Characteristics of a project manager
Project management is never a one-person show. Necessarily, the early stages of a project
will require leadership and planning skills in order to create the required roles, performance
standards and objectives to complete the project. The person with the greatest influence at
the start of the project is the project manager. And as you will see, that role is sustained
throughout the progressive phases.
The basic characteristics required of a project manager include (Kerzner, 2009, p144):
Honesty and integrity: This is demonstrated through unwillingness to participate in
gossip and rumour and by dealing in fact only. While emotion is often involved in project
management, the leader must always present the least amount of adverse emotional
reaction to the circumstances.
Empathy (the understanding of personal problems): If and when issues arise
with personnel, clients or other stakeholders, the project manager must listen to the issues
raised and appraise them in a manner which doesn’t alienate the proponent of the issue.
Understanding of project technology: Staff look to the project manager as the
decision maker and will have greater trust in his or her decision making ability if they feel
the he or she has a good (if not superior) grasp of the technical requirements of the project.
Alertness and quickness in decision making: When responding to staff queries
and making project related decisions, the ability to think clearly, logically and holistically are
vital. While quick decisions may often be required, the skilled project manager will always
take enough time to consider the implications of any decision.
Versatility: Large projects often carry across many different functional divisions
within an organisation. The project manager should have an understanding of the roles,
functions and capabilities of those groups. Effective planning, controlling and monitoring of a
project’s operational phase will often require the knowledge of these various aspects.
Versatility is a must.
Energy and toughness: Leadership requires resilience. Many projects don’t go to
plan. The project manager must remain focused on the project objectives and maintain his
or her personal motivation in slow or difficult times. The project team as well as the client
are looking for robust leadership.
Risk, hazard and uncertainty evaluation skills: Awareness of the risk
environment requires the evaluation of the likelihood and consequences of risks. This
process is conducted during the planning phase. The project manager’s role is to ensure
risks are appropriately identified and contingencies are in place.
Business management competence:
o Adherence to management principles: Planning, leading, organising and
o Communication skills: Team and individual communication forms an integral
network that connects all parts of the project.
Along with these professional characteristics, it is expected that the project manager
displays personal characteristics such as poise, imagination, enthusiasm, spontaneity,
ambition, forcefulness and a string of other traits that would leave mere mortals wanting. In
reality, a project manager must first acknowledge that he or she cannot know everything
and must be open to advice, information and feedback.
The project manager must know what is expected of them and of the project team. Any
skills that are not present must be weighed against the requirements of the project. If
superior technical skills are a must, then the project manager needs those skills, or an
assistant with those skills, and so on.
Kerzner, H (2009) Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, Wiley &