What does it take to be a Project Manager? – The Practical Project Manager
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The Practical Project Manager

The place to look for practical solutions to help in the journey of project management

What does it take to be a Project Manager?

There is a school of thought that a project manager is about a person and their personality and character. Project Managers just are. You can’t build a project manager. Then there is the other school of thought that says project managers can be built and molded.  In my opinion, both schools of thought have a point.


Competencies can be built by training, mentorship, coaching and even hands-on experience. Once a project manager has been trained, the competency can then be strengthened by practice, handling projects and ensuring that the methodologies to be applied are followed.

When a project manager is handling similar projects, they tend to pick up the skills required for planning and executing projects. The competencies here refer to the technical aspects of project management. Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) refers to them as the knowledge areas. Examples of competencies include business case development, risk management, procurement management, develop a project charter and human resource management.


There is a quote that says “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”. These were the wise words of John Wooden. This can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. Project managers need to be people of integrity and good character. This is so important that Project Management Institute (PMI) have a specific chapter on Ethics. A project manager must be trustworthy, sticks to what they say, honest and almost above reproach.


Leadership is a tricky topic as some people think that leaders can be built/trained. The ability to influence people to act comes easier to some people than to others. Project Managers need to be able to lead a team and rely on influence to get things done. A project manager must earn his/her team’s respect in order to drive them to produce results. A project manager must be able to create a vision, engage the right resources and provide the environment within which it can be delivered. The converse of this is when you have an individual who would rather work on their own. These types of people would not make good project managers because people are the driving force behind project delivery.

Conflict Resolution

A project manager cannot afford to be adverse to conflict. Conflict in projects is almost guaranteed. What is important is that the project manager can collect all the data, review the possible options and make a fair decision. A project manager should be able to bring the right people into the room and introduce the topic of debate, guide the discussion and leave the room with a solution or at least a way forward.

A project manager must be able to hear out the project team members and then make a decision that is in the best interest of the project.

Can handle pressure

A project manager has to be able to remain calm under pressure and drive the project forward. When people are under pressure, cracks form and sometimes conflict escalates to a point when it is no longer productive. A project manager needs to be the one who is calm and has a game plan in mind. People ask, “How do you keep it together under pressure?”

My answer, go back to the basics. What was the projects objectives? What was the scope? What is causing the pressure? Can you articulate the actual problem? Address the actual problem and not the symptoms. In order to think like this under pressure, the project manager must be able to remain calm in the face of pressure.

What other characteristics or traits does it take to be a good project manager?

 Leave me a comment below or email me at thepm@thepracticalpm.com.

Photo courtesy: 2020ProjectManagement.com
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  1. Good points on a good project manager. i just have one more characteristic that I think is very useful – diversity. A project manager should be able to handle different kinds of projects, varying scopes of complexity, which overall in adds to their competence and experience.

    A project manager who constantly works on a similar project scope or line will be less productive when moving to a new project of a different kind. I embrace specialization, but in this case, it is the skill that one needs to specialize in, not a single line of operation like it would be in a supermarket.

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