The Effects of Leadership Style on Project Implementation

9. 21. 2020

Leadership, in general, is the act of providing guidance. It is generally defined as the process of social influence and the utilization of the efforts of other people to achieve a defined goal. This definition takes into account the social and corporate strategies, as well as the management aspects. However, various scholars have different perceptions of what constitutes leadership. Kevin Kruse, the CEO of Lead and an author of various books on leadership, states that leadership does not mean having titles, seniority, or the positioning in a social or corporate hierarchy. Being the highest earner or belonging with the executives, therefore, does not make one an automatic leader. Similarly, personal attributes, like being domineering, tall, boisterous, influential, or charismatic, do not translate to good leadership. Likewise, management and leading are different, and being a manager does not mean that one becomes a good leader. Having defined the common misconceptions about leadership, it is prudent to define what leadership means, and why it is important for project management. A leader is someone who has followers. This definition seems simple and likes a tautology, but in essence, it is the basis of leadership. Having followers is what makes the leader able to translate a vision into reality (Kruse, 2013). Bill Gates commented that leaders are those with the ability to empower others, while John Maxwell defined a leader as one with influence. In all definitions of leadership, some elements must be present. These include social impact and a goal that others must be empowered to achieve. In the context of project implementation, this definition is complete and thus applies to the different phases of project implementation. Project Implementation Project implementation is the transformation of ideas from their abstract form in the proposals to a realistic presentation while keeping the objectives at higher interest and utilizing the available resources (material, human, and time) for quality output. There are four phases of project implementation: the initiation phase, which included the analysis of the work plan; the planning phase, which considers the resources available against the stringent deadlines and objectives; the implementation phase, which is the actualization of the ideas in the paper; and the closing phase, which evaluates the output against the input and defines the successes, the challenges and the means of improving the project in the future. It is given that leadership is vital in all these phases and plays a significant role in the transition from one phase to another. It is thus impossible to separate any phase of project implementation with leadership. Leadership in the Phases of Project Implementation Project implementation utilizes leadership at varying degrees. The initiation phase is the starting phase. This level requires in-depth leadership involvement since the scope of the project must be defined, as well as the allocation of duties and resources. The planning phase includes developing a roadmap that the team will follow. There are various suggestions for developing an effective roadmap. These include the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) approach and CLEAR (collaborative, limited, appreciable, and refine-able) approaches. Whichever course a leader selects, they are responsible for defining the path that the project should follow. The third phase is the project execution phase. At this stage, minimal direct engagement of leadership is mandated. However, the teams must be well defined, the resources assigned, all procurements made, and a schedule set. The leader must thence trust the team to implement the project with the instructions that have been provided. This essay seeks to analyze the role that leadership plays in each stage of project implementation and the value it adds. The article dwells on the themes of organizational leadership, motivation, and the transformational power of different styles of leadership. The paper will conclude that ethical and transformative leadership is vital in project implantation and serves as an epoxy that drives the teams towards achieving the objectives of any project. The goal of all leadership styles in project implementation is to transform and lead the project to success. Transformative leadership styles utilize emotional intelligence to motivate team members in a project and create a psychologically safe environment that encourages better performances during all the phases of project implementation. The key performance indicators like objectivity, quality of the deliverables, and general performance against time, must be considered. The last phase is the project closure. The leadership involvement at this phase must be well defined. The leaders must account for the progress of the team and mark them against a punch-list.


1. Research Tasks/ Methodology

The paper will utilize secondary data analysis methodology. In this research, archival information from credible websites, business and leadership journals, reports, and peer-reviewed literature will be used. The sources of these data will be from academic databases of research organizations, public records, and government agencies. Relevant sources will be incorporated if and only if they are from credible authors and by credible organizations or institutions.

2. Hypothesis

The study hypothesizes that a transformative leadership style can utilize specific traits to have a more significant impact during project implementation. Various factors are essential elements of employee motivation during project implementation. Leaders have to motivate the employees so that their performance can remain high for the benefit of the project. The analysis of relevant literature is expected to confirm or dispute this hypothesis.

3. Theoretical Background

An extensive search of the literature was performed from various databases using various key terms, including "leadership," "psychological safety," "positive psychology," "job insecurity," "job satisfaction," and "project implementation." The articles ranged from the years 2004 to 2020. The sources selected were all relevant to the study.

4. Defining Leadership

Sarver and Miller (2014) stated that leadership is about responsibility and proper management of the human and material resources to bring change and enable progress. Transformational leadership is essential for all leaders who have the vision to inspire change. Leaders in all faculties, including business, law enforcement agencies, political scopes, and managerial positions, are responsible for pushing change by encouraging cooperation among team members. Change is witnessed through improved job performance, cohesion among team members, and morale for motivation for the execution of duties. Leadership styles vary, and the amount of involvement with the team activities also differ. However, irrespective of the leadership style that a leader explicates, they must be guided by the personality traits of neurotics, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. There are no best transformational leadership skills as each skill has its merits and levels of success in different situations. Transformational leadership is characterized by skills of affirmative decision making, methodical inspiration, and effective communication to inspire teamwork, cohesion, and improved performance in the project implementation phases to spearhead the achievement of the project's objectives.

Figure 1 How leadership has evolved

The Effects of Leadership Style on Project Implementation

Note: The table above has been utilized to demonstrate the leadership theory and its evolution.

Sarver and Miller (2014) also assert that managers must utilize communication, consultations, and consideration of personal opinions of team members before decision making. Nurturing transparency and creating an aura of trust in a project is the first step in having a cohesive team where psychological safety thrives, and everyone is free to share their opinions. The collective consultations and consideration of personal views are important in project implementation because different team members have varied perspectives gathered from various experiences, which in collection form an important source of information from which other officers and also the managers can learn. All phases of project implementation are dynamic, and a set of standards of leadership cannot effectively address the various scenarios (Singh et al., 2013). It is, therefore, important that managers encourage their team members to share experiences, adapt to self-discipline, set a clear boundary between personal biases and execution of duties, and make decisions based on logic and respect for the law.

2. Transformative Leadership and Psychological Safety in Project Teams

According to Edmondson et al. (2016), project implementation thrives where there is a harmonious integration between the leadership style and the objectives of the project. In this environment, psychological safety thrives, and the freedom that this brings enables the team members to employ their talents without fear of retribution, which drives different phases of the project to different rates of success. Psychological safety is the extent to which people perceive their environment as a conducive place to exercise risky interpersonal behaviors such as seeking help, speaking for or against something, and find new methods of learning. The concept of psychological safety, according to Edmondson (2016) and his colleagues is not new, as it was introduced over half a century ago to assist people in overcoming the cocoon of defensive routines and enable them to express themselves freely.

Cao and Zhang (2020) define this freedom as the break from the routine of formality in the workplace and being able to exploit the benefits of interconnection that is inherent in individuals within a social setting. Psychological safety serves a double purpose: creating a supportive working environment for everyone and serving a socio-emotional function by enhancing the integration of human resources at personalized levels as opposed to the rigid routine typical of a formal setting.

The limited evaluation of the positive impacts of psychological safety by Cao and Zhang (2020), in the general context, shows that its benefits traverse enhanced emotional commitment at in team projects, encourages sharing of expertise, and this translates to better individual performance. These assertions show that psychological safety is beneficial at the personal, interpersonal, and professional levels. Edmondson et al. (2016) agree with Cao and Zhang (2020) that psychological safety utilizes personal level characteristics and, in turn, influences how people engage in their works. Psychological safety is anchored on the relational development systems metatheory, which states that the interaction between individuals and their inner-selves, and between the individuals and their environment, is the basis for human development. Psychological safety has the potential of transforming the individuals at the personal level and the contextual level; hence, there is a person-context situation that serves to fuel one's self concerning the environment and with each other. Edmondson et al. (2020) noted that the cycle is important for human development.

Figure 2 Leadership

The Effects of Leadership Style on Project Implementation

Note: The image above indicates the leadership traits necessary to be a competent leader.

The universal definition of psychological safety does not mean that it is static in its application. Project implementation teams are composed of workgroups that interact at various capacities, thus having diverse implications on an individual's learning and development (Edmondson et al., 2016). For instance, a company specializing in production will have different workgroups (peer-to-peer relations), such as friendships within the production department and also in the assembly department. Similarly, in the healthcare setting, the workgroups will differ, depending on the area of specialty. Nevertheless, the characteristics of all workgroups are determined by the nature of the project, and there is a universal agreement on adherence to professional norms and organizational mandates. The nature of the project and the style of leadership may, therefore, encourage psychological safety, based on the composition of its workgroups, or it may otherwise frustrate such relationships.

3.Transformational Leadership and Motivation of Project Members

Motivation is the psychological drive to work towards achieving a certain goal. Motivation gives purpose and direction. Ozcelik (2004) defines motivation as a willingness to exert high levels of effort so that organizational goals can be achieved. Pinckey (2013) asserts that motivation is the root of drive for all employees, and the presence or lack of it translates to consequences that affect the organization in variable depths. Motivation is a psychological aspect, and therefore, understanding the factors that encourage action (why people do what they do) is a major step towards understanding how to improve the work environment. Motivated individuals view project duties as an extension of their projects, and through their efforts, the productivity of the organization is improved, and the competitive advantage of the organization rises. The general characteristics of self-driven employees are more involving in engagements, high problem-solving skills, a better relationship with their workmates and, by extension, the employer and other paraprofessionals colleagues, innovativeness, creativity, and more focused to meet the clientele needs. Teams that have a motivating workforce have more benefits and profits to the employee fraternity, as well as to the organization in general.

Motivation is directly related to job satisfaction. Subhakaran and Dyaram (2018) state that psychological safety creates an environment that employees are free to exercise their discretion, and thus they can speak up for or against issues that affect them. The satisfaction that is derived from that freedom results in a motivated workforce. They also emphasize that poor cultures like discouraging free expression lead to a demotivated team member. The workforce thence shrinks at their opinions in fear of being victimized, viewed as critical, and self-serving, and thus, there is a poor relationship between such people and the team leader. As a psychological aspect, motivation can, therefore, be increased or frustrated through poor leadership practices. For example, unethical and dictatorial leadership, poor communication structures, poor relationships in team works, a stressful working environment, and other factors can contribute to the workers having a poor attitude towards work. Similarly, a better interpersonal relationship, ethical leadership, a work environment that encourages freedom of expression and encourages experimentation of ideas nurtures positivism, psychological safety, and the resultant workforce is exceptionally motivated. However, other biases related to the work environment must be controlled, too, so that the benefits of such employees are fully exploited.

4. Transformational Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and Project Implementation

Ozcelic (2004) states that, there is a strong relationship between the emotional fit and good leadership that inspires expression. The more congruence the emotional fit is with the emotional environment, the safer an individual fits within the team. Emotional intelligence is the ability of one to recognize their emotions and that of others and manage them effectively. It involves mastering three basic skills: being able to identify one's emotions, ability to use those emotions to one's advantage, and the ability to regulate one's emotions as well as those of others.

Emotional intelligence largely involves adopting and building relevant interpersonal skills. It is instrumental in defining leadership. Zhou and Zhu (2020) state that emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their emotions can harness them and apply them in daily tasks like problem-solving and managing people in social and/or professional settings. Emotional intelligence is measured and expressed as emotional quotient (EQ).

The EQ measurement is not scientifically validated as a psychometric measure; however, its values are used to define leadership qualities, performance in jobs, and other interpersonal relational aspects. There is a connection between emotional intelligence and decision making which is beneficial to leadership. The composition of a team requires affirmativeness, assertiveness, and strong anchorage on ideals as defined by the project's objectives (Zhou and Zhu, 2020). The more emotionally intelligent the leader is, the more they can create a psychologically safe environment for their team members. Therefore, emotional intelligence can be manipulated by leaders to nudge others to serve the project's needs. The lack of scientific validation makes emotional intelligence an abstract science. Nevertheless, sociological opinions point that being emotionally intelligent, or lack of it, are important in defining the relationships between individuals and in building social cohesion.

The major focus on emotional intelligence is that it enables one to read emotional cues from those they relate with and solve interpersonal and personal problems, thus contributing to the emotional and physical health of themselves and others too. Emotional intelligence enables corporate leaders to read and interpret positive and negative emotional signals from others' body language, vocal, and facial expressions (Zhou and Zhu, 2020). Emotional awareness thus enables one to be conscious of the positive and negative emotional states of others and themselves. The ability to identify one's emotions at a glance of their posture and body language enables one to discern better ways to relate to them at personal levels irrespective of the existing relationship. In a professional setting, a supervisor who can read the emotional state of their team strikes out as relatable and understanding. Negative emotional signals like sadness and frustrations reduce the performance of workers and close up individuals' personal spaces from access to the people they do not feel overly comfortable with. Being emotionally aware thus enables an individual to breach the personal barriers of others' emotional fences and be able to offer solace or recommend better ways of finding help to those individuals.

Kim and Kim (2020) define psychological safety in terms of emotional awareness of the emotional environment within the workplace. They infer that business leaders can foster good relationships with others due to their ability to understand the emotional chords of other persons and connect with them empathically. The majority of social activities include active listening to other people's verbal communications, watching their behaviors, and discerning the superficial and profound meanings of their messages, and responding appropriately. For instance, an emotionally stressed employee will show restlessness, lack of composure, emotional closure, and will avoid opening up to individuals they are not emotionally close to. Similarly, excited persons will show general excitement, openness, and warmth in their facial and verbal communications. Leaders can tap into the personas of such employees because they understand the dynamics of relationships. As such, they create an aura of trust and dependency, which translates to happiness and self-satisfaction (Zhou and Zhu, 2020). The empathy showed by emotionally intelligent persons, therefore, is a recipe for building good interpersonal relationships at the workplace.

Hans et al. (2019) assert that emotional interconnectedness is the strength of a team as it supports collaboration, and the result is positive team attitudes and improved performance. Emotional intelligence, therefore, leads to increased job performance and healthy professional relationships (Hans et al. 2019). Leaders show great tendencies to harness and manage their emotions; thus, they are more inclined to respond to various situations with logical reasoning rather than emotions. Logical reasoning enables one to disconnect their personal lives from professional relationships. The disconnection between the personal and professional lives allows individuals to affect their professional duties like effective communications and team management, which creates a calm environment suitable for job performance. The ability to manage stress, build relationships, inspires, and motivates individuals as well as one's self has a positive impact on professional commitments.

Similarly, Page et al. (2019) posit that by affecting the emotional, cognitive aspects of an employee, it leads to emotional strains that lower activity and, subsequently, performance. Emotionally intelligent employees can derive satisfaction from their professional duties, respond to stress positively, and involve logic in discussing discontentment rather than using emotional outbursts. Similarly, individuals with high EQ show better trends in managing interpersonal conflicts, resolving work-related disputes, and maintaining high and ethical professional relationships, which are all beneficial to creating a psychologically secure work environment. The connection between emotional intelligence and job performance is so profound that in some organizations, the EQ test is included as part of interviews and in annual appraisals and job evaluations. Good EQ scores thus lead better decision making, professional development, and better navigation within professional relationships, which lead to increased job performance and healthy professional relationships in careers such as sales, real-estate, call-center customer relations, and counselors.

5. Findings

The above analysis has successfully shown that there are specific behavioral traits that distinguish between successful leaders and ineffective leaders. Project implementation requires team cooperation at all phases of its implementation. As such, a team must be cohesive, and the team leader must show competency in balancing between personal and professional attachment. Professionalism is admirable, but the leader must be able to connect with the team members at individual levels, while also maintaining a professional distance. Infringing into personal spaces is also undesirable as the leader might find themselves deeply engorged in the personal lives of the team members. The key is, therefore, finding a perfect balance that uses emotional intelligence and motivation to harness the power of team members to accomplish the projects' goals.

Leadership is the epoxy that holds a team together and guides it towards the achievement of its set goals. Ethical leadership should utilize strategies that encourage free expression, especially in decision making. Girdwichai and Sriviboon (2019) state that the best project implementation strategies should be developed with consideration of the social needs of the workforce. Environment and training, as well as organizational strategies to meet these demands, matter to a great extent. As evident, sometimes the line between work and life is complicated and demanding, and sometimes the boundaries between professional life and personal needs may clash, leading to a work-life balance crisis (Edmondson, 2019). However, this deficiency can be off-set by having a good strategy that allows employees to have a safe environment for the expression of certain frustrations. The goals that the leadership set during the project implementation; thus, must be attainable. For instance, as the project's financial advisor, one might be needed to provide case management services like helping the client to maintain collateral relationships, assisting them in billing services and at the same time, connect with other service providers and create a professional network for the benefit of the clients. However, it might be challenging to achieve all these demands at a go, and thus, an implementation structure that focuses on priority must be created.

Ethical leadership's role in creating a psychologically secure environment is developing interpersonal skills. Edmondson (2019) asserts that effective and transparent communication is the foundation of proper and ethical leadership as it builds trust and encourages others to communicate in return. Effective communication is the recipe for success in creating effective and meaningful contact with the employees. For example, the most important aspect of communication leaders is clarity. Being simple and straightforward makes it easier for clients to understand the communiqué and removes the need to repeat oneself. Secondly, the leader must be transparent in defining the scope of their obligations. This means admitting that as a leader, there are limits, boundaries, and restrictions that guide leadership. When setting the goals concerning the employee's needs, being transparent may be difficult, and sometimes the needs of the employees may be too many and sensitive. There may be temptations to involve the employees personally. However, setting the limits through effective communication helps the employees to know the scope of your reach and respect it.

The findings also confirm that transformational leadership is effective only to the extent that it inspires transparency in the team set-up. Yin et al. (2019) discuss transformational leadership and how sharing and openness in communication are important in creating psychological safety. Both Yin et al. (2019) and Edmondson (2019) agree that interpersonal communication is enhanced through active listening. Active listening means paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues of the employees so that what the employees say becomes an asset that can be used to reflect upon their needs and understand them better. Active listening also creates trust, and the employees will be open and be confident to talk to the leader. The assurance that one is being understood and listened to is therapeutic in itself. Therefore, in any practice setting, in addition to speaking, for effective communication, the ethical leader hoping to enhance team performance during project implementation must be a listener too.

It is imperative to note that the feeling of being respected and valued is an important contributor to social and professional relations. Psychological safety is important to ensure longevity in all healthy relationships, especially those defined by contracts. The reason for this is that an assured source of income creates psychological safety, while a lack of job security makes the employee uncertain of their future in the company. Similarly, having a healthy relationship with co-workers and being able to express one's self through words or actions has a significant effect on the morale of the employees (Edmondson, 2019; (Edmondson et al., 2016). The safer the employee is, the more they are relaxed and feels that they are part of the company, and not a mere resource that can be interchanged at any time when a better option arrives. Cao and Zhang (2019) argue in favor of psychological safety by stating that the highest performing teams are the ones who are most secure and the most motivated. From these assertions, it is clear that motivation and performance are interlinked.

6. Discussions

The basis of this study has been to analyze whether a transformative leadership style can utilize specific traits to have a more significant impact during project implementation. The findings have thus confirmed the hypotheses by establishing that traits such as emotional intelligence and motivational theories can be utilized to create a psychologically safe environment that encourages team performance (Rabanee et al. 2019). The general findings confirm that there is a correlation between psychological safety and motivation at job performance. The above analysis also shows that there is an established relationship between psychological safety and emotional intelligence, motivation, and ethical leadership, as well as the environmental circumstances at the workplace (Anonymous, 2019). It is also clear that leadership has the responsibility to perpetuate an understanding and healthy interpersonal relationship at the workplace through democratic leadership and not fear through autocracy. Fear has a paralyzing effect, not only in a dictatorial relationship of unequal parties, but also among peers who feel that their esteem is low, majorly due to demotivating circumstances at work, home, or school. The focus of developing healthy interpersonal relationships is to rid-off the fear (Ahmad and Umrani, 2019). This is the basis of the concept of psychological safety.

Different styles of leadership auger different results, and in this respect, these leadership styles affect the team cohesion during project implementation differently. However, this discussion has singled out transformational leadership as leadership that utilizes democratic principles, while also engaging the other styles of leadership in varying proportions for other successes at the project implementation level (Weber and Avey, 2019). In the analysis, it is a consensus among the scholars that psychological safety in the workplace is the ability of employees to act with freedom without regard to the negative consequences that arise from their activities, appearance, status at work, or their career in general. Psychological safety develops in four stages: The Inclusion, Learning, Contribution, and Challenge Safety stages (Clark, 2020). It is nurtured by the relationship between employees at an organization. As such, psychological safety is the major ingredient that sets the stage for a successful implementation of goals that are directed at achieving project goals. Transformational leadership is characterized by skills of affirmative decision making, methodical inspiration, and effective communication to inspire teamwork, cohesion, and improved performance to spearhead change and achievement of goals (Erkutlu and Chafra, 2019). These skills inspired by transformational leadership are vital for the realization of change. Therefore, through communication and cooperation, measurable change can be realized.

Figure 3 Leadership Efficiency and Efficiency

The Effects of Leadership Style on Project Implementation

7. Conclusion

In summary, project implementation takes into account the engagement of teams under one or multiple leaderships. Leaders have the responsibility of engaging with human resources more than any other resource in the organization. All the phases of project implementation are vital and must be managed with dexterity and exemplary leadership performance. The different styles of leadership have different advantages that they offer to the project. An autonomous team may benefit from a laissez-faire system with minimal involvement with the team's intricate details.

A rigid and hard to control team may require autocratic assertions to get it in control, but this must be exercised with caution since it instills fear and discourages leadership follower interactions, which is suitable for team's success. The overall system narrows down to transformational leadership.

The leader must ensure that the team is continually self-developing and improving. Project implementation requires an upward trend that favors an inclination towards meeting the set goals. Leaders, therefore, not only create visions but must participate democratically, authentically, and with self-awareness and empathy towards the team members. The resultant psychologically safe environment is not only good for the holistic development of the workforce. However, it is also healthy for the team as well as to the leaders and the fraternity of project implementation in general.

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Author :Tamburo Michael Renzi, student of LIGS University

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