Leadership in International Projects : A study of the cultural dimension

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE)

Abstract: Today’s pressure of change, innovation and shorter life-cycles have created a projectification in nearly every industry. Especially international projects are more frequently used to meet the global competition. However, it is common that project managers despite impressive track record, fail when posted internationally due to inability to adapt to foreign cultures. Only half of all international projects reach expected results and many of them are not completed at all, which indicates that the complexity of international projects is underestimated. This study aims to explore how cultural differences increase the project complexity and challenge the leadership of the project manager. Furthermore, the project manager’s leadership ability is studied in terms of qualities required to lead international projects and achieving project objectives. Leadership is a well explored area of research but existing theories are foremost based on functional leadership and few on project leadership, fewer still in an international context. General management leadership theories are not applicable on leadership within project management because of the different circumstances since a project is defined as a unique task based on a flexible organization and limited time frame. Additionally, the knowledge of how national culture influences project management is limited and therefore underestimated. Today, global corporations invest billions of dollars in international projects and by gaining understanding of the qualities required to succeed leading international projects, corporations could better utilize resources, decrease costs and improve project outcome. Therefore this study explores both the cultural challenges that arise in international project, what qualities the project manager should possess and whether the human resource department recruits project managers with necessary qualities. This has been done through qualitative dialogues together with a theoretical framework. With this study, I hope to enlighten the reader of the meaning of international projects and how culture must be acknowledged as an influencing factor on project leadership. Furthermore, I hope to trigger reflection of the selection processes of project managers and who is suitable for the role.

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