7 Attributes of a Successful Project Manager

What attributes make an effective and successful project manager? Every good project manager knows how to execute projects on time, on budget, but what makes an exceptional leader stand out?

Effective project managers go above and beyond simply meeting requirements; they build cohesive teams, encourage innovative ideas, and communicate with all stakeholders while being fully vested in an organization’s success.

If you’re a project manager, or want to become one, and want to stand out and expand your project management career, these are the traits of a highly-effective project manager:

1. Communication

A good project manager has the ability to communicate with people at every level. Not only does project management depend on the clear communication of responsibility, goals, performance, and feedback, but also on openness and directness.

Project managers are the people who connect the team’s efforts with the rest of the organization. Good project managers must negotiate and use persuasion to ensure the success of the project and team. By using effective communication, project leaders support the team’s achievements by creating explicit guidelines that lead to successful results

But there’s more to success than simply communicating. How you communicate is just as important. Writing skills are a prerequisite for great PMs, and understanding styles including when to match, be formal or informal is an important aspect of effective communication. Same goes for verbal communication. Having control of your tone, speed, eye contact and other non verbal communication cues will take you a long way.

This involves listening too. Listening to what is not being said is just as important as knowing what was spoken. Can you wait until a stakeholder has completed their sentence without finishing their sentence for them or cutting off the last part to give your answer? Can you deal with accents? A big part of project management communication is being able to synthesize large amounts of information and report out only the important parts in a clear and concise way.

Related: In-Person PMP Master Class


2. Ethical Practices

Integrity is an important attribute of an effective project manager, and their actions set the methodology for the entire team. Good project leadership happens through the commitment and demonstration of ethical practices.

Creating and living by these ethical standards, along with rewarding those who follow the same practices, is a large responsibility for a project leader. If a project manager is motivated solely by self-interest, it damages the well-being of their team. Project managers earn their teammates’ trust by representing the values they set in place.

When do you take gifts and when do you politely refuse? When do you back the team vs. when do you back the sponsor? How do you handle receiving negative information about the team or the project? While there is no single response to these types of scenarios, in the end, if the project’s best interest is the north star, staying objective and free from self-interest becomes easier. Oftentimes, the right response may not be the popular one, and good leaders understand this. 


3. Empathetic

An empathetic project manager understands and acknowledges that their team has responsibilities outside of the workplace. Teams that know their project manager cares about them are much more likely to have success. This is where the idea of servant leadership comes into play. Successful project managers understand that the team, and not the PM, actually does the work. 

Having an interest in ensuring that team members are able to be the best version of themselves goes a long way towards success. This means that you must be able to put yourself in their position and understand what that means in context, and when you can’t do that, being open to listening and asking questions until you reach the necessary level of understanding. 

Each team member is entitled to their own ideas, feelings, and emotions, and by recognizing this, a good project manager can earn trust and loyalty from everyone they work alongside


A good project manager focuses on team-building

4. Competent

If a project manager wants their team to have trust, loyalty, and success, the team must believe that the leader is competent and knows what they are doing. Competence for a project manager not only refers to their technical abilities but to their abilities to lead others.

Project managers are often referred to as competent when they have a winning track record of leading successful teams. Their experience in leadership allows a good project manager to inspire, encourage, and challenge the team to receive the best results possible. Many times, the team members do not report to the project manager, so knowing how to lead without formal power is very important. This is where your technical abilities come into play. 

Technical PM skills include the ability to break down scope, develop a schedule and budget, identify and engage stakeholders, develop communication and risk management plans, control changes and keep quality levels high. But it doesn’t stop there. Can you manage conflicts with grace, deliver bad news tactfully, and drive decision making? 

Having the ability to run a technically sound project while leading a team is the measure of competence for a project manager. 

Do you want to improve your competency as a project manager? Get started with the PMP Master Class!


5. Enthusiastic

A project manager’s attitude is one of the first things their team will notice; they want to see an enthusiastic leader with a can-do attitude. A negative attitude is the downfall of otherwise good project managers because no one wants to follow a leader who brings them down.

Enthusiasm shows that a project manager is committed to the team’s success, and they display that commitment through optimism. One thing that all good project managers know is that enthusiasm is contagious, and an encouraged team is a successful one.

It is important to note that the timing and delivery of your enthusiasm is key. Knowing when, knowing where, knowing with who, and knowing how to show your enthusiasm is a skill that can be developed over time. However, having a positive and optimistic attitude is where it starts, both with your team and with stakeholders. 


6. Problem Solving

Project managers and their team share problem-solving responsibilities, but a true leader is expected to have exceptional problem-solving skills. They provide creative responses to opportunities as they arise rather than concerning themselves with how others would approach the problem.

With problem-solving comes decision making; good project managers make effective decisions on the fly when a project isn’t going as planned. Leaders that a team wants to follow take these problems in stride and come at them with a hardy, positive attitude. The best leaders ensure that team members are involved in the process. 

Project managers who master problem solving typically create environments that foster innovation and remain free from judgement. This allows people to be free to experiment and fail their way to success. Successful project managers understand the key consistent problem solving lies in harnessing the collective power of the team. 


7. Stakeholder-Focused

Companies, team members, and project managers all face hardships from time to time, which can make it difficult to prioritize stakeholder needs over personal ones. Good project managers are professional leaders and know how to separate their personal needs from the stakeholders.

Effective project managers give their best performance for each job, regardless of any personal needs or bias. This high level of focus is what makes the best project managers stand out. See, when you break it down, even team members are stakeholders. In fact, the definition of a project stakeholder is anyone whose interest is positively or negatively affected by one or more of the project’s objectives. 

By keeping the sponsor (customer) and team in the forefront, successful project managers are servant leaders that ensure roadblocks are removed, information is radiated, and all stakeholders are aware of and working towards the same goal. No project is completed without people – focus on the people and your chances of success increase. 

Related: Virtual PMP Master Class


A project manager sharing his vision with the team

Become an Effective Project Manager With a PMP Master Class

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is one of the best ways to become recognized as an effective, professional project manager. Becoming PMP certified and following the above attributes is how a project manager can go from simply being a team leader to becoming an invaluable asset to any organization. Remember, it is not just knowing the “what,” but understanding the “how” and “why” of project management that will help you to become a successful project manager. 

Are you ready to take your project management game to the next level? Ace the PMP exam with the PMP Master Class!

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