6 Leadership Skills for Project Managers

6 Leadership Skills for Project Managers

(A guest post by Kristen Riley, of Villanova University)

So, about a week ago, I wrote a piece where I began what I expect to be a long ramble on soft skills that would span multiple blog posts. Well, this week I received a mail from a reader who offered her own take on project leadership, and she wrote it much more succinctly than I could have. I enjoyed her article very much, and am thrilled to present it to you here. It is my very great pleasure to introduce you to Kristen Riley of Villanova University, and her advice on leadership skills for project managers.

Project managers do much more than mange projects. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Project managers must develop strong teams in order to achieve project success.

Teams rely on their project manager’s leadership for guidance and encouragement. They’ll respond positively to quality leadership, by building stronger relationships and rising to project challenges. Arm yourself with these six critical leadership skills to help propel a winning team:

1. Develop Structure

Successful project managers develop a structured outline of the project vision for the team. Each person should be clear on the direction, the timing and how you plan on reaching project success.

Leadership PegsCreate a project-specific document, in addition to the standard documents outlining roles and responsibilities. This is especially helpful when working with new team members and provides an opportunity for group bonding.

In the document include as many of the following elements as possible:

  • team biographies
  • individual & team roles
  • personal anecdote

Additionally, track and rate each team member; follow performance regarding specific assignments and overall-project contribution.

2. Clearly Communicate

Communication can make or break a project. Clear, consistent communication can be challenging, but it’s important to insist on in steady communication from the beginning.

With the vast communication technologies available, it may be beneficial to develop a communication plan. The plan can include any components you wish: Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, video conferencing and other social networking tools, email and phone calls.

Leverage what you have available to create an efficient and effective mode of communication between team members and departments. It’s a good idea to have a singular place to make notes, post documents and otherwise record communications for the entire project team to access.

3. Lead by Example

Basically this means following up on your responsibilities identified in your plan. For project members to feel confident in you, they must see you as someone who follows through, is available and helpful, and who has a positive attitude. Lead your team by example, and they will respond accordingly.

4. Encourage Trust

Trust is vital to project success. An important factor in establishing trust is following through on commitments. Planned or verbal commitments must be completed. All team members, including the project manager, must respond in a timely fashion to all requests, and offer assistance when needed.

5. Provide Motivation
Motivation is often overlooked in office settings. It shouldn’t be. A strong leader knows when to offer motivation and how to deliver. Regardless of the project or team size, everyone can use a bit of encouragement along the way.

Making progress? Point it out, show your pride in your team. It’s not always easy to make things run smoothly.

Project off track? Pinpoint what’s going wrong and execute a plan to fix it. But be truthful, lying is often more transparent than we think and can be detrimental to motivation.

6. Be Reliable

This is a lot like “leading by example” above. But as a project manager you must be reliable. Without the team buy-in on the project and how it’s being managed, there’s no way to succeed. Offer guidance, suggestions and resources that you can deliver. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep. Managing a team that believes in your abilities and your competence is invaluable, but it takes work to maintain.

With these six essential leadership steps, you’ll increase efficiency and team performance, and encourage early deliverables leading to successful project completion. Engaging and connecting with your team helps facilitate these skills and builds stronger, more positive relationships.

Kristen Riley, Villanova UniversityKristen Riley’s career is steeped in project management, internet marketing and leadership. She’s currently working with University Alliance and auditing Villanova University’s project management courses. She’s also a blogger and a runner who can be found on Twitter @SEO_Runner or on LinkedIn.

This guest post was provided by University Alliance and submitted on behalf of Villanova University. VU offers master certificates in project management, six sigma and leadership as well as a master’s in human resources degree.To learn more about VU’s certificate and degree programs visit www.villanovau.com

I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Elizabeth

    I like the idea of collating team biographies and personal anecdotes to help create team spirit. I think a document is a bit formal, but having everyone introduce themselves and provide that information in a meeting is a good idea.

  • Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth! I like the bios and anecdotes idea as well. I think they’d be great in an online teamroom of some kind. Might have higher engagement than a piece of paper, but would still get the important stuff written down.

  • Elizabeth

    We used to have team CVs on our departmental SharePoint site, but it was an effort to keep them up to date. Something that people can update themselves would be good. Or how about a place where everyone links to their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles?

  • That’s a great idea! 🙂 As you said before, “Why reinvent Twitter in your PM tool when there is a perfectly good Twitter product in existence, called, erm, Twitter?” The same advice applies here, too, I think. Although some dish on project-specific responsibilities, or “see me if…” info might be useful too.

  • Sabine Haering

    Thank you very much for this great article, Kristen! There are very good advices!
    I had to handle with such issues and online coaching has really helped me out a lot, because reading articles were not enough for me to transmit theory into real action. I have learned all about the most essential leadership qualities, for example integrity. It’s perhaps the most valued and
    respected quality of leadership and one of the most important management skills you need to attain. By saying what you’ll do and then doing what you say, you will build trust around your team. But what makes a good leader is the ability to stay calm and in control, especially when everyone around them is wondering whether it’s the right decision or if it was a mistake to commit to a particular course of action. When you exude confidence in yourself, in the decision, and in the people around you, you instill the same feelings and attitudes in others. Through those tips and many more good advices I got from my personal coach (for who might be interested: Your24hCoach) I got the confidence I needed to transmit the theory explained in this article into real action and proof in daily life!