The Importance of Communication & Leadership Skills in Project Management

It seems the skill most experienced project managers needs is Leadership according to a recent survey by ESI International ((ESI International Asia Pacific Project Management Salary Survey 2014)). This survey looked at project management across different industries, asking ‘What are the top two core competencies that you think you will need to fast-track your career?’ Across the board, Project leadership topped the list with 23%, although almost one in three of those in the oil and gas industry indicated this as a critical factor.

The second most popular choice was Communication and general management skills at 18% with ‘Stakeholder management’ a close third at 15%.

This of course is not surprising as project managers spend around 80% or more of their job communicating with others. It makes good business sense therefore to ensure that all project managers are skilled communicators as well as effective leaders. Doesn’t it?

Photo: CC-BY-SA 2010 PopTech
Photo: CC-BY-SA 2010 PopTech

Well, the fact of the matter is that, when it comes to developing skills in project management as well as gaining qualifications and certifications, there is little or no attention given to these critical skills sets!

Project managers learn about the project life-cycle and various methodologies and tools to aid in the technical delivery of the project; on time, within scope and on budget, but they don’t learn much about the less technical and much softer skills related to people management. Sure the Certificate IV and the Diploma qualification cover the basics (if you’re lucky) but PRINCE2 has little time for interpersonal skills and the same applies for other global certifications.

Project Managers themselves have little time for people management and the interpersonal skills of communication and leadership and yet these are the skills that underpin productivity. You can’t have a highly productive and efficient project team unless they are motivated and engaged to perform to these levels and you can’t engage and motivate a team of disparate stakeholders unless you are a skilled communicator and an effective leader.

Photo CC-BY-ND 2013 Aurimas Adomavicius
Photo CC-BY-ND 2013 Aurimas Adomavicius

With project managers expected to do more with less and cuts being made to project budgets it seems the only way to ensure success is to increase overall productivity and, in my opinion, this can ultimately only be achieved through inspirational leadership that engages all project stakeholders and motivates them to improve that discretionary effort and take that extra step!

CAL offers a range of leadership and communication short courses for project managers that will provide them with the skills and the tools they need to communicate more effectively with their project teams and all stakeholders as well as tips, techniques and tools to assist project managers to further develop their leadership and people management skills so that they can inspire, motivate and engage their teams to perform to their very best!


This post is part of the Project Management Solutions Series. Read part 1 here.