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Top 3 Project Leadership Skills

Eric McConnell
February 14, 2011

Key requirements for a successful team leader

project leadership skillsBest practices of project management and planning make me believe that having well-developed and up-to-date project leadership skills is one of critical aspects to project success. Excellent leadership allows project managers and team leaders to get in front of the competition and put in extra effort on producing project deliverables within allocated budget. Availability of the skills for project leadership ensures successful implementation of project goals, better team coordination and higher project performance. It’s really hard to overestimate the importance of project leading abilities and skills to success. In this article we will talk about the top 3 skills for project leading.

In my own experience in working across various projects and with many different leaders, executives and managers, project leadership skills and abilities seem to be one of the core requirements to success. I’ve been working in the field of project planning and implementation for already 5 years and today I can say that even the most mediocre and unpromising projects can be brought to successful completion if there is a project manager or a team leader with excellent abilities for project leadership. This person is able to ensure the project success through setting the right direction, managing the critical path with rigor, and listening to team feedback. Let’s view the three key abilities for project leading and management.

Setting the Right Direction

Any project starts with a leader who defines the project reasonability and sets right direction for development. Setting the right direction is one of the critical project leading skills. It is the leader’s responsibility to make a strategic plan template and share it clearly and repeatedly with the project team and stakeholders throughout the organization. Such a plan determines a clear direction for the project implementation, so everybody involved are enabled to understand how they fit into the project and how they contribute to its value. The project leadership skills allow the leader to assure each team member of the need to start and develop the project; meanwhile the team member can see not only his/her small piece of the puzzle but view the big picture of the project and understand how individual tasks contribute to the overall project performance. In case there is a lack of leadership, the team is out of control and the leader is enabled to coordinate teamwork. Remember: Leadership skills are a key requirement for successful projects; Masters in Public Administration and MBA programs are focused on teaching these skills.

Managing the Critical Path

It is obvious for me that the best way to implement a project and accelerate project deliverables is through managing the critical path. In essence this means that project leadership abilities allow a manager to determine a sequence of tasks which add up to the longest overall duration. Managing the critical path is important because the project manager can proactively define and remove any bottlenecks to achieving project tasks by the team. The project leadership skills make it possible to determine the critical path, manage the “roadblocks“, prioritize the critical tasks and focus the team on doing these tasks. If there are no skills for project leading then the team goes blind and does low-prioritized tasks while the project suffers from procrastination and even failure.

Managing Feedback

Feedback is a great source of information on problems and risks that make a project ineffective. When a leader has project leadership skills he/she understands the importance of feedback from the team, customers, suppliers and investors. This leader establishes two-way communication channels to send and receive feedback and exchange information throughout the project lifecycle. Feedback allows better understanding project issues and identifying any threats and uncertainties surrounding the project. The project leading abilities help the leader to listen to what other people say and analyze this information.


Many leaders and managers seem to understand the importance of project leadership skills but the real practice of project planning and implementation shows the opposite. Unfortunately almost 60 per cent of all the leaders involved in planning and managing team-based activities do not pay attention to the listed skills for project leadership so they fail their projects. As a good team leader and project planner you must avoid making the same mistake but do your best to develop the project leading skills and abilities. You must be able to set the right direction for your team, manage the project critical path and listen to what your team and other stakeholder say about the project. Then you get more chances for achieving success. Good Luck!

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