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Leadership Project Management

8 Characteristics Of A Successful Project Manager

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Successful Manager

Role Of A Project Manager

Let us first clearly understand the role of a project manager in an organization.

The project manager has three concurrent responsibilities.

1. Achieve project objectives and manages constraints

Project managers are accountable for achieving the requirements of the project definition. That means managing to the Project Objective Statement (Scope, Schedule, Resources) and making trade offs among constraints to achieve project objectives.

  • Project advocate
  • Procure needed resources
  • Manages the project

Every project or program is bound by three main constraints – Scope, Schedule, and Resources. This typically is referred to as the “Iron Triangle” of constraints in that changes to one side of the triangle will have impacts on the other two sides. The PM is responsible for balancing constraints effectively to optimize the delivery of project results against the aligned scope of work and the agreement with the sponsor and stakeholders. This topic is covered in detail in the list of project management skills.

2. Establish and lead the team

The project manager needs to identify, select, and manage the project team. The project is successful only if the manager is able to lead the team to success.

  • Leads the team
  • Communicates well
  • Works with people
  • Recognize and rewards
  • Provides performance feedback
  • Cross-organizational & cross -cultural orientation
  • Extremely flexible

3. Manage the Project Management Process

The project management process is the structure that allows the project team to achieve the project objectives.

  • Initiates
  • Plans
  • Executes
  • Closes

Job of PM

8 Characteristics Of A Successful Project Manager

Now let us see what makes a successful project manager. There are some unique skills one needs to make it big here. You will not find these in typical project management books and resources. These are coming out of our long years of experience in setting up and leading teams.

1. See the “big picture” and Pay attention to detail.

One of the most telling characteristics of successful project managers is that they can see the big picture while paying attention to detail. This is a duality that many people have difficulty maintaining. Project managers must constantly balance the big picture and the details.

we have seen project managers fail because they are too focused on the detail at hand and have no insight into what to expect. A manager must be able to expect, envision and plan for the future constantly wile driving the day to day tasks.

2. Skillful in relationships.

The role of the project manager requires relationships with countless people: the sponsors and other managers, the core team and project team, the customers and users, vendors and suppliers, and potentially many others. The dilemma for the project manager is when to be firm and when to be soft. The person, the situation, the time, all impact the decision. Again, the project manager is held accountable for results, but realizes the results of the project are dependent upon the efforts of others.

We have seen project managers struggle as they tend not to move out of their comfort zones and build strong win-win connects. As we talked about it in the article on effective team management the manager must focus less on themselves and more on others to be successful.He/she must be authentic in the dealings and look at providing value in the relationship.

3. Maintain firmness while being flexible

Another duality for the project manager is maintaining firmness in the face of constant change. Projects are controlled by deadlines, budgets, and quality which cannot be taken lightly. The project manager is held accountable for bringing the project to completion on time, within budget, and meeting the requirements. At the same time the manager is faced with great uncertainty and constant change. Changes come in the form of situations, conflict, people, project scope and budget and business priorities. Conflict Management is a skill managers must be adept at.

We have seen successful project managers are able to balance firmness with flexibility. They have to make calculated decisions based on the risk and outcome. This judgment also develops over time and always make sure you have a good mentor who can help you through this.

4. Lead people.

The work will be successfully completed only if the team members choose to make it so. Most often all the teams that a manager has to work with may not formally report to the project manager. Good team leadership requires patience, influence, negotiation, recognition and reward, and a host of other characteristics.

we talk about this topic in detail in the team management article. Make sure you have read it.

5. Communicate effectively.

The most important characteristic the project manager can have is excellent communication skills. The manager needs to be able to communicate with a wide variety of audience in a variety of forums. Perhaps the most important communication skill is listening and really understanding what others are saying. Understanding is the first step in being able to flexibly meet the challenges of the changing project.

We have seen managers struggle as they do not hone their written and verbal communication skills and do not listen enough. It is important to balance proactive communication with too much communication.

6. Willing to challenge barriers and obstacles.

The project manager must be willing to challenge & willing to find the true boundaries. Part of the job of the project manager is to remove internal and external obstacles for the project. The manager has to strike a balance between motivating and nurturing his team to meet the goals while at the same time he strives to remove all the obstacles in the path of meeting those goals.

We have seen in our experience that new managers tend to get intimidated by obstacles. Again a good mentor will be very helpful at these stages. The manager must build the courage and wherewithal to make bold decisions that will result in the project success.

7. Understand the project management process.

A successful project manager understands the process of project management and is proficient with the tools that support the process. The manager must spend the time and effort to skill and train himself /herself in all the aspects of project management.

Project managers must use tools that will improve the team productivity and must be adept at time management

8. Committed to the project’s success.

The project manager must be personally committed to the success of the project. Without that commitment, the team will not be committed either. Project leadership is based on leading by example.

We have various topics on Leadership development. Be sure to look them up to build the needed leadership to shepherd your teams to success


So now you should have a clear understanding of the role of a project manager and you know the expectations and successful traits. Do spend time to train yourself and take courses outside your organization to help build your skills.

If you have specific questions and/or you are  seeking guidance on a management problem or you want to find resources on a certain topic you can write to us at mymentor@globalmanagementmentors.com



The authors are senior managers at startups and product development companies. They come with extensive experience in leadership and management of global engineering teams to deliver high quality software products. Each of them are extremely passionate about these topics . They mentor and train project managers on leadership and management.


  1. Maggie

    Interesting topic on project management along with leadeship that comes with it. Yes, leadership without vision will not be able to steer the team in the right direction and achieve success. Things tend to go wrong at times and a leader must be flexible and be able to think on their feet. Thank you for this detailed and informative article.

    • admin

      Thank you very much Maggie for your valuable comments. I agree with your comments and the goal of this website is to throw light on these topics so organizations can build good leaders !

  2. Kay Keene

    Great article, Project management is very important a key factor with any business, you need to have a leader who knows what they are doing, can solve problems and be flexible. As I am always willing to learn I often take courses to improve my own skills and take that knowledge with me to help others. Thank you

    • admin

      Thank you Kay for the comments and taking time to read the article. I am a constant learner too and it is great that you spend the time to learn new skills in this area and help others. That is precisely the objective of this website. To help people learn and help others with the knowledge. thanks once again !

  3. John

    Regarding communication – I’ve known project managers who might be good in other areas, but not with communication. Everything falls apart in this case. Communication is a key skill with any project manager. Thank you for your informative post.

    • admin

      Hi John,
      Thank you for taking time to read the article and give your comments. I do agree that communication is key and we have seen personally that people fail because of the lack of this skill. Both written and verbal skills are important to be successful.

  4. Mina

    Very informative and something that I can relate.
    it is true that being a Project Manager of a company/business, is crucial.
    And plays an important role on a company’s success.

    For me, among the 8 characteristics you mentioned, I believe that leadership is the most important of all. Anybody can be a follower, but only a few can lead.
    The remaining 7 are description of a good leader should be.

    • admin

      Thank you Mina for you comments. I agree that leadership is a key characteristic and the most important one. We plan to publish articles on the leadership topic . Appreciate you taking time to read through.

  5. Tyler Hansen

    Hello. Awesome, awesome, awesome site and page. Thank you for putting together such a great site with great information on bettering management practises and efficiency.
    Is it okay if I open up a link to your site from my site? I feel that current visitors and future visitors to my site may really appreciate what you have to offer.

    • admin

      Thank you so much Tyler for your good comments on the website. Glad to see people benefiting from the content as that is the true intent of this website. You can surely link from your website. I went through your site and I see valuable content that my visitors can benefit. If it is it okay I would like to link relevant content to your site.


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