Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:00

Top 10 Leadership Qualities of a Project Manager

Written by  Timothy R. Barry
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What qualities are most important for a project manager to be an effective project leader? It's a question often asked and one that makes us sit back and think. Over the past few years, the people at ESI International, a leader in project management training, have looked at what makes an effective project leader. They quizzed some highly-talented project leaders and compiled a running tally of their responses. Below are the top 10 qualities in rank order, according to their frequency listed.

Inspires a Shared Vision

An effective project leader is often described as having a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it. Visionaries thrive on change and being able to draw new boundaries. It was once said that a leader is someone who "lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change." Visionary leaders enable people to feel they have a real stake in the project. They empower people to experience the vision on their own. According to Bennis "They offer people opportunities to create their own vision, to explore what the vision will mean to their jobs and lives, and to envision their future as part of the vision for the organization." (Bennis, 1997)

A Good Communicator

The ability to communicate with people at all levels is almost always named as the second most important skill by project managers and team members. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback.

There is a great deal of value placed on openness and directness. The project leader is also the team's link to the larger organization. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and team achievements by creating explicit guidelines for accomplishing results and for the career advancement of team members.

Integrity

One of the most important things a project leader must remember is that his or her actions, and not words, set the modus operandi for the team. Good leadership demands commitment to, and demonstration of, ethical practices. Creating standards for ethical behavior for oneself and living by these standards, as well as rewarding those who exemplify these practices, are responsibilities of project leaders. Leadership motivated by self-interest does not serve the well being of the team. Leadership based on integrity represents nothing less than a set of values others share, behavior consistent with values and dedication to honesty with self and team members. In other words the leader "walks the talk" and in the process earns trust.

Enthusiasm

Plain and simple, we don't like leaders who are negative - they bring us down. We want leaders with enthusiasm, with a bounce in their step, with a can-do attitude. We want to believe that we are part of an invigorating journey - we want to feel alive. We tend to follow people with a can-do attitude, not those who give us 200 reasons why something can't be done. Enthusiastic leaders are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism. Leadership emerges as someone expresses such confident commitment to a project that others want to share his or her optimistic expectations. Enthusiasm is contagious and effective leaders know it.

Empathy

What is the difference between empathy and sympathy? Although the words are similar, they are, in fact, mutually exclusive. According to Norman Paul, in sympathy the subject is principally absorbed in his or her own feelings as they are projected into the object and has little concern for the reality and validity of the object's special experience. Empathy, on the other hand, presupposes the existence of the object as a separate individual, entitled to his or her own feelings, ideas and emotional history (Paul, 1970). As one student so eloquently put it, "It's nice when a project leader acknowledges that we all have a life outside of work."

Competence

Simply put, to enlist in another's cause, we must believe that that person knows what he or she is doing. Leadership competence does not however necessarily refer to the project leader's technical abilities in the core technology of the business. As project management continues to be recognized as a field in and of itself, project leaders will be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise, as in the past. Having a winning track record is the surest way to be considered competent. Expertise in leadership skills is another dimension in competence. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage must be demonstrated if leaders are to be seen as capable and competent.

Ability to Delegate Tasks

Trust is an essential element in the relationship of a project leader and his or her team. You demonstrate your trust in others through your actions - how much you check and control their work, how much you delegate and how much you allow people to participate. Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as leaders and forever remain little more that micro-managers, or end up doing all of the work themselves. As one project management student put it, "A good leader is a little lazy." An interesting perspective!

Cool Under Pressure

In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget and with no major problems or obstacles to overcome. But we don't live in a perfect world - projects have problems. A leader with a hardy attitude will take these problems in stride. When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the outcome and they see it as an opportunity. "Out of the uncertainty and chaos of change, leaders rise up and articulate a new image of the future that pulls the project together." (Bennis 1997) And remember - never let them see you sweat.

Team-Building Skills

A team builder can best be defined as a strong person who provides the substance that holds the team together in common purpose toward the right objective. In order for a team to progress from a group of strangers to a single cohesive unit, the leader must understand the process and dynamics required for this transformation. He or she must also know the appropriate leadership style to use during each stage of team development. The leader must also have an understanding of the different team players styles and how to capitalize on each at the proper time, for the problem at hand.

Problem Solving Skills

Although an effective leader is said to share problem-solving responsibilities with the team, we expect our project leaders to have excellent problem-solving skills themselves. They have a "fresh, creative response to here-and-now opportunities," and not much concern with how others have performed them. (Kouzes 1987)

References:
Bennis, W., 1997. "Learning to Lead," Addison-Wesley,MA.
Kouzes, J. M: "The Leadership Challenge," Jossey-Bass Publishers, CA.
Norman: Parental Empathy. Parenthood, Little, Brown, NY.

Don't forget to leave your comments below


Timothy R. Barry is a trainer and consultant for ESI International with more than 20 years of experience in project management. He has worked with over 40 major organizations worldwide .With over 20 years experience, ESI International is the world's largest Project Management Training and Consulting provider. A comprehensive mix of project management, E-training, tailored corporate courses, consulting, assessment and mentoring means they are able to provide their clients with proven methods that enable them to achieve their goals. To put ESI International's Project Management Solutions to work for your company, or for more information, call +44 (0)20 7915 5099 or visit the website at www.esi-intl.co.uk.

Read 142974 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 13:02

Comments  

+2 # Ganapathy Subramanian 2010-02-24 12:43
Thanks for your efforts Tim in collating this list and sharing with us. I cannot agree more with the list. I am trying to help managers in India acquire these qualities through Management Scholars Academy, my new training venture. As part of it I am also actively blogging here - http://msacademy.in/wordpress Ganapathy
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0 # Tim Eiler 2010-02-25 00:37
The only additional thing I'd add is Appropriate Situational Flexibility; knowing when to hold the line and when to allow situationally-s pecific change in order to make progress without damaging consistency.
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+1 # sonia 2011-04-11 18:09
very nice,simple language article,made me clear about leader's qualities
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0 # Anand 2011-11-02 19:43
Thanks for the above, Timothy, I agree with most of the above Qualities.
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0 # Baker 2011-11-05 22:04
Barry Posner should also be given due credit for "The Leadership Challenge".
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+2 # osaretin 2012-01-04 04:41
great article, thanks to the collating team
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0 # Ewan Obazee 2012-01-23 23:06
Thank you very much. this was very useful. Ewan
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0 # Ahmed 2012-01-24 15:34
Hi. Thanks for all above requirements for the leaders also are advantage for me as a student thnks alot
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0 # Tich 2012-02-25 02:05
Purrr-fect!!!
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+1 # S.N.Choudhary 2012-03-19 20:30
I have been working in Indianoil corporation LTD,India-a global Fortune 500 Company and handling projects for the last 26 years,magnitude varying upto 4.0 billion US4 single project.While many points have been covered,the leadership in projects require high level of social skills and risk management ability so that the morale of the team stay lofted at all times.Project leader should imbibe an art and science to develop intrinsic motivation among team members so that during the.time of setback when the team members are not able to achieve the desired milestone which always happens in project,they are glued to the task with renewed srategy.Moreove r, project requires strategic type of leadership qualities. Project leaders having other types of leadership qualities as available like Diplomat,indivi dualistic,alche mistetc will not be a result oriented leader.
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0 # Jawad Mirza 2012-05-19 12:31
Important point covered in a simple language.
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0 # Apeh Sunday 2012-06-08 19:50
This is a great job. Tim Eiler's addition is another good thought. I have a good use of this as a student.
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0 # suneel 2012-07-01 06:29
how can we develop creativity and technical skills
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0 # raja VB 2012-07-04 07:56
Fascinating artical and sharing. Absolutely right. PMs can not do illieterate things and say that is project management. 60% of Project managers in India can not do anything except filling temlates and milestone figures.

Either they do not get empowerment from management or they have no guts to assert and MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
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+1 # BAIAKMEN CHALLAM 2012-07-05 13:24
this requirement above its interesting... thank you.... its useful
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0 # Nimesh Doshi 2012-07-06 02:24
Excellent article- quite simple but highly effective
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0 # Kasun Perera 2012-07-14 11:19
This post was really helpful for me to do my PM assigment....it 's really good!!!
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0 # mushtaque ahmed 2012-08-11 05:43
hi
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0 # Prince Das 2012-08-22 09:10
Thanks a lot.
Really it helps me to learn. Simple and good for Understanding.
It will helps me in my career.
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0 # Halimat Jibril 2012-11-10 21:40
Great article. I found it very useful.
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0 # RAMS 2012-11-23 03:31
Very useful article to me.
Thank you very much!
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0 # MEKBIB 2012-12-10 02:07
it is a best material at a time i am leader of one woreda send to me literature.
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0 # Samson 2013-01-22 08:12
Great article and very helpful; simple and to the point.
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0 # Romeo 2013-01-24 05:54
wow! a smart one. indent and brief and precise.keep it up
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0 # Joonlee 2013-02-23 12:21
Thank you Tim. This is an excellent list to review every now and then just to remind myself.
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0 # Iain Borner 2013-04-24 07:31
Great list. I could not agree more with this list. As a project manager, it is often the "soft skills" that can make the difference between project success and project failure.
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0 # Leyton 2013-04-24 21:12
Really glad to see 'Integrity' on the list. A lot of these types of articles miss than one. Then I also know more than my fair share of people who think that's a weakness. I just hope I'm nowhere in their vicinity when karma hits! :-)
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0 # Tijani 2013-05-05 11:36
Thank you for this piece of publication, it really help me grab ideas
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0 # Eraina Rivera, MBA 2013-06-25 15:51
All of these skills are essential for the PM. Applicable to effectively managing and controlling the triple constraint across the lifecycle of the project, we must also emphasize the significance of adaptability and understanding the processes, actions and behaviors requisite of driving such changes mid project. This helps to define the leadership of the PM, while keeping the project on track and the stakeholders confident that the means to ends and residual impact of such leadership will deliver the intended benefits and value. Overall, the PM leadership should embody the following "101" philosophy, " proper planning prevents poor performance"... effective communication, and contingencies derived from lessons learned!
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0 # Alemgena Rta 2013-08-23 07:58
Thanks for this piece of peblication and using simple English to understand.
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0 # Henry 2013-09-07 11:51
Thanks!
I believe this will help me in my career
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0 # Sar Al-B 2013-11-20 21:40
Thank you, this really helped me with my course! :)
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0 # jamzeeth 2014-01-27 12:39
thank u so much its very help full me thank u again
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0 # Fazlan Mohammed Fale 2014-02-12 22:45
Thank you so much, its very help full me.
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0 # denyalkoch 2014-03-10 05:56
The project leader is also the team's link to the larger organization. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and team achievements by creating explicit guidelines for accomplishing results and for the career advancement of team members.To get more information about event management institute.
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0 # GODFREY VEDASTO 2014-03-23 04:17
Thank you for your inspiring guidelines for promoting effective leadership for sustaining the project. Failure of the project does not mean that the content of the project is bad but failure to recognize leadership skills trigger it. By Vedasto www.godfreykanjara.blospot.com
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