You study to become a project manager, accrue experience as you lead project after project, update your management skills by attending workshops, exercise leadership each day, and learn from your mentors. But have you wondered what personality traits you need to become an effective project manager or, ideally, a leader? Find out which personality traits are especially useful for a project manager.
Generally, an effective project manager is:
- Able to see the “big picture”
- Able to handle uncertainty
Probably the most appreciated quality of a leader is honesty. Always keep your promises if you want the team to trust you as their leader. Being open with your intentions and open to suggestions is also something you want to be known for as a project manager if you want to gain your team’s trust and maintain it. Being diplomatic is essential when managing people, as you’ll be managing a palette of personalities, some contrasting with yours or with each other, and you’ll have to make sure the team functions harmoniously as one entity. You’ll have to resolve conflicts, motivate the team to do what they don’t feel like doing, communicate bad news to the key stakeholders, negotiate budget and schedule extensions, and more—all tasks requiring diplomacy. Along with diplomacy, you’ll need to exercise assertiveness and persuasiveness to convince others to support your decisions.
A project manager who cannot see the forest for the trees will be far from an effective manager, and likely lean towards micromanaging. The project manager has to be able to see the big picture at all times, not get lost in details and letting the project’s budget slip while focusing too closely on the tasks being done perfectly according to schedule, for example. Of course, as a project manager, you cannot know everything about every aspect of the project at any time, and this is why you should learn to delegate tasks. This allows you to focus on the big picture of the project at any point along its lifecycle so that you are able to make swift and good decisions should a crisis arise.
Finally, as a good project manager, you have to learn to handle uncertainty—make decisions even if you have inexact or incomplete data on hand. This is probably difficult for new project managers with a technical background—accustomed to working with precise data and basing their decisions on those. However, as a project manager, you often need to decide using estimates (estimated duration of tasks, estimated completion times, estimated budget, and so on). Working with estimates means you cannot aim for perfection all the time; instead, you need timely, as-good-as-possible decisions based on the data you have on hand.
Even if you don’t possess all of the traits in this list, the good news is that researchers say shaping one’s personality is possible. So if you want to be an effective project manager, you can.
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