Leadership Series No.4: Leadership in Adversity

The fourth article in our leadership series takes a look at the ability to lead in times of adversity – such as the current Covid-19 crisis.

The current coronavirus crisis is an adverse situation with which we all have to deal. Adversity can also be personal, as we respond to professional setbacks or personal traumas and situations. All of these situations provide leaders with the opportunity to learn and hone our skills as leaders.

When adversity strikes, leaders are faced with the need to pivot and respond to the crisis or emergency situation. A five-step process for managing adversity is proposed by Brad Egeland (projectmanager.com):

  1. Gather the team to assess the damage
  2. Come up with a plan of action
  3. Present to the customer and plan with them
  4. Implement the action plan
  5. Stay the course

This step process helps leaders to methodically plan their responses. Like all good project management, it requires effective planning and implementation.

Nevertheless, leadership in adversity is not all about responding to s changing situation in the short-term. The three tips for leading in adversity provided by coreprocess.co are:

  • Being adaptable
  • Seeing the long game
  • Avoiding discouragement

So, leaders must be willing to make changes and keep working despite facing an uphill struggle. Often, dealing with adversity consumes a lot of time just responding to day-to-day issues, but leaders must still think strategically and be able to vision the long-term. Avoid the pitfall of getting sucked into a short-term approach.

By now, we have all had our fair share of responding to adversity during the last 18 months. What have you learned about your leadership skills during this time? How have you improved as a project manager and as a leader?

We hope you have enjoyed this leadership series. Look out for future articles on similar subjects.

Project Management book downloads

The staff at PMD Pro+ are happy to announce the enhancement of our free download library to include a significant number of general project management books.

There are also some new additions relating to the following subjects:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Finance
  • Non-English textbooks

You can view the full list of downloads available using this link.

If you have any suggestions of free downloadable books, please contact us at info@pm4ngos.org.

Leadership Series No.3: Key leadership traits

The third article in our leadership series takes a look at the characteristics associated with leadership.  

What are the traits that make a successful leader?

Clearly, there are many important aspects, and some will be valued above others according to the particular context. In this article, I’ll examine multiple perspectives on the key traits of leadership, to identify those behaviors that are most commonly acclaimed. The three management authors and speakers discussed are Deep Patel (Forbes, 11 powerful leadership traits), LearningREADefined (7 key traits of leadership), and Brian Tracy (7 qualities of good leaders).

Leadership Traits

Deep Patel (Forbes) (forbes.com) LearningREADefined Brian Tracy (briantracy.com)
Having a vision for the future Proactive attitude Vision
Being accountable and responsible Are accountable Integrity
Being and Effective Communicator Radiate positive energy Focus
Acting Strategically Delegate tasks completely Strategic planning
Creating lasting relationships Are approachable Cooperation
Teambuilding and promoting teamwork Do what they expect of others Humility
Setting clear goals and persisting in achieving them Are decisive Courage
Managing complexity    
Fostering creativity and innovation    
Learning agility    

Analysis highlights the many similarities between these independent lists. The emerging themes are: Vision, Accountability, Strategic planning, Teambuilding and Decision-making.

Vision: Also a key Project DPro competency (12), Vision is the ability to contemplate the future. In this sense, Vision is closely linking to strategic planning as it entails finding time among the day-to-day management of operational issues to think about and plan for the future.

Accountability: Taking accountability and responsibility is another common trait. Author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy prefers the term Integrity, which invokes a sense of honesty and transparency.

Strategic planning: Deep Patel’s more substantial list of leadership qualities includes Managing complexity and Learning agility, but another common element is that of strategic action/planning.

From a Teamwork perspective, we can link LearningREADefined’s “Do what they expect of others” to the “Humility” extolled by Brian Tracy and Deep Patel’s “Creating lasting relationships” to reveal an interpretation of leading people as setting an example among equals. Moving away from the Organizational hierarchy, leaders nurture and foster relationships from a long-term perspective.

Finally, Decision-making. The emphasis here is on being timely and decisive. Leaders won’t always have the benefit of all the information necessary to make an easy decision, but, according to Tracy, they must have the “Courage” of their convictions.           

Next time, we’ll look at leadership in adversity.

How to be a great leader – The 7 Great Leadership traits (LearningREADefined)  

Leadership Series No.2: Leadership & Management

In this second article of the leadership series, we’ll delve into the differences between management and leadership. Let’s begin with some definitions. According to the OED, management is defined as:

“The process of dealing with or controlling things or people”

Leadership is defined by the OED as:

“The action of leading a group of people or an organization”

The first definition is striking, even alarming, in its use of the verb “control” – a word with often negative connotations. Through the absence of the controlling element, the definition of leadership indicates that the role is on one hand more positive, and on the other more complex.   

The Smarp blog highlights the differences between managers and leaders by emphasizing that managers are still followers, as they “follow the vision” and “endorse the culture” while leaders “set the vision” and “shape the culture”.

The overarching premise of leadership is that through ideas, vision and examples, the leader inspires people to follow their path.      

Leadership guru Simon Sinek insists that leadership is not being in charge but taking care of those in our charge. The key difference is that managers, by controlling, seek to be in charge of the output or results of their staff. In contrast, leaders are not responsible for the job performed by their people, but rather they are responsible for the people doing the job.    

In term of project management, Sinek’s teachings are highly representative of the “Servant leader” associated with Agile Project Management.

We surmise by saying that a project leader hires the right people for the job and facilitates their work by removing obstacles from their path.  

Risk Management, the victim of old ways by Hazem Zeitoun

My background in Project Management was acquired and developed in the private sector, specifically in the pharmaceutical sector during which I obtained my PMP credential.  When I started working in capacity building and delivering training and coaching in Project Management, Risk management was one of my favorite topics, and still is.

I was able to make learners see Risk management in a totally new way by using storytelling to explain what Risk Management is and its importance. The feedback I received only confirmed that Risk Management is not a high priority for organizations, even if they say so.

Common feedback revolves around “if I have known this before we could have avoided so and so“, or “Now I understand why we keep having problems: because we don’t really do risk management.“ This feedback was from people working in the private sector who are supposedly very attentive to risks. Later on, I obtained my PMD certificates, and started doing capacity building for the Development sector.

At the beginning I used to rely heavily on the Body of Knowledge accompanying the PMP credential when explaining Risk Management. However, it became apparent that this was way too much and too heavy and too early for those working in NGOs and INGOs. I always knew that risk management for many organizations working in the private sector was a side-kick , except for the    financial risks aspect, but I was stunned to see that Risk Management , in it basics ,  is not  even on he radar of  INGOs and NGO , let alone CBOs

The prevalent understanding of risks is that organizations do identify risks and deal with them; however, what they predominantly refer to are the Assumptions in the Logframe and Risks related to Security in addition to the “Do No Harm” notion. One may be surprised that I have included INGOs, but it is a reality that I have seen and I am still seeing today.

The introduction of the Project DPro Guide and related credentials did positively contribute to increase the profile, and the importance of Project Risk Management grew as more organizations and individuals got introduced to the best practices contained in it. Today I see more organizations addressing project risks beyond the usual “Cliches”.

Hazem Zeitoun, Genome Training and consulting

One of the challenges facing organizations and individuals is to better understand what constitutes a “Risk“, and differentiate  between “Cause” of risk and a risk. Many of the risks identified relate to delay of funds and of approvals as risks to consider, and organizations do not conduct a comprehensive risk identification and analysis to identify other high probability high impact risks.

Many people leave the ”Known unknown“  to be managed as “Unknown Unknown“,  leading the project to stuffer changes and delays that could have been mitigated if not even prevented early on.

It is crucial that organizations and individuals working in the development sector increase the depth and breadth of their understanding and knowledge, and more importantly the practice, of Project Risk Management.

Hazem Zeitoun


Genome Training and consulting

Benefits from taking a mentorship by Ivana Petkukjeska

In this article, Ivana Petkukjeska discusses her mentoring experience and extolls the virtues of becoming a mentee.

How it began…

During the last months of 2020, I started started considering the idea to start my own consulting business more seriously. Given my experience and knowledge in project management for NGOs, I started thinking about providing project development and writing services to anyone that has an idea for change and know-how to implement it, but no skills to convert it into an S.M.A.R.T. project proposal.

Ivana Petkukjeska

I knew the end result, but I didn’t know where to start. I knew the direction, but wasn’t sure which road I should take. So I started opening everything there is on the PMD4NGOs website, and ended up staring at the discussion board and thinking “On a scale for 1-10, how stupid it is to ask a question about how to take the baby steps?”

There was nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I dropped the question. The answer (which I didn’t even expect) led to free individual mentorship sessions with an international expert. First, I couldn’t believe that I got such a person providing individual mentorship for me. Second, even more unbelievable, all for free.

Every Tuesday through December: The benefits of the online mentorship process

While the mentorship process about my consulting business idea has already started, I slightly doubted that organizations needed this type of service. Although I never said that out loud, Edson showed me that what I want to sell, I am good at and enjoy doing is something that others are willing to pay for, might be bad at or even hate it. This was quite unexpected information for me. I falsely assumed that every project manager knows how and is willing to write projects. I was wrong on this very rare occasion when I assumed without even asking.

It wasn’t just about the need for project writing services I got new insights for. I also got very clear understanding where I should begin, the best approach to promote services, new insights about the market and its demands, potential pool of clients, and guidance for pricing methods.  All of this information was provided in a concrete, easy to follow action steps.

Moreover, Edson didn’t only help me see possibilities; he opened doors for me by creating relevant international connections!

There were a lot of other questions that were arising as a result of the conversation or between mentorship sessions, while I was working on a particular task/guidance I was provided. After each session, everything became clearer. The fear to start on my own diminished and the motivation rised.

3 take aways for future mentees

  • Utilize an opportunity to get a mentorship from someone more experienced.
  • Before it starts, get clear about what you want to ask/need information or guidance for (at least the first 3 questions, the rest will pop-up as the discussion progresses)
  • Be open to listen and put the suggested next steps on a to-do list that you plan to execute really soon

Mini bio

My name is Ivana Petkukjeska from N.Macedonia, currently based in Slovenia.

For the last 13 years my work is mostly focused on writing and implementing projects. I’ve worked with over 50 clients based worldwide, mostly NGOs, for which I’ve secured funding from governments, ministries, municipalities, EU funds, embassies, companies (CSR programmes), and other international foundations and agencies etc.

I hold Project Management for Development Professionals certificate and an MA degree in International Relations and Diplomacy.

Currently, I am in the process of establishing my own consulting company with a mission to connect those with an idea and those who give money for ideas. I will do that by supporting my clients in the process of re-shaping, developing, and writing their ideas as a meaningful, sustainable, manageable, feasible, and impactful project that makes a change (and sense).

The Principled Manager: Adaptive

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Adaptive. To find out more, consult pages 179-183 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 156-167 of the Program DPro Guide.


While one of the main objectives of project management is to create and implement a plan, the ability to Adapt as the project progresses is a key principle of Project DPro. The Adaptive principle relates to Monitoring, Evaluation & Control, especially the control of changes made to the project plan.

Projects and Programs are living entities, and the DPro Manager must respond to changes and issues as they arise during their project or program. The Adaptive principle is applied during all the phases of Project and Program DPro.

Adaptive and Decision Gates

The points at which the DPro Manager can employ the Adaptive principle include Decision Gates, which are valuable opportunities to assess how the project or program has progressed. The Adaptive manager uses decision gates as opportunities to reassess and reanalyze the project information at their disposal

Adaptive and Covid-19

A very current and very real example of the need to be Adaptive is the Covid-19 crisis. The innumerable development projects and programs in operation when the crisis hit will have had to adapt to the restrictions and effects of Covid-19. Inability to do so will, in many cases, will have endangered the success of those projects and programs.  

Conclusion: Adaptability assumes increasing importance

The speed of technological change, and issues such as climate change, show that Covid-19 is not the only external factor requiring adaptability to changing circumstances. Perhaps more than any other Project and Program DPro principle, Adaptive will assume even more importance in the future.    

Project Management in Creative Contexts by Cecilia Morales Sousa

My name is Cecília, I am a project manager and advertising professional. During my career I had the opportunity to join the two areas and work as a project manager in advertising companies, which showed me the peculiarities of applying project management in spaces that are essentially creative.

“Research results on a sample of 139 software development projects show that individual creativity is linked to the quality of the team decision-making process and the team climate. Results also show that the managers should recognize the value of creative individuals as the basic source of competitive advantage and success” (Açıkgöz & Günsel, 2016).

Creativity can be defined as creating something new or creating a different way of doing something. In practice, creativity is largely responsible for bringing value to products and services, whether through innovation, branding, or storytelling. Innovation is an important point that involves creativity and it’s fundamental today. Internet and globalization made innovation essential for any brand or company.

But how do projects work in the creative industry? As the possibilities in the creative industry are diverse, so are projects. As well as the cultures in which each of these projects will be inserted will also be. So, how to manage such projects can seem like a big challenge in traditional project management perspectives.

In the creative environment, the plastering of the team and processes can be a way to “break” the creation. It is necessary to give freedom for the team to create, but in an organized way so that the objectives can be achieved. Traditional project management, therefore, is not usually applied in its entirety to projects in the creative industry, but the project manager needs to have solid knowledge bases in the area in order to understand the best way to guide his team.

Traditional project management is generally applied to projects well known to the company and the team, where similar projects have often been carried out previously. In other words, they are usually projects without surprises, with predictable objectives and results, which is not always possible in creative industries.“The creative industry is characterized by the absence of a tangible product.” (Dejan, 2017)

“Agile project management is applied to projects where goals are clearly defined, but the way they come to them is unclear.” (Dejan, 2017)

Most creative organizations today use Agile project management. This is because this kind of management was created exactly in the midst of innovation projects, in the midst of uncertain contexts. Therefore, its fundamentals are extremely applicable in the area. Still, not all projects fit the standards of agile management perfectly.

It is very common to see hybrid project management being applied in creative industries. This is because it is essential that project management is aligned with the company’s organizational culture and the type of project it is managing. The fundamentals of different methodologies need to be understood for better adaptation within the given context.

The dynamic and unpredictable nature of the industry imposes the need for different approaches. For a team to have autonomy it is necessary that the manager has confidence in the professionals and that they are prepared for the challenges.

For environments that require creativity and innovation, it is also necessary to have creativity to manage the projects, deeply understanding the company’s culture, the way the team works, the expected results, who are the stakeholders and the whole context involved: projects must be flexible and open to change.


Açıkgöz, A., & Günsel, A. (2016). Individual Creativity and Team Climate in Software Development Projects: The Mediating Role of Team Decision Processes.

Creativity and Innovation Management, 25(4), 445-463

Dejan Petrović1, Vesna Milićević2, Adam Sofronijević3 (2017). APPLICATION OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN CREATIVE INDUSTRY. European Project Management Journal, Volume 7.


Cecília Morales is an advertising professional, postgraduate in marketing and project manager. She currently works as an account manager at a Brazilian agency, PM4NGOs digital marketing analyst and provides project management consultancy. Passionate about both areas, she sees project management as a way to improve creative industries.

Leadership Series No.1: Introduction

Welcome to the new series of posts for Project DPro+ members on the subject of Leadership.

As the Covid-19 crisis has developed, Leadership has been championed as one of the key responses for Project Managers and development sector professionals alike.

In this series of articles, we will consider what it means to be a manager compared to the significance of being a leader, look at some key leadership traits, and think about leadership in adversity, before honing in on leadership in the Project Management discipline.

We’ll begin with a look at leadership lessons gained during the Covid-19 crisis. These lessons were discussed by Kanni Wignaraja on the UNDP website. The six lessons Wignaraja identifies are:

Being optimistic. Despite the great challenges and immense negativity surrounding our lives in the last year, a key aspect of leadership during the Covid-19 crisis has been to retain hope and positive thinking while offering solutions and strategies going forward.

Being agile to changing messages and context. In times of crisis, leaders must continue to make decisions even though the landscape is continually evolving and new information coming to light can make recent decision-making processes obsolete. We must be aware of this, and be agile enough to respond to our context as it develops.

Making tough choices quickly. Embracing change, however tough those changes may be, is an inherent part of coping with crises such as Covid-19. When it becomes apparent that tough decisions are required, we need to be decisive and move on.

Protecting people. Whatever the decisions that must be taken, we must make sure to act in a way which is consistent with our values and principles. Protecting people’s dignities and rights is important to the integrity of leaders, and must often now be done online.

Purpose over plan. While we may have to change our plans due to emerging realities and information, teams will remain cohesive if they stick to their overall purpose.

Remembering that people are human. The mental health toll wreaked by the Covid-19 crisis is yet to be fully understood. The final leadership lesson is to recognize that everyone, no matter who they are, has been living with a particular set of stresses and strains over the last twelve months. We may not be able to see or appreciate what people have been going through, but those pressures will almost certainly be there.           

In the next article, we’ll take a step back to consider how the roles of leader and manager differ.

The Principled Manager: Integrated

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Integrated. To find out more, consult pages 177-8 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 148-155 of the Program DPro Guide.


Whereas the Comprehensive principle ensures that each Project Management discipline and Phase is treated with the same rigor, the Integrated principle requires the successful coordination of those disciplines and phases.

One of the key areas highlighting the necessity for Integrated management is the triple constraint triangle: the associations between quality, cost, and time providing the perfect demonstration of the importance of integration.

Integrated and Phases

For the management of projects, the Integrated principle is most relevant to the latter phases of Implementation and Closure, when the project is manages across different disciplines. The earlier phases of the project provide the foundation and planning necessary for successful Integrated management.

From Program Management perspective, Integrated relates to the four phases of Identification, Design, Planning and Implementation, and Closure. The Identification phase includes the Integrated alignment of the program with organizational strategy, and the Design phase includes the Integrated analysis of risks at program level.      

Conclusion: Harmonious Whole

While the Comprehensive principle considers the depth and rigor of attention to project management disciplines, the Integrated principle ensures that work comes together as a harmonious whole. In the context of Program Management, this requires aligning the work of individual projects and other activities so that the program can achieve its strategic objectives.