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Leadership Qualities of a Project Manager

Khushnuma Irani Sep 26, 2018
A project manager handles planning, strategy development and execution of a project. The position forms an important part of the organizational structure and the employees who are vastly experienced and highly skilled are recruited at this position.
"You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership." -Dwight D Eisenhower.
Leadership is not about bullying people, it is about getting people to respect you with your leadership skills and qualities. People should want to be led by the project manager.
The manager is accountable for the performance of the team and self. So, it is very important for him to have the right qualities. Here is a list of a few of them.

Individual Traits of the Project Manager

There are some individual characteristic traits of the individual, those when adopted can help to increase the efficiency and skills of the manager.


Call it honesty, integrity or loyalty; he needs to have them all. His actions set an example for the rest of the team members. He is ultimately responsible for setting standards, ethically and otherwise, for the rest of the team. His ethical practices should lead by example. He needs to practice before preaching.


A project manager without passion is one, that is simple put, lacking dedication. He has to be passionate about the project; he should have enthusiasm and the right attitude.
Only then will people follow him and respect his decisions, because they need to feel he is doing it for the project. There needs to be commitment and optimism involved.


Do not mistake empathy or compassion for sympathy. These two words are independent of each other. Empathy means to understand.
A good project manager needs to understand the fact that there is a life outside the workplace and that people are not machines without emotions. By doing so, he will be able to develop a personal relationship with his team members, that can serve as a tool for better results.


There are times when things do not go as expected. In such cases, the project manager needs to maintain his cool and be composed irrespective of the amount of pressure he is under. This shows good leadership qualities and strength in character.

Important Leadership Qualities


Every project manager should have a vision, a vision of how to get things done and a vision of the near future of the project. And he needs to be able to convey this vision to his team members. Only when there is vision is there going to be real involvement on the part of the project manager and thus involvement on the part of the team members.
This is when he and the team members start feeling like a part of the organization and not just the project. He should also have the right visionary approach in setting the goals for the project.

Communication Skills

Most would say communication is the most important skill of a project manager and some would beg to differ. But communication is an integral part of the leadership qualities. Without communication he cannot lead.
Communication not only allows for great leadership but also for openness and relativity. Persuasion and negotiation are all a part of communication. Being a good communicator helps in setting the guidelines for the project that are acceptable to all.

Skill and Knowledge

There needs to be some skill and knowledge that the project manager needs to have. To put it simply, he should know the objectives of the project and should be able to guide the rest of the team. However, he need not have to be technically skilled. He should have the skills to get work done by the right people.


The project manager should be approachable to all the members of the team. Many lower level members do not directly report to the manager. However, he should be easily approachable by the members in case of any queries or problems. He should also be open to any suggestions that are given by the members.


Everyone needs motivation. The project manager should motivate all his team members to work better. This is needed the most when the team is facing a tough time.
Few words of motivation from the manager can boost the spirit of the members. Appreciating the work done by the members is a good way of motivating them.


He should be able to delegate with ease. He should be able to recognize skills and expertise of his team members and assign or delegate tasks according to those. Also this shows that he trusts the team in doing tasks. Trust inspires confidence and the team members tend to put in their best efforts.

Team Building

He should also be a team builder.
He should be able to hold and pull the team together to work under different conditions. The team starts as a group of strangers and needs to be made into a core group of people.

Keeping the sense of team spirit alive despite the many problems in the project execution, is one of the most important qualities a project manager should have.

Problem Solver

An efficient project manager should be capable of solving any and all problems, either with the team or the project itself. The team members should trust him to solve their problems.


The project manager should have strategic awareness quality. He should be able to chalk out different strategies to tackle various situations. In case the manager does not have the right strategy as to how to go about the project, the project will be unnecessarily delayed.
Another important fact is that not all projects that are executed by the company will be directly linked to the customer. However, a good manager can develop strategies so that he can in some way contribute to the overall increase in the revenue of the company.


The decisions he takes should be taken keeping in mind the practicality of the problem. There can be many theoretical approaches that he can take. But in all situations this might not help. To be pragmatic, he should invite suggestions from his fellow team members and find a practical solution from those suggestions.

Information Allocation

Too much information can lead to confusion. He should be smart, to limit the information flow to his team. Unnecessary information will create confusion and the basic goal of the project can be affected.

Look for Alternatives

The manager should ask questions on every decision that he takes. He should ask questions about the particular path that he has chosen for completion of the project. In case, there are other alternative approaches, he should be able to evaluate them and put them to use.
Project managers are entrusted the responsibility of making the project a success. If one possessed the leadership qualities, he can do justice to the responsibilities given to him. L.R. Sayles explains the function of a project manager as;
Project managers function as bandleaders who pull together their players, each a specialist with individual score and internal rhythm. Under the leader's direction, they all respond to the same beat.