Leadership skills of the Project Manager: the key elements of the role

leadership skills

The leadership of a project, in very few words, is the act of guiding a team towards the completion of a project.

It is obvious that it is a simplistic definition and that the true meaning of Leadership in a project is much more than that.

It is about obtaining something well done through other people who, in turn, are happy to have done it.

Leadership is a soft ability; part art, part science

Everyone is obsessed with this topic, from professionals to companies.

It represents an important – and necessary – quality for a project manager.

We have been asked the following.

Can everyone be a Leader?

Can leadership be learned and taught or is it an innate talent?

This is still an open point on which there are discussions.

But one thing is certain: successful leadership can be monitored and studied.

Different leadership styles

If we analyze the management style of everyone involved in a project, we can find different ways in which project managers try to reach goals and set their job.

Most of these differences are based on the personality of the professional and on the style of leadership.

We tried to reproduce these differences graphically and this is how the Project Leadership Matrix was born, which you can see below.

leadership skills

It’s a tool that says what kind of leader you are, and with this knowledge it is possible to correct or change the style to become a better leader.

This matrix divides the leadership into four main types:

  1. Reactive people leadership;
  2. Reactive task management;
  3. Proactive people leadership;
  4. Proactive task management.

It is unlikely that a project manager fits perfectly in a single quadrant.

It is much more likely that every Project Manager is a mixture of two or more leadership styles.

However, in general, the best project managers are those who emphasize a proactive leadership style.

It is important to remember, though it may seem obvious, that people are not like activities.

Managers are often more comfortable with processes and methodologies, rather than with human beings.

However, the work is not done by automata and treating the team, which is made up of human beings, in an abstract and cold way means risking the disaster.

Here is where excellent project leadership must come. As a leader, the goal is to inspire and empower the team.

Planning, monitoring and reporting are certainly fundamental for the construction of a project, but the morale of the collaborators may not be quantifiable like a milestone on a timeline.

How (as project manager) do I become a GOOD project manager?

Knowing what good project leadership means leads to the inevitable question: how is it possible to apply this concept to reality in order to become a good project manager?

The aspects that many – excellent – leaders share are the following:

  1. Keep the focus on the goal;
  2. They are aware;
  3. They create solutions;
  4. They are analysts;
  5. They can evaluate the risks;
  6. They can generate a sense of urgency when necessary;
  7. They are perspicacious;
  8. They promote cohesion among collaborators;
  9. They motivate the team;
  10. They reach results.

These represent ten pillars on which it is possible to build a good leadership.

Leadership is difficult to teach through books, videos and courses.

Of course, you can learn the basics by reading, but the “practice” at work is another story.

What does the sixth edition of PmBok on leadership say?

It can be more difficult to manage a team, and a project in general, through leadership rather than authority.

However, leadership is usually more effective because it is built on trust and respect.

Leadership is particularly important at the beginning of a project to define the vision, communicate it to the team and start this necessary relationship of trust and respect.

This let all employees take part in the project objectives.

Good leadership skills will also keep the collaborators inspired and motivated to do their best.

In order to be a project manager with good leadership skills, it is important to recognize situations and select the appropriate action.

The PmBok summarizes the leadership as:

  • Lead team members and stakeholders towards a common project goal;
  • Doing things “through” the project team members;
  • Manage with respect and trust;
  • Communicate with, motivate and inspire the team;
  • Maintain the vision, strategy and communication of project performance;
  • Evaluate the performance of the project team.

Communication is the key

Clear communication is the most valuable tool that a project manager has.

Clear communication not only with the team, but also with the possible leaders and with all the stakeholders.

This quality is probably what firstly characterizes a good leader.

Communication is not only a means through which needs and desires can be explained but, if used correctly, it clearly transmits to the team what are the expected objectives, the requirements and the limits to respect.

This allows everyone to act correctly in an autonomous way.

The more team members know, the more they can act autonomously and make the right choices.

To ensure that communication skills are clear, a simple pattern, both for written as well as spoken communications, can be followed:

  • First of all, communication has to be compelling, as the message must arouse interest and involvement in the topic.
  • Secondly, commication must be persuasive. If you are not able to influence the person with whom you are communicating, you will not be able to change her/his way of thinking or her/his habits.
  • Finally, communication must be powerful. This means that we need to communicate effectively and efficiently. The correct result of communication should be the action.

Leadership for a project manager is a term probably easy to describe but represents a goal to pursue and to try to achieve throughout the whole working life.

What kind of leader are you?

Which are the most difficult aspects for you in the field of leadership?

Tell us about your experience.

Increase your leadership skills.

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