Project leadership management has become an essential part of modern business practices. Organisations rely heavily on good leadership skills in project managers to monitor, evaluate, plan and maintain compliance with company goals and objectives. Being a successful project leader combines a range of integral aspects, including: planning, organisation, managing, budgeting, monitoring, testing, and implementing projects.

Leadership in project management is both a challenging and rewarding duty. But each individual needs to adopt specific skills and techniques to become an effective and successful project manager.

Understanding leadership

Leadership is a process of social influence focused on maximising the efforts of a team to achieve a goal. It involves creating a concept, motivating people to engage with it, managing the delivery, and building a team that cohesively works towards a common vision.

But there are many different ways to achieve this — these differing approaches are commonly referred to as ‘leadership styles’. A leadership style refers to methods and behaviours when directing, motivating, and managing others. Some of the different types of leadership styles include:

  • Democratic — The leader makes decisions based on the input and feedback from all team members. Every individual is able to voice their professional opinion.
  • Autocratic — The leader makes decisions without allowing input from the team or employees. Members of the organisation aren’t consulted before any new or sudden changes.
  • Transformational — The leader constantly works on pushing employees beyond their required goals and comfort zone to help them grow beyond the scope of their role.
  • Coach-style — The leader identifies team members’ strengths and helps them build and grow their skills. It’s a highly motivational and constructive leadership style.
  • Laissez-faire — The leader is not intrusive and trusts the team to make decisions. While this is an empowering method, it can hinder employee growth and development.
  • Strategic — The leader maintains a balance between the organisation’s objectives and employee growth. They support and elevate multiple employees at once.
  • Transactional — The leader rewards the team members with incentives for achieving goals and completing tasks.

Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses and goes through phases of popularity. For example, autocratic leadership is widely out of vogue in favour of transformational leadership — it would be rare to encounter it in a setting like a creative agency. However, it might be the best approach for a call centre geared at generating sales leads where processes are highly scripted. Experimenting with different styles will help you find a balance that suits you and gets the best out of your employees.

What is leadership in project management?

Leadership in project management primarily refers to leading a team towards completing a project in a timely manner. Project leadership management is an important soft skill in which one needs to simultaneously manage people, tasks, and objectives. Just like leadership styles, there are different project management leadership styles.

Project management leadership styles vary based on the person’s personality and the style of leadership they naturally gravitate to. Based on the project leadership matrix, there are four types of leadership styles one can adopt for various situations, including:

  • Reactive people-leadership (people focus) — Managing resource-related issues and resolving interpersonal conflicts.
  • Reactive task management (task focus) — Resolving urgent issues and firefighting during crisis scenarios.
  • Proactive people-leadership (people focus) — Building relationships, empowering and motivating the team, and providing a unified vision and easy-to-follow direction.
  • Proactive task management (task focus) — Managing risks, defining and planning work structures, and undertaking quality assurance.

The role of a project management leader

Project management leaders are integrators who work on keeping the organisation’s objectives at the forefront while utilising resources to overcome challenges, helping the team succeed and achieve their goals. The primary role of the project leader is to lead a project from start to finish. This includes wearing multiple hats all at once. Some tasks involved in project management leadership include:

  • planning and executing the scope of the project
  • estimating costs and acquiring resources
  • communicating with stakeholders and teams
  • reviewing and monitoring progress
  • maintaining project and resource health
  • evaluating and managing risks
  • resolving conflicts.

Attributes of successful leadership in project management

Project management leadership is a tough yet rewarding job. While most project managers are naturally equipped to lead, soft skill attributes are certainly required to become a successful leader in a professional setting. Some of the essential attributes needed in project management leadership include:

  • staying calm and pragmatic across challenges and achievements
  • being adept at working with different personality types and communication styles
  • solving problems by adapting creative solutions
  • having an analytical and insightful approach to project goals
  • building a team of motivated members who feel inspired to collaborate and succeed.

Ways to improve project leadership management

The key to strengthening project management leadership is to emulate project leaders you look up to, enjoy working with or feel motivated by. You can also add dimension to your leadership by implementing six core principles to propel you towards success. These include:

  • Mind the gap — Explore the gap between striving for success and leading people. Steer your primary focus on building a team of growth-minded individuals.
  • Team before project — A project execution problem is primarily a work environment or team problem. Fixing team issues will automatically ensure a smoother project flow.
  • Ask the team — Most people don’t like micro-managing. It’s helpful to ask members about their expectations from your role.
  • Make your team talk — Listen to your team to avoid performance killers. Spend time on your facilitation skills to help push your team towards growth.
  • Enable decisions — Help your team become a part of making decisions. Effective decision-choice helps motivate and inspire employees.
  • Connect with your team — Your team is composed of individuals from all different backgrounds. The more you connect with them, the better you can understand their aspirations and capabilities.

Elevate your project leadership management with AIPM

The Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) is Australia’s longest-serving project management body. A proud provider of project management (PM) resources, certification, and continued professional development, we are an evolving organisation focused on helping you and your organisation grow. We’ll help you hone your aptitude, nurture your skills, and prepare you for success in project management leadership.

Get ready to take advantage of AIPM’s project leadership courses today. With us, you can advance your leadership skills in a painless, streamlined process while unlocking your potential in our performance-oriented project leadership workshop. If you have any questions, please contact us to learn more about the AIPM difference. We look forward to connecting with you.