It has been a long time since I have read a business book, let alone a ‘soft-skills’ book, from cover to cover. I read this book twice! This book really is that good – interesting, relevant, true to life and applied.

Project Managers, and their organisations, have for too long focused on the technical and methodological aspects of project management, and have neglected the personal input required and the negative effects on a project if this is not achieved. The opening line of the book is ‘People don’t follow strategies, they follow behaviours!’ – how many times have we all focused on the strategy, what this means, and been told that focusing on the strategy will ‘get us there’? But for some reason, there isn’t instant buy-in, clear vision and directive actions… this book aims to help clarify behavioural reactions, both from the manger and team perspectives – and how, by understanding these interactions, a more efficient and effective management of change can be achieved.

The book has been written more akin to a discussion group as opposed to a text book, and as such is very easy to read and digest. The authors discuss the three agendas of leadership (i) Logos (intellectual agenda) focused on aiding managers to be clear and concise, and not overloading with PowerPoint presentations – there is a need for clarity (not overload, or holding back) for everyone to understand and engage with the process; (ii) Ethos (behavioural agenda) focussing on leadership and engagement style – different approaches to leadership are discussed, and when they are most appropriate to be used, and how these influence change; (iii) Pathos (emotional agenda) looks at the ability of leaders to create conditions to aid project teams operate at their best, and how to understand reactions and how to harness these. The book is interlaced with leadership theories and models, backed up with examples and reinforced with the practicalities of how the models can actually be used in everyday work. I was surprised how often I was smiling to myself or nodding my head whilst reading, as the topics discussed rang bells and I recognised many examples of experiences I have had when managing projects or when part of project teams.

There are many lessons to be learnt from this book and I encourage all project managers and leaders of change to read it. I would go as far as saying that it should be on everyone’s book shelf, and referenced regularly, especially as a reminder prior to a major change event. The ability to understand, and recognise, the impact of one’s behaviour on others involved in the change process, will aid no-end in achieving better working relationships, open up and clarify what is required, and therefore aid project success.

Engaging Leadership
By Didier Marlier, Chris Parker and Mobilizing Teams International
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
ISBN 978-0-230-57752-7

This book review was originally published in Project, Association for Project Management, July 2009, Vol. 21, Issue 9, p7.