What Makes A Truly Great Project Manager?

Mike Girdler

3 traits of the truly great project manager There are a lot of very good, competent, project managers out there. But what makes a great …

3 traits of the truly great project manager

great-project-managerThere are a lot of very good, competent, project managers out there. But what makes a great project manager? Here are 3 traits that all great project managers possess.

# 1 – Confidence

Truly great project managers have a great deal of confidence in themselves and their ability to deliver successful projects. They possess this confidence because, in addition to their experience in doing the day-to-day managing of projects – keeping them on time, on budget, and within the required scope, they go beyond. They ensure they understand why the project is being undertaken, its priority within the organization, their authority, exactly what is expected – the vision, and what success looks like. They know everything about their team members and the project management plan inside and out.

Confidence allows the truly great project manager to successfully lead projects – to take the effective action steps, and make timely decisions that keep the project humming along.


# 2 – Communication skills

There’s a case to be made that communication skills are the most important skill a truly great project manager can possess. Great project managers will develop and follow their communications plan – update stakeholders and team members, use the right channels and frequency, but to ensure their communications are accurate and relevant, they take it a step further. They combine a conscious effort to establish an environment of collaboration, teamwork and unity with “softer” communication skills.  They invite open honest discussions, they ask the right questions, and most importantly, they listen. Additionally, they possess the skills to negotiate – to give and take. They are able to lead, direct, instruct, and persuade. They are constantly plugged into the project and have a real and complete picture that allows them to make the right decisions and take the right actions to keep the project moving along.


#3 – Flexibility/open-minded

There are a lot of things that can cause a project to go off the rails, and a truly great project manager possesses the ability to be flexible and open-minded.  As a project manager, if you’re stiff or rigid and cling to a project plan, the project will fail. A truly great project manager anticipates things to go sideways and is able to flex in response to the changing demands of the project. They keep an open-mind and are receptive to new ideas, new approaches, and have the ability to be creative in finding ways to attend to things that can impact the project. The great project manager maintains a flexible and open-minded philosophical approach to ensuring project success.


Project managers recognize that to be a truly great project manager it takes more than just using the tools of project management. Truly great project managers possess traits that separate them from the rest of the project managers. They are confident in their ability, they are extremely effective communicators, and are flexible and open-minded to the demands of the project in order to deliver project success.


What other traits would you add to make a truly great project manager? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your change management needs.

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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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