leaderhow the PMO can utilise servant leadership, and if you want the detail, How Servant Leadership can Deliver Better Results from Your Project Team.

In 2017, Iarocci‘s book, Servant Leadership in the Workplace, it gets even simpler with the priorities, principles and practices. This infographic gives a great overview.


10 Things to Think About for the PMO

  1. Listening skills are considered to be the most important of all the pillars or characteristics of servant leadership – we should be thinking about how we can learn more about active listening or extreme listening – what practical things can we learn as a PMO team to improve on this.
  2. Stewardship fits right in with the PMO’s remit – we’re here to support everyone in the delivery organisation – from sponsors, to team members, project managers and customers. We should also be thinking about our commitment and responsibilities to the wider organisation too, such as finance and procurement for example.
  3. Being able to share the vision with our PMO team and the wider organisation relies on having a vision in the first place – do you have one? What is the purpose of your PMO? When the vision is in place, what different ways can we use to articulate and share that with others?
  4. The PMO is ideally place to build the project management community with the organisation – do you have a community of practice (CoP)? What do people in your organisation want from such a community? How can you start to make that happen?
  5. One thing a servant leader does well is remove the blockers so others can perform their work – do you find that the same blockers appear time and time again? What can the PMO do to remove them permanently or lessen their impact?
  6. Purposeful delegating – or delegating with the expressed intention of sharing power, building trust and developing people – is a brilliant way to develop people within the PMO team. How can we use delegation alongside the usual ways of professional development such as training etc?
  7. Anyone in an organisation can be a servant leader including any members of the PMO team – as the leader of that team, how can you instil some of the characteristics of servant leadership into your own team members?
  8. Recognising that some traits or characteristics of servant leadership may be harder than others to adopt – for example healing, this is about sorting out issues and dealing with conflict. It’s one of those that a lot of people don’t like to deal with it and shy away from conflict. When we take the time to reflect and understand where our weaknesses might be, aren’t those the things we should consider in our own self-development?
  9. Servant leadership is all about putting others first – being mentor-minded. Does your PMO use mentoring as a way to help others develop? What about if your PMO is a POO or POT (PMO-of-One, PMO-of-Two)? Is there someone in the wider business you consider to be a good servant leader, someone with time to offer mentoring?
  10. Finally, the new PMO Competency Framework, features key skills and behaviours aligned with the servant leadership models – for example; active listening, empathise, empower, motivate, inspire and facilitate from the key skills. What other skills and behaviours could you and your team be using and modelling? How would we see those skills being used and the where would we see those behaviours?


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Servant Leadership



About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

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