IPMA International Project Management Association
4 December 2015 / 9:25

Love…. a competence element?

It is pitch black outside the window. It is also dark inside the cabin and the only lights I can see are coming from the screens of people that are still awake and watching a film in the entertainment system. The captain has turned off most of the lights, dinner has been served and most of my 250 fellow passengers in the Airbus airplane are already fast asleep after 3 hours of flight. We are cruising at 34 thousand feet and far down below us is probably Congo, or some other country in the great continent of Africa.


But I am awake. I have just returned from the 3rd research conference of IPMA, this time held in Cape Town in South Africa. I left beautiful Cape Town in 30°C and sunshine. I know what I am heading for in my home country Iceland, -10°C and 30 cm snow fell in my capital last night. But this is not what I am thinking about as I cruise through the night at 880 km/h. I am thinking about the discussions I had with people from all over the world at this conference in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch. My work in the IPMA family has indeed shown the value of communicating and exchanging views and opinions with people from other culture areas. I get a chance to talk to people that are dealing with different challenges, people that lead and participate in projects all over the world and must keep a sensitive balance and meet expectations of different kinds of stakeholders. All projects share similarities, circumstances vary but the key elements of a project are always people.

I think that people are more or less the same all over the world. We talked about leadership. What is leadership? We discussed this question, with reference to the competence element Leadership in the recent IPMA Competence Baseline version 4. I think about a conversation with colleagues from S America, S Africa and S Korea. They all agreed that if you repeat doing good things, again, again and again, you develop good competence. You train yourself and you will become known for your competence and you will be trusted. Perhaps this is the core of leadership? Another unexpected term surfaced in the discussion – namely love. Not a competence element in ICB4 but perhaps it should be? If we love ourselves, and we love the people that we are leading and working with, and we repeat that behaviour again and again, we become known for being loving leaders, taking care of our people. Perhaps love is a competence element that we can practice and develop?

This is my last thought before I fall asleep, cruising in the night, 34 thousand feet over the great continent of Africa.


  • I do believe love is the basis of human competences. After all, you can build up capabilities but it is only love and good feelings that can build up excellent goals and good teams to get them.

  • saidoun says:

    Great thoughts and inspiring article.
    Thank you Helgi.
    Best wishes,

  • Yvonne Schoper Yvonne Schoper says:

    If you face a problem in your project,- love is the answer.
    I wish we would remember this the next time when we face a problem, and: repeat doing this!
    Thank you for this wonderful piece of thought, Helgi!

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Helgi Thor Ingason

Author of this post

Helgi Thor Ingason holds a PhD from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, MSc from the University of Iceland and a SAPM degree from Stanford University. He is a Certified Senior Project Manager by IPMA. Dr. Ingason is an professor at Reykjavik University. He is the co-author of 6 books on management in Icelandic and English. He is a management consultant and a member of the Research Management Board of IPMA.