Most people who have been in project management for awhile know that it’s a demanding field. As a project manager, you need a diverse skill set to be successful, including the ability to identify and analyze goals, allocate resources, identify constraints, and manage work flow. However, one of the most critical skills for you to have is leadership, particularly if you who want to distinguish yourself and advance your career.
Effective leadership skills will allow you to make the most of the varied talents and skills on the project teams that you manage so that you can consistently deliver optimal results within budget and on time. But what exactly does it mean to be a leader? The first step to understanding is to look at the characteristics of a great leader in project management. Most leaders share a common set of characteristics, including the following:
Effective communication is the cornerstone to successful projects. Without adequate communication, team members often develop ideas and assumptions and reach conclusions on their own without the benefit of shared information, resulting in a lack of unified vision. In addition, team members may be unclear as to what their responsibilities are, deadlines for work assigned, and how their tasks impact the team and the project as a whole. In addition to confusion, this may cause an inefficient use of resources, a lack of progress, and less than optimal solutions.
Communication to stakeholders and project sponsors is also important. Updating them on progress, as well as any roadblocks encountered, can help secure additional resources when needed, provide the team with key support, and get buy in from the right people to ensure the project’s success.
In order to build an effective and efficient project team, project managers require strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to help people set aside differences and find common ground. While all project teams have members who have differing opinions, team members should share a common vision for the goals and outcome of the project. By letting the team get to know each other, team building helps team members come together to set goals and accomplish the project tasks. Team building can have several other positive effects, including improving morale, communication, and productivity. Without good team dynamics, you’ll have a hard time delivering the results you need for success.
Project work can be difficult, particularly in today’s business environment where project teams may be expected to do more with less, team members may be filling multiple roles, and teams face pressure to deliver results sooner. In order to achieve the project goals, you must be able to motivate teams to push forward, particularly during times of adversity or when the challenges seem impossible. Without motivation, work quality and quantity generally suffers.
Decision making skills are critical in project management. The decisions you make as a project manager often set your team’s course of action which ultimately determines the project’s outcome. Teams often go through different stages in decision making and it’s common for conflict to occur as teams work through the process of developing solutions. You must be able to steer the group successfully through each stage and help the team make good, timely decisions. Once a decision has been made, you should give it your full support and move on to other phases of the project, but keep an eye out for key points when new decisions need to be made.
The unique nature of projects involves a constant stream of negotiation. Every member on a project team needs a fundamental set of negotiation skills, but it’s most critical in the project manager role. Project managers must be able to barter not only with other team members, but also with those external to the project team. External negotiations can secure additional resources for the team, determine budget and scope, or remove obstacles to accomplishing the project vision. Negotiations among team members help project managers reach agreement and gain support.
Leadership Skills Lead to Success
Project managers with a combination of strong project management skills and the ability to successfully lead people are viewed as highly valuable resources in most organizations. Highly developed interpersonal and leadership skills, including the skills listed above, help project managers effectively manage any size project and increase their odds of successfully meeting project objectives on time and within budget. The more leadership skills you possess, the more valuable you become and the stronger your career prospects are.