by Linky Van Der Merwe

How to lead effectively as a PM

Best practices

How to lead effectively as a PM.
How to lead effectively as a PM

Well-tuned leadership skills are what make a good project manager great. Here are some tips to help you can ensure your project is led in a way that improves its chance of success.

Inspire a shared team vision

For a project to work, everybody needs to share the same vision. Effective project managers help all team members feel like they have an equal stake in a project, and empower everyone to share and experience the group's vision. When team members share the same vision, they are committed to deliver their best.


Good leadership requires commitment and adherence to ethical practices. Great project managers abide by ethical standards and reward those team members who follow suite.

Great communication skills

Project managers need to clearly communicate goals, performance and expectations; and they need to manage feedback coming at them from all directions. Being accessible, open, and direct is critical to being a good communicator. Furthermore, having the ability to persuade team members to do certain tasks a bit differently, or work overtime when necessary, is equally as important.  In other words, a project manager’s overall effectiveness is realised by their ability to communicate effectively.

Competency in the subject matter of the project

Team members need to feel like their project manager has some degree of expertise in the project’s subject matter. As such, project leaders should have the ability to lead their team with technical expertise if the project so requires it. Leaders who are seen as competent by their peers have the ability to inspire, enable and encourage.

Promote team building

A project manager must understand team building dynamics. They must go through each phase of team development - even when conflict arises - and get the team to focus on the common goal. Great project managers create a sense of unity on the team, across personal dynamics.

Good with task delegation
Assigning the right tasks to the right people and trusting them to leverage the best of their abilities are key characteristics of a great project manager.

Good problem-solving abilities

Great project managers solve problems by sharing the responsibility with the experts on their team. This means leveraging the knowledge of those team members and stakeholders and implementing a plan to solve tough problems by harnessing that team experience.

Stay cool under pressure

In a perfect world, every project would be complete on time, on budget, and within scope. Unfortunately, when the going gets tough, good project managers remain calm. Warrant Bennis once said: "Out of the uncertainty and chaos of change, leaders rise up and articulate a new image of the future that pulls the project together." Great project managers stay cool under pressure.

I like this definition of Leadership: “leading is about establishing direction and influencing others to follow that direction”. This is a good indicator of how project managers should lead their project teams.

As a project manager you lead and facilitate the team members to work towards the same goal consistently.

Linky van der Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting.  She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for 5 years. She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers. She can be reached at

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Issue 29


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