True Project Leader Vs. Bad Project Manager?

Do you need to improve your leadership style to earn respect and nail your project?

Managing a project team is a delicate job. You have to be both compassionate, motivating and strict at the same time. How do you get the project team to listen to you? How do you get your project members want to do something? How do you get the team performing without bringing out the worst in you?

I would say it boils down to your way of leading your project team. Do you build trust and have earned their respect? If not any management task will be a long uphill journey for you. The true project leader earns respect by balancing reward, inspiration and punishment as needed.

The good news is that it is quite easy to identify if you are a “true” project leader or a “bad” project manager. It is also quite easy to improve any disadvantageous behavior.


Below are ten characteristics of a true project leader and ten characteristics of a bad project manager.

Take a moment to reflect on your own behavior and project management style.

  • If you are all GREEN, well done. You are on the way to become a Project Guru!
  • If you are more RED, consider applying different leadership styles as your highest personal development priority.

True Project Leader:

Coaches project team
Depends on goodwill
Generates enthusiasm
Says “we
Fixes the breakdown
Shows how it’s done
Develops people
Gives credit
Says “Let’s go!”

Bad Project Manager:

Drives project team
Depends on authority
Inspires fear
Says “I
Places blame for the breakdown
Knows how it’s done
Uses people
Takes credit
Says “Go!

I started my career as the worst project manager

When I started out with my first PM job, I had little experience working with projects and no formal project management training. I was also the youngest (and least experienced) in the six person team!My boss had a project that needed to be done and I guess I was the best shot (or the only guy with available time for that role). Being young and ambitious I accepted the project manager task without any real understanding of the challenges ahead or basics such as “project management triple constraints” and “people management”!
Formal vs. Informal Authority...

I made a lot of mistakes… Also with team management do’s and don’ts. Frankly, being young and inexperienced I though the Project Manager title meant I had to be strict and constantly commanding on the team!

Initially, I blamed the team, I took all the credit, I misused the authority that a thought a formal Project Manager title gave me.

Fortunately, the team included several wise and experienced senior colleagues who provided me ongoing feedback on my immature and exhausting behavior as the project progressed. They thought me how to go from a bad project manager to an OK project manager.

Project Leaders manage upwards persistently and stands-up for their project team every time!

From my first project I learned one more characteristic of a great project leader. He always lead upwards and stands-up for his project and project team.

Often your manager, project sponsor or someone in the organizational hierarchy is breathing down your shoulder to do the impossible. You stand between the the team and these (some times) unreasonable demands. Instead of saying yes and squeeze the last drop of blood of of the team, yo need to ensure your project team remains healthy and project goals are attainable.

True Project Leader Vs. Bad Project Manager? 3

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