The most effective way to ensure success is through a combination of technical skills (hard skills) and soft skills. Knowing the subject matter and having the ability to inspire others to give their best is the ultimate combination of skills that many managers struggle to master.

Today, many organizations have streamlined their project management practices by focusing on the most suitable methodology, adopting modern tools, and performing other similar actions to ensure success. However, they still face several complex challenges that prevent them from achieving their strategic goals. 

Foremost among them: weak leadership and ineffective people management. Project managers (formal or informal) need to consider both technical and behavioral aspects. Modern teams do not merely seek someone to administer and control tasks while staying limited to immediate issues at hand. They instead need someone who innovates, inspires, and influences team members to focus on long-term goals and achieve success by focusing on the right things at the right time. 

That’s exactly what leaders do. 

The importance of leadership for effective project management

In the present day, with so many resources and knowledge banks at everyone’s fingertips, technical skills are increasingly taking a backseat. Now, the essence of effective project management boils down to how well you manage people and lead them to success

Communication skills, negotiation skills, influencing, team building, and many other skills are now essential requirements of anyone who manages projects. Today, the work world is looking for effective leaders, and focusing on certain traits can develop the leadership competency of managers of projects and make them ready to face challenges head-on. 

A study[1] two years ago discussed the main causes of project failure in modern organizations. Inadequate leadership was cited as the most common reason why projects fail. Projects with a strong support structure and leaders, not managers, at the helm, perform exceptionally well and have a very encouraging success ratio despite many challenges. 

Some of the main benefits effective leadership brings to the table are: 

  • Streamlined and quick progress
  • A clear direction for everyone involved
  • Little to no conflicts. Even if something happens, it is quickly resolved 
  • High level of motivation in the team
  • Alignment of personal and organizational/project goals

Managing modern teams

Leadership has always been tricky, more so in the modern work world. Today, teams don’t need someone to lead them in the traditional sense. You’ll hurt their productivity if you start micromanaging things and force them to go through intricate approvals processes and other hassles. Leadership today is more about facilitating the team, protecting it, removing roadblocks, enhancing collaboration, and most importantly getting out of their way. Give your team members enough space so they may add value and improve your projects’ performance. 

Another element that helps you effectively lead modern teams is situational awareness. You need to find the perfect balance between a reactive and proactive approach. Modern challenges can’t be managed merely by being reactive. It’s impossible to evaluate and prepare for every possible scenario. Creating a perfect approach that is a potpourri and which helps you decide according to situations is the best way to lead a modern team effectively. 

Top 5 essential leadership traits that help you manage projects more effectively

Leadership is an art and you can’t have a foolproof formula that can ensure 100% success in every case. Becoming a good leader is an iterative process and the correct skillset depends on multiple technical and environmental factors. The industry, culture, area, team demographics, and several other factors combine to dictate the kind of leadership approach that works for a specific situation. 

Some things, however, are common in any case. Skills like decision making, communication, influencing, listening, and inspiring others will always be required from any leader. Here are the 5 most essential traits a leader must have in order to succeed. 

1 – Decision making

No matter how much freedom a team has, the final approval in many cases comes from the manager of a project. Effective leadership requires timely decisions after considering all factors and clearly communicating the approach to anyone. Second-guessing and showing confusion will negatively impact any team’s productivity

2 – Effective communication and negotiation

Facilitating collaboration and managing all stakeholders is an essential part of a project manager’s job, even for an informal one. Excellent communication and negotiation skills are integral for getting all parties on the same page and ensuring a consistent exchange of project-related information within the team. 

3 – Empathy

Another important leadership trait is listening to and understanding the other side’s perspective. A leader who constantly gives directives without considering the expectations and demands of the team is unlikely to gain any loyalty, which can affect project quality. 

4 – Motivating and influencing

Another important leadership trait is to motivate and influence others through logical arguments, rewards, and other tactics. All team members have their ambitions, expectation, and objectives. A project manager’s job is to align these objectives with those of the project to ensure commitment in the team. 

5 – Inspiring others through leading by example

Ideal leaders always do the thing they expect their teams to do first and lead by example. Project managers need to implement rules and expectations on themselves first and ensure visibility and accountability in the team to foster camaraderie and improve the team’s performance overall. 

Key takeaways

Ultimately, being an excellent project manager (or leader in general) goes beyond creating workflows, managing dependencies, and keeping an eye on the scope, time, and cost of a project. All these things are important, but managing people and leading them effectively is a bit more essential in the modern world. Effective leadership is a perfect skill set in any project manager’s arsenal as it can help in ensuring exceptional performance and increase the chances of success.