Project Leader vs Project Manager

Project Leader and Project Manager are two terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. But are they really synonymous?

We will see in this article the differences and similarities between this two roles. We will explain their tasks and responsibilities and how important it is to know the difference between the two.

In general, a project leader can be a project manager, but the project manager is hardly a project leader.

However, both are part of a project and make sure that everything is finalized in the best way, even if their roles are not the same.

The difference between Project manager and Project leader

To understand the difference between managers and leaders, it is possible to use some definitions of leadership and management.

John C. Maxwell in his book “The 360 ​​Degree Leader” provided one of the simplest yet profound descriptions of the distinction between a manager and a leader.

He said that managers work with processes, while leaders work with people.

John Paul Kotter goes even further, stating that management involves planning, budgeting, organization, human resources, control and resolution of problems, while leadership involves setting the direction, aligning people, motivating and inspiring the group.

Kotter describes leadership and management as two different complementary action systems, each with their own characteristics and functions.

However, both are necessary for change and for the organization as a whole.

On the basis of these definitions, it can therefore be argued that management is clearly different from leadership.

Leadership is necessary to initiate change, innovate and create new products, systems, and services. Leadership also means motivating people in becoming agents of change, risk managers, and innovators.

Management, on the other hand, deals mainly with the correct and effective functioning of processes.

This does not mean that project managers should not be leaders; on the contrary, to become a good project manager, you need to be a good leader.

Responsibilities of project leaders and project managers

Project leaders and project managers are often considered interchangeable positions in smaller project teams.

However, in larger teams dealing with more complex projects, these professionals must work together in order to keep the project on track.

Project leaders can, for example, use a project budget and motivate team members, while project managers help set the budget based on cost analysis and review team efficiency.

Let‘s take a closer look at the responsibilities and tasks of this two roles.

Project Leader

Probably the most important task for project leaders is to be a link between project team members and company leadership.

In software development teams, project leaders are also known as scrums masters and development sprint leads.

The job responsibilities of a project leader include:

  • Assisting and planning meetings with other leaders, such as the project director.
  • Developing reports on project progress and financial conditions.
  • Testing the product prototypes.
  • Keeping the team focused and motivated
  • Guiding people throughout the project; the project leader is always present in case of problems.
  • Ensuring that the project is carried out in the best possible way.
  • Motivating, giving clues, providing ideas, listening to the team.

In general, the project leader has more freedom than the project manager when it comes to giving orders and controlling people.

In essence, the project leader adds value to the project and the team, gives meaning to the work as a whole and makes people feel that their work is appreciated and important.

In short, the project leader is a spiritual support for the team.

Project Manager

Project managers define the goals of the project after meeting the company leaders and learning the specifications of the requested and commissioned output.

Together with business leaders, the project manager also approves project plans and work orders, prioritizing the tasks.

Moreover, the project managers create a document, similar to a contract, which specifies the plan and the characteristics of the deliverables.

The job responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Providing quality assurance tests on the final product.
  • Supervisioning of the technical staff.
  • Ensuring that employees adhere to contracts or company policies.
  • Breaking down the project into smaller tasks (WBS – Work Breakdown Structure)
  • Ensuring compliance with deadlines.
  • Taking care of the budget, the program, deadlines, documentation, human resources, etc.
  • Reporting progress; the project manager is responsible for providing updates on project progress and possible obstacles.


In a nutshell, the project manager should not motivate people, but keep things organized.

The importance of Project Leader and Project Manager

Being a project manager or project leader requires a lot of work in terms of managing and analyzing data and all information relating to the progress of the team or the organization in general.

Both roles are fundamental for the success of a project and for the motivation of the team.

Since both roles must know and follow every detail of the project carefully, it is extremely important that they have access to all the data.

A leader, like a manager, must act in an intelligent and thoughtful way and that is why he needs to use certain tools to improve the work, such as a project management software. Twproject was built precisely on the basis of the needs of the Project Leaders and Project Managers but also paying close attention to the needs and requirements of the Team. If you haven’t tried it yet, try Twproject now for free (link a and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to use and how Twproject can make things easier for you.

Track your project success thanks to Twproject

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