Interview with Jan-Peter Bogers, speaker at the Project Management Forum

boss-vs-leaderQ: What are the most important skills of a good manager and leader? In my opinion, a manager and a leader have very different roles. A manager has to manage: to coordinate, facilitate, organize, coach, take and keep control. His focus is on how the work has to be done. He or she often has a hierarchical position in a organization.

A leader has vision, is innovating, inspires, envisions the future, both for himself and for the people around him. He or she is able to see a future nobody else sees. And he takes action to realize that future! His focus is on why things have to be done. And other people join him almost automatically. You can be a leader in any position in an organization. In fact, it’s not about position, it’s about vision.

Some managers can be great leaders at the same time, and some leaders can also manage the innovations they came up with. It’s an ideal situation but not many people are able to combine the two roles.

Q: How has management evolved during the last years? How did it change the role of the manager?

In recent decennia the number of high-education jobs has increased immensely. Therefore many managers have to deal with smart professionals, who like to do their work independently. They don’t need to be monitored all the time and hardly need any advice. So which role remains for the manager?

In The Netherlands managers are having a hard time. Books with titles like The last manager and Bullshitmanagement are popular and the role of (middle) management is being questioned. Organizations are trying to flatten the hierarchy and managers have to prove their added value to the teams they are working with.

Since both society and business markets are rapidly changing, many organizations have a greater call for good leaders than that for good managers. You have to evaluate and renew your vision on your business every now and then, to keep up, move forward, stay ahead of your competition or make a positive change in society.

I think we need both. In one of my keynotes, The leader and the manager: never change a winning team, I state that we should acknowledge the value of both roles. We just have to be aware of the fact that they have different skills and thus a different function in projects and organizations.


What is the biggest challenge in leading innovation projects and how do you suggest to cope with it?

The most important skill in leading innovation is staying focused on the big picture, or the Why of innovation. To believe in a better product, a better service, a better future and eventually a better world. As mentioned earlier it takes vision. But also endurance and the guts to take risks. Great leaders are fearless.

Your biggest challenge as a leader is: to keep the people around you on board when innovation is not a fait accompli, but a long way to go. Especially investors, decision   makers and people who aren’t as fearless as you are. Or people who have other interests or aren’t able to see the long term vision.

In my book, Simplifying projects, I identify 6 energy drains in projects: money, time, rules, people, ourselves and complexity. People come around at all these factors, so they are always the toughest energy drain to deal with. A leader needs to keep on communicating the Why of a project, clearly and in an inspirational way. Or to use an Einstein quote: He should make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.


The book is written in Dutch: Versimpelen – projecten realiseren zonder gedoe. It literally translates in: To Simplify – realizing projects without a hassle. I am currently working on an English white paper that summarizes the book.

Cover versimpelen

What is your motivation to be a speaker at the Project Management Forum?

My mission as a professional is to have organizations and project teams discover or rediscover what they are meant for. And effortlessly act on it! At the Project Management Forum I will provide the attendees with some insights from Simplifying projects, that will help them to take their organizations and projects from vision to action. To find a new balance between talking and doing.

Also I want professionals to be aware that we ourselves are making many projects and processes unnecessarily complex. That we waste a lot of money, time and energy by doing that. And that it is easy to prevent by designing and realizing projects differently.

What key message would you like to address to the attendees of the Project Management Forum?

Usually a lot of hassle arises in projects when we forget about our long term vision. We lose ourselves in details, forgetting all about the big Why, our goal or our mission.

At the PMF I will provide the attendees with some simple questions that make us rethink: Why did we start the project in the first place? Why did we design this process the way we did?

Subsequently I will demonstrate some thinking tools that will change your mindset towards projects and that makes projects more actionable and easier to succeed. Always starting with the questions: Is it complicated or are we making it complicated? Can we do it differently and simpler?

Where can we find you online? Twitter, LinkedIn, something else?

Simplifying projects:

More about me:  

My LinkedIn:       

My Twitter:                    @JanPeterBogers

Be my guest if you have any questions. Or if you are curious about some information on my websites, I would be pleased to help with a translation. Just let me know. They are all in Dutch, so send me a message through one of those platforms to contact me.

Follow Jan-Peter online to learn more about his work and ideas in terms of management practices. You are also welcome to attend the Project Management Forum on September 22nd 2015 and Jan-Peter’s session on “Simplify, out of the box thinking”.

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