The 3 Most Important Leadership Skills For Project Managers

A good project manager is more than a manager – they’re a leader. Besides being proficient at the technical skills of project management, project managers also need to grow their leadership skills in order to be effective. In order to manage a project team to finishing a project, it isn’t enough to just assign tasks and deadlines! Project managers need to motivate the team, they need to focus the team on the goal, and they need to manage team dynamics to utilize everyone’s talents and skills to accomplish the goal.

Let’s break down these three leadership skills.

Motivating the Team

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Motivating your team starts with selling them on the vision of the project. What are we working towards, and why are we working towards it? Answering that “why” is Motivating 101. Whatever your answer is, it better be genuine. If you’re telling your team you’re doing this project to make the world a better place, and it’s some kind of useless small endeavor, they will not only be disinterested, they’ll never listen to you again. The motivation can even be something as simple as “we strive for excellence, always.” Whatever your reason for doing this project, share that passion with the team.

“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” ~ Orrin Woodward

leadership motivation

Focus The Team On The Goal

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” ~ Peter Drucker

A project is all about creating the future. Your team needs to be focused on the goal of the project, or it won’t be the one they end up at. Keeping the team focused means shepherding them through their tasks while they follow the path of the project. If your team is only focused on the short term, with no picture of the project as a whole, they’ll lack the knowledge of what’s important, where the risk lies in handing off things to other teams, and you’ll get that “oh, I had no idea that was so important, I thought I could do it next week” that every project manager dreads.

Utilizing Everyone’s Talents For The Project

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” ~ Doug Floyd

Every team member brings something different to the table. Some are numbers whizzes. Some are hard working people who don’t rest until they achieve their goal. Some are skilled social operators and can keep vendors honest and on time. Some are natural leaders. Knowing who is who, and how they can contribute, is the secret sauce to task assignment, and successful project management. Get to know your team. Know their strengths, and weaknesses, and use them for the project. Don’t ask a lazy person to do a repetitive task. Don’t ask the shy one to interface with vendors. Give the math genius the accounting role.


As project management moves forward, soft skills like leadership are increasingly important in today’s people driven complex project environment. Grow your leadership skills!

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