Characteristics of a Sustainable Project Manager (2 of 9) “Inclusive Leader”

This second installment of Characteristics of a Sustainable Project Manager focuses on the “Inclusive Leader.”

Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.”  As political and ideological differences foster growing tension around the world, nationalism, violent extremism, climate change denial, and economic uncertainty, seek to stifle progressive progress. The causal basis for environmental degradation, inequality, the need for inclusive leaders who will take the reins to regenerate and restore balance has never been greater.

Characteristic #2  Inclusive Leader — understands what motivates team members and other stakeholders, uses a collaborative approach that builds an environment of trust, values individuals, is open to new ideas.

What this is: When leading a team, the top-down approach is often the least effective. Strong, inclusive leaders show forward thinking, promotes collaboration and openness to different ways of thinking.  Following In a world where disruption and resilience are the basis for stability, an inclusive leader will look for win-win situations and accommodate as many stakeholders as possible, while they might take longer to make decisions, especially if the outcome may be unpopular, they will look for the best long-term outcome. In essence, it is responsible leadership.

Sustainable Project Managers are Inclusive leaders as they demonstrate how needs can be met in ways that sustain (or even better regenerate) resources rather than deplete environmental and social capital.

What it is not: Top-down task management using rank, experience, and (often perceived) authority to overpower others.

Imagine a project manager who has 40 years of experience, all of which is in one specific industry.  While they may be an expert on specific projects in that industry, they are hired to manage a team with little experience in a sector they are unfamiliar with.

An inclusive leader will draw from their experience, assess the situation, its context, work to understand what motivates his team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what gaps exist in the team (and individual) competencies, and work to provide support to in order to achieve the desired outcomes of the project while mentoring and coaching in the process.


A leader who exhibits the behavior of exclusionism can leave a team feeling left out. As a leader, you bear the responsibility for setting the tone and carrying the mantle of an inclusive culture. A leader who rests on past accomplishments and leads every sentence with “In my 40 years of experience”, of which only a little is relevant to this project, he or she will have lost the team and is poised to fail.

Keeping track of the series.

1Benefits Focused
2Inclusive Leader



For more on Sustainable Project Management, check out our new book from on or the iBooks store.


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Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

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