What it takes to be a great project manager

Project management certifications and training, in general, focus heavily on technical knowledge and project phases, but there's still so much more to being a successful leader. Do you have the necessary soft skills to be a top project leader? Here, Moira Alexander shares what decades of experience have taught her.

By Moira Alexander
Dec. 20, 2016


Help to build respect among teams and stakeholders: Projects offer opportunities for a diverse set of individuals to bring unique skills, experiences and ideas to the table and helps to build better solutions. Problems often arise when individuals are in conflict and demonstrate a lack of respect for difference or override the contributions of others. This is where tact and skill as a project manager can alleviate tension and encourage team members to refocus on what's best for the stakeholder(s), rather than remaining self-focused. A strong PM is always able to shed light on key factors and help individuals to see the merits of both sides. The need for mutual respect should be expected and communicated from the start, and ground rules and applicable consequences should be laid out to avoid disruption and lost productivity.

Influence individuals and teams to optimize their contributions. A large part of the role of a project leader is to influence each team member to give their best regardless of personal views, obstacles, and conflicts. Influence is both an art and learned behavior that is often undervalued and overlooked. It's important to note that influence shouldn't be confused with manipulation. The real value in positive influence is the ability to translate this soft skill into action that results in a win-win for the stakeholders and team. Further, it's imperative individual team members and the team as a whole not only understand their role and how it fits within the project goals, but also that they are committed to continuous improvement for optimal results that benefit the customer.

Putting it all together

Companies are increasingly seeking well-rounded project leaders who exhibit the technical know-how and leadership prowess required to see things and execute from different vantage points. A project manager who has the underlying training combined with these core soft skills can uniquely position him or herself to stand out in their field, achieve optimal results and become a sought after thought leader.

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