Project managers play a pivotal role in project success. They’re the central unifying force that rallies the troops to get the job done. But what skills and traits do you need to pull that off?

In this article, we’ll review the ten top qualities of a good project manager. As you go, think about whether there are any areas you need to improve on. All these qualities can be unlocked, nurtured and enhanced with professional development and support. Let’s take a closer look.


What makes a good project manager?

Good project managers are the glue that holds projects together. They usually have several qualities that help them to get people working together to achieve a common goal.

Project managers are ultimately responsible for project success. And you can’t do it alone. You must effectively harness the people and resources around you, and it takes a combination of technical skills and behavioural attributes.

We’ve summarised the ten top qualities you need to develop and cultivate to succeed in your project management career. You may feel you’ve mastered some of them, and others might need work. But every quality here can (and should) be built, refined and improved throughout your career.


Top 10 qualities of a good project manager

1. Communication: Good project managers communicate effectively

Project managers spend a considerable proportion of their working lives communicating with team members, contractors, suppliers, executives and external stakeholders, so it’s critical to be good at it. Sometimes it’s a delicate balance between maintaining great relationships and pushing the project forward. Good project managers can communicate clearly and effectively and deploy various communication techniques to achieve their goals.


2. Leadership: Good project managers are inspiring leaders

Being inspirational might sound daunting, but good project managers can lead by example with dedication and passion. Clearly communicating the vision inspires others to work towards a common goal. And a strong work ethic rubs off. Good project managers also recognise that different leadership styles work best in different situations or with different people, and they deploy transactional or transformational styles to get the best result. Naturally charismatic and extroverted people make great leaders, but every personality type can develop leadership skills through training and practice.

The state of project management in Australia 2022, a report by the Australian Institute of Project Management and KPMG Australia, highlighted that 57% of respondents believed project complexity grew over the past two to five years, with most respondents indicating that strong and active leadership is of great importance for complex project success.


3. Emotional intelligence: Good project managers are emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand emotions. It helps us manage our own emotions and influence other people’s. Good project managers understand how their mood and demeanour can set the tone for a project. They’re empathetic and take the time to understand how the team members feel. Being emotionally intelligent helps project managers motivate their teams, resolve conflict and build trust, all leading to better project outcomes.


4. Decision-making: Good project managers are decisive

Project managers are faced with hundreds of decisions every day. Good project managers are confident decision-makers. Fear, confusion and indecision waste energy, time and money. But being a good decision maker doesn’t mean always jumping to quick decisions. Good project managers gather the evidence, collaborate with their team and consider the impacts before determining the best path.


5. Accountability: Good project managers are accountable

Being accountable at work means taking responsibility for your actions and their outcomes. Owning your mistakes and learning from them is key. Good project managers instil accountability in themselves and encourage it in their team. It improves productivity, promotes creativity and improves trust and team morale.


6. Adaptability: Good project managers are adaptable

Projects move at a blistering rate, with many a curve ball sent to challenge project managers. Good project managers are excellent problem solvers who can adapt their thinking, approach and plans to suit new conditions.


7. Negotiation: Good project managers are masterful negotiators

Different project stakeholders often have opposing views, and it’s up to the project manager to negotiate a resolution. It’s impossible to keep everyone happy all the time, but the aim is to resolve conflicts, create win-wins if possible, build trust, safeguard the project and avoid project delays. Collaborating, listening, compromising and being persuasive will be crucial to success.


8. Knowledge: Good project managers are knowledgeable

Project managers need a raft of technical skills to do their job well, like scoping, scheduling, budgeting, risk management and contract management. They also need to appreciate the desired commercial outcomes and have an intrinsic understanding of the strategic purpose of their project. Good knowledge of the industry they’re working in is also critical.


9. Resilience: Good project managers are resilient

Project management is an exciting and fulfilling career, but it does come with an element of pressure. Looming deadlines and cost blowouts can weigh heavily on project managers. In projects, things don’t always go to plan. Building your resilience to help you cope with the inevitable challenges will improve your performance and lead to lower stress and better job satisfaction.


10. Life-long learning: Good project managers continually expand their skillset

Life-long learning is essential in many careers, but especially in the fast-paced world of project management where there are so many skills to master. Having a growth mindset helps you prosper throughout your career, opening new opportunities for advancement and success.


How to grow your project management qualities

The Australian Institute of Project Management is a peak industry body created to support project managers to build skills and thrive in their careers. We’ve got amazing resources to help you unlock all the qualities needed to be a great project manager. Become an AIPM member today and get all the support, guidance and resources you need to take your career to the next level.