The Importance of Leadership Skills in a Project Manager

The Importance of Leadership Skills in a Project Manager

The best project managers can inspire teams to work together harmoniously to successfully deliver projects on time and in the most efficient way. This not only requires exceptional organisational and management skills but, crucially, it also calls for strong leadership qualities.

Without leadership skills, the pitfalls can be stark. Poor leadership can create an environment of uncertainty and a lack of clear direction within a project team. This can lead to misunderstandings, mistakes, and delays, spiraling into a loss of motivation and morale among the team with a resulting decrease in their productivity, missed deadlines, and ultimately not achieving results.

What do we mean by an ‘effective leader’
Peter Drucker said ‘management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things’, and so an effective leader is one who empowers others to reach their potential and guides them towards achieving their goals. They bring out the best in their team and have the end goal and big picture clearly in sight at all times, which helps to keep teams focused and motivated. This positive environment, in turn, encourages innovation and higher levels of team performance, all contributing to project success.

Whilst technical know-how is important, being an effective leader does not require you to be an expert in every technical detail of a project. The key is to pull together the right team that has the complete set of skills and expertise between them and to delegate, coordinate and lead this team successfully, navigating and adapting to any risks or unforeseen circumstances along the way, making informed decisions to ensure successful project delivery.

Top five leadership skills
The definition of good leadership is tied to a long list of skills and attributes, but in the context of project management, there are five key leadership skills that will set project managers in good stead:

Strong Communication
By far and away the most important leadership skill that an effective project manager needs to master and embody is effective communication, both with the project team and all other stakeholders. Clear communication will lift a whole project and avoid the sort of mistakes and misunderstandings that can cause unnecessary and costly delays. It also fosters trust, because everyone knows the parameters and expectations around a project.

Clear Vision
It is vital for a project manager to understand the end goal of a project and the tasks involved to get there, and to articulate this vision to the team. Part of this involves keeping an open mind to potential opportunities and challenges within a project to steer them to your advantage.

Decision Making
It is critical for any leader to have the confidence to make decisions and run with them. However, even the best leaders may occasionally make ‘wrong’ decisions  – when this happens it is important to have the humility and self-awareness to learn from this and move on.

It is not solely the project manager’s responsibility to delegate tasks on a project. While knowing how and when to delegate is crucial, effective leaders go beyond delegation and actively support their team members, often being ready to roll up their sleeves and provide assistance when needed. By fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, leaders empower their teams to achieve success together.

Team Building
A project manager is only as good as his or her team. Pulling together the best team and then managing the different dynamics and personalities within it to foster a positive working environment and adapting as necessary is vital to a harmonious process and successful end result. Conflict resolution and problem-solving skills are also integral to good leadership.

 What is the best leadership style?
There is also the question of what leadership style is most effective to deliver results. This may vary from project to project depending on the work, the company culture, and a variety of external factors.

Projects never go 100% according to plan, so being a project manager who is cool, calm, and collected will help to keep a team level-headed when challenges arise. Adopting an ‘in it together’ leadership style can be very effective, by fostering a positive and protective work environment in which the team will feel they can bring issues to your attention so they can be quickly resolved before they escalate.

Ultimately, a great project manager is all about being a ‘people person’, with emotional intelligence and the ability to recognise the strengths and weaknesses within their team and within themselves.

Can these skills be taught?
Effective project managers often possess innate leadership qualities, which can be further nurtured and developed through training and experience. Leadership is not a static skillset but a continuous journey of growth and improvement, regardless of one’s natural inclinations.

At Aspira, part of emagine, we offer a comprehensive range of training courses and modules designed to empower project managers at every stage of their careers. From introductory courses like ‘‘Project Management Essentials’ to advanced modules leading to professional certification, our clients have access to a full suite of resources to enhance their project management skills.

In addition to project management training, we also provide opportunities to develop power skills, such as effective communication and stakeholder management. Our diverse offerings include specialised workshops like ‘Rise and Thrive: Developing Women Leaders,’ a two-day program that delves into empowering women in leadership roles. Moreover, we embrace the emerging field of Entrepreneurial Project Management (EPM), which combines the entrepreneurial mindset with the discipline and structure of effective project management.

To explore our training offerings and find the right program, visit Aspira Training. Empower yourself with the skills and knowledge to excel as a project manager and embrace the dynamic challenges of the modern business landscape.

Co Authors: Emma Daly, Business Consulting Director & Marta Borkowska, Head of Training

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