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About one year ago, I read this truly thought-provoking research paper1 that raised a noteworthy question – can we increase hiring success using Emotional Intelligence to place the right PMs on the right projects?  


We have all been there!We interview a remarkable candidate that has all the correct answers, qualifications, experience, and knowledge to be successful in his or her new PM Job. Nevertheless, for some unknown reason, the wonderful candidate is not a good fit, the troops are in an uproar, the client complains, and you have to find a replacement candidate quickly to mend the relationship fences. What gives? Why did this flawless candidate not succeed in his/her new role? How did you drop the ball? What is the secret sauce of hiring the right candidate for this innovative transformation project?

Is There a Better Way?

The feedback you received from your client is that your candidate wasn’t a good fit culturally for the organization. What it means is that the organization or project functions differently than the candidate. When the organization wants to go faster he/she wants to go slower, when they are strategic, he/she is tactical etc. Can we say “soft skills” quagmire?

According to J. Rodney Turner, PhD. and Ralf Müller, the authors of “Choosing Appropriate Project Managers”1, a PMs EI including Emotional (EQ), Managerial (MQ), and Intellectual (IQ) are all contributors to project success. Turner and Müller also advocate that EQ has a more significant impact on project management success than MQ, and IQ with some leadership competencies within EQ being more important to others depending on the type of project. Turner and Müller conducted semi-structured interviews and used a web-based questionnaire with over four hundred usable responses. The research that was published by the Project Management Institute, Inc. in 20061 supports the hypothesis that a PM’s leadership style and EI competencies contribute to project success, and the type of projects he/she will be successful at delivering for the organization.  

What the Research Tells Us

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), was the most prevalent for successful project outcomes. PMs must be emotionally intelligent to be successful. It makes it imperative that a hiring manager identifies the leadership competencies when recruiting PM candidates. 
Based on this PM leadership competencies the most successful PMs are motivated achievers, critical thinkers that are self-aware with strong resource skills. 

Key Data Points

IT and Renewal PMs have identical EI profiles, and PMs managing Repositioning and Organizational Change projects have similar leadership competencies
High-performing, high complexity projects or programs will require a PM with high ratings on all leadership competencies (EQ, MQ and IQ)
PM in high-performing, mandatory (Compliance) projects show strong competencies in critical thinking (IQ), conscientiousness (EQ), influence (EQ), and managing resources (MQ)
Repositioning projects require strong EQ, as well as empowering (MQ), managing resources (MQ), and critical thinking (IQ)

5 Changes to Incorporate into Your Hiring Process

1. Recognize the types of projects that your client undertakes, and the appropriate leadership styles for every kind of project
2. Identify the leadership styles of your PM resource pool (use a Leadership Dimensions Questionnaire (LDQ) tool that measures EI accurately)
3. Further, develop the specific leadership skills that are in high demand based on your client’s market
4. Maintain PM profile centrally and choose appropriate PMs when placing candidates
5. Celebrate the PMs and their contributions to your success

In Conclusion

Turner and Müller are not saying that all PMs will fail unless they have the right leadership style and EI competencies. What they are saying is that performance will be impaired on specific project types if the PM doesn’t have the appropriate leadership style and competencies. As a PM’s career develops, he/she must look to enhance his or her leadership style. If the PM specializes in one type of project, it makes sense to acquire the appropriate leadership style and EI competencies. As the PM progresses from low to high complexity projects, he/she will have to enhance his or her leadership competencies, especially developing emotional dimensions. 

1. Based on the Research Paper By: 
J. Rodney Turner, PhD. and Ralf Müller, DBA, 2006, Choosing Appropriate Project Managers, Matching their Leadership Style to the Type of Project. 
Published and Available for Purchase on

Written in collaboration between Jim Carlson and a Consultant Program Principle.