IPMA International Project Management Association
4 April 2016 / 6:26

Interview No.1: Leadership

Questions for Paul Hodgkins

Q1.How do you succeed in being a good leader?

I’m not sure there is a ‘best way’ to succeed in being a good leader; rather it’s all about finding the ‘best way’ that works for you and that must always begin with being yourself.  Authenticity in leadership is everything; without it you will most likely find you are ‘dressed for the wrong occasion’ and if you try to be something you are not, your teams and the people you work alongside will see ‘right through’ your charade. So, one way to succeed in being a good leader, is simply to be the best at being yourself. It is also important to recognize and remember that leadership cannot be ‘given’, it must be earned and that simply being given the title ‘leader’ does not mean you should expect to be respected or trusted as the leader. I believe you earn respect and trust by being true to yourself, being true and fair with others when setting your vision and goals and in making sure that your words spoken and actions intended are always in line with the actions you took and the behaviors you displayed.

Q2. Where did you demonstrate leadership in your career?

As the saying goes, leadership is not about having a position or title, it’s about action and example and we all therefore in my view, have the ability to lead. I would say that I’ve always tried to display leadership attributes throughout my career, irrespective of my job, its organizational hierarchy or even whether I was a graduate trainee, a project manager or an executive director. I believe that whilst many characteristics, attributes and traits go in to demonstrating leadership, it ultimately comes down to the ability we have to influence someone else.  If we can influence someone else, even if only for a moment in time, we can affect their attitude and if we can affect their attitude, then we can influence their behaviors. If we influence their behaviors, then we are leading and it is up to us therefore, whether we choose to make our influence affect people positively or negatively – the amount of effort required to do so is the same and so, we should always choose wisely and positively!

Q3. What are your tips for future leaders?

The world of our projects – and indeed life itself – is becoming (or at least seems to be becoming), more challenging, complicated and complex. The only certainty is uncertainty and in a world of constant change and emergent risks, we must accept that fluidity itself is too rigid! I think leaders not only of the future but also now, have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, be certain about the uncertain and recognize that adaptability to change and anticipation of emergent risks are going to be the ‘anchor’ from which all other leadership attributes will be grounded.  My tips for a future leader therefore would be to find ways that work for you that allow you to deal effectively with these factors, whilst at the same time never losing belief or confidence in your ability to create calm and certainty amongst your team and your stakeholders. When everything around you is uncertain and changing, the one thing that must be certain and fixed is you, and your ability to deal with, manage and lead through change and uncertainty.

Q4.What is the most challenging situation that you faced while leading other people?

Good question!  There have been many challenging situations I’ve faced, not necessarily because the situation itself or the people I was leading were particularly challenging, but because I myself was not equipped to deal with those challenges or did not make time enough for the people I was leading.  Therefore, when faced with challenging situations when leading others, always recognize those challenges as an opportunity to learn something about yourself that you can improve to make the next challenge, slightly less challenging! And the good news is, you then only have to depend on yourself to improve! I think one ‘key’ when leading other people is to be clear about your goals and why they are important in the broader context of the project and its vision. Another ‘key’ is to have empathy with each individual as an individual, and to understand their personal goals, aspirations and values. If you can then explain how the goals, aspirations and values of the project can be supported by the personal goals, aspirations and values of the team member, I have found many challenges can be overcome – or indeed, never materialize; not because of ‘you’ as the leader necessarily, but because of ‘them’ and their desire and motivation to help each other, themselves and you to do so.

Q5. What´s not shown in the textbooks and are your personal secrets of successful leadership?

One I’ve already mentioned and that is to be the best at being you; to be authentic. Others include always be honest in your dealings with others, integrity and trust as a leader are everything and it is always better to be slapped with the truth, than be kissed with a lie!  It’s important to know as a leader, that you cannot be expected to know every answer to every question. It’s not a sign of weakness to say ‘I don’t know’ and to ‘pass the ball’ to someone, who whilst may not be ‘called the leader’, is better placed than you to lead on that particular issue or challenge; to me, to do so, is a sign of strength.  Also it’s important to remember your role as a leader and in displaying leadership attributes is to create more leaders and as someone once said to me; “show the way, lead the way and then get out of the way!” I’ve mentioned this before, but I think what is not shown in the text books is the importance of time and how that dimension can change people’s views, opinions and perspectives on the same topics. We always have time to do the things we do first, and so it’s important to keep a constant and open dialogue with your team members and to understand, have ‘they’ changed and if so, what do I now need to change in the way I interact with them and lead them. And finally, as a good friend reminded me not so long ago and which I believe can be applied to all we do in life as we do in leadership; “be passionate about what you do and if you are not passionate about what you do, you shouldn’t be doing it!”.






  • Denis Krasnoukhov, Siemens, Moscow. says:

    Dear Paul,
    it’s allways pleasure to read your articles about project management and about leadership.
    “…leadership cannot be ‘given’, it must be earned… ” – it’s exactly what I also tell to my younger PM-colleagues.

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Thank you Denis and you are right to not only to tell your younger PM colleagues, but to occasionally remind the older ones too 🙂

      Very best wishes, Paul

  • Neda says:

    Dear Paul,

    It is very useful interview and always I will utilize your posts and articles.
    leadership is science and art.Without one of them leaders will not be successful.

    Best wishes,

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Thank you Neda and I am very pleased to read you will be able to utilise my thoughts on leadership and you are right as to your ‘art and science’ comment and the need to apply both in order to be successful.

  • Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton says:

    Great insights Paul. Leadership is in fact something one should be thankful of having the opportunity to do – inspiring others and helping them succeed is what it’s all about.

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Completely agree with you Emma-Ruth and thanks for your comment!

  • Alan Peake says:

    Hi Paul,
    A very good enjoyable and rounded article to a very difficult subject, I believe leadership is often placed on people who are not equipped for the task and consequently trust and respect become even more difficult to earn. I also believe that leadership cannot be taught, you can provide tools and guidance, but true leaders evolve, and these are usually the ones who are open minded to new challenges, seek solutions actively, often outside the norms and also embrace the tools available to establish the frameworks their teams can work within.
    The one overall factor for a leader is to be able to instil confidence in his team and to be a man manager, the leader needs to take the time to understand what motivates his people and to build on it and also to understand where to draw the line with those that don’t buy in whilst still embracing and valuing the teams ideas| Like I say not easy|
    Thank you again for sharing the article.

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Hello Alan and thank you for your comments. I’m pleased you found the article/interview and enjoyable and yes, leadership is a very broad – and sometimes difficult – subject. The age old question of are leaders made or are they born is one I am sure will continue ad infinitum? Likewise, can leadership be taught or is leadership something that comes naturally to some, and not to others? I agree though, it is all about having confidence in yourself and encouraging that in others as well as having empathy, understanding and generating the environment in which motivation can be allowed to thrive.

  • Cathy Nixon says:

    Great article, Paul. Great leaders are those happy to be in the shadow of their team’s shine.

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Thanks Cathy and I love the quote! As Nelson Mandela once said; “You never see a shepherd herding his flock from the front”

  • Martin Kaerner says:

    Well done, Paul. Leadership is one of the core elements in Project Management.

  • Jeremy Galpin says:

    I enjoyed your responses, the challenge of creating stability for our teams in an uncertain world is significant, I guess the other part of it is helping them deal with uncertainty themselves?

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Thanks Jeremy and I’m very pleased to know you enjoyed my answers to the questions posed! For sure, leadership is also about helping others to ‘become certain about the uncertain’ and ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable’. Ultimately, the role of a leader must be not to create followers, but to create more leaders

  • Kumar Kalyani says:

    A Very Useful Artcile Sir.I am going to appear for PM @SIemens Certification this week.
    It helped me a lot to clear my vision.
    I am also 2009 Trainee
    Thank you sir

    • Paul Hodgkins says:

      Thank you Kumar and I am delighted my interview was able to help you. I used to chair the internal PM@Siemens review board certifications and so, I wish you every success with that.

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Author of this post

Paul joined Siemens in 1984 as a graduate trainee and within two years entered the world of Project Management. His enthusiastic approach and project business success was recognised in his project management of some key projects; most notably in the then government owned British Rail; the implementation of communications infrastructure programme for London Undergrounds’ Jubilee Line Extension and a major telecommunications refresh programme across the Government Department of Social Security as well as in leading the communications implementation project for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. From February 2006 until June 2013, he was responsible for leading the PM@Siemens programme (Siemens global programme addressing project business) across the UK and North West Europe where his motivational and inspirational leadership style led to even greater levels of project and programme business success. His efforts led Siemens UK plc in 2008 to become the first corporate organisation in the UK to receive accreditation from the Association for Project Management. This was in recognition of Siemens UK plc’s commitment to professional project and programme management development. In April 2009, Paul was nominated by ‘Project Magazine’ as one of ten ‘key influencers’ in the UK in relation to the profession of project and programme management. This recognition placed him in the company of the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and Sir David Normington, the then Permanent Secretary to the UK Government Home Office. In July 2013 he established his own business, Paul Hodgkins Project Consultancy, where he has already begun to help businesses “unleash the power of projects and programmes”. He continues to be recognised for his contribution in developing the project management profession and has written articles for and appeared in numerous project management publications. Paul was appointed as a Fellow of the Association for Project Management (FAPM) in October 2009 and represented Siemens as part of the PMI Global Executive Council and APM Corporate Leaders Advisory Group. Paul also guest presents as part of University College London’s MSc on the Strategic Management of Projects.