What Are The Traits of Successful Project Managers?

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Being a successful Project Manager requires encapsulating a lot of different qualities.

  • Communicate well? Check.
  • Organized and responsible leader? Check. 
  • Knowing how to delegate and inspire? Check. 

But what do all of these traits really mean? And how do you build them within yourself? 

At Velociteach we have a team of professional Project Managers with years and years of experience, and we’re passionate about sharing what we know with you. 

Whether you’re a new Project Manager about to work with your first team or a seasoned professional interested in picking up some pointers, we’re excited to be here with you.

We’ve boiled down some of the most important traits that all Project Managers share. Let’s dive into them!

Strong Leadership

Leadership may be one of the most difficult traits on this list to define. So what does it mean to be a strong leader? 

Author of Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the strongest leaders as having a mixture of “personal humility and professional will.” A strong leader is self-aware. That leader will acknowledge and understand the team’s strengths and weaknesses and be able to tailor those team abilities to meet the project demands.

A strong leader listens to the team and can flexibly handle unforeseen circumstances that arise – project risk events. And, the leader helps the team adjust plans to account for those risk events.   

See how the topic of leadership translates to better projects – check out our study of Alpha Project Managers – What the Top 2% Know That Everyone Else Does Not.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into what it takes to better your leadership skills, check out our online course From A Good Project Manager to a Great Leader. You can also filter our 80+ courses and bundles by “leadership” or simply click here.  In addition, our instructor-led  Leadership course provides an opportunity to help your team discover their own leadership styles and how to leverage that to become more successful as project managers. 


Proper delegation is truly a skill that comes with experience. A strong Project Manager will learn their team members and their respective capacities, knowing how much of a workload they can handle successfully without wasting time or hitting burnout. 

In predictive projects, the project manager is expected to create clear sandboxes for team members and delegate tasks on a regular basis. However, on more adaptive teams (like Scrum or agile), the project leader does more coaching than delegating. The team collectively determines who does what.


You don’t have to be best friends with your team members – but it goes a long way to be a leader that they trust and respect. Think of the last boss you had who you didn’t exactly enjoy being around – did your work occasionally suffer as a result? 

The other side of this coin is that you don’t want to be too buddy-buddy with those you manage. You are, after all, the Project Manager. A healthy balance of personality will keep your team inspired and focused.

A charismatic leader inspires their team members and drives up productivity by making their team feel confident in themselves, and that’s a powerful tool. 

Planning and Organization

Having a roadmap of your project well before you start may seem like an obvious concept, but we really want to underline just how important it is. 

You won’t be able to figure out where you’re going or if you’re getting there on time if you don’t have a plan. So, how could you tell team members what to do if you don’t even know what to do? 

It’s up to the Project Manager to collect all the data and notes laid out for an upcoming project and organize all of it into a cohesive, understandable plan to be followed. Involve the team as you agree on the scope, build estimates, schedules, budgets, and plan for risks. By doing this, you’ll set proper expectations for the team and the client.

If you overshoot your expectations, it might seem great on paper. But more often than not, you hit roadblocks, fall behind, go over budget, and find yourself with a disappointing, failed project. So, start by planning and organizing.

Having A Strategy

There are several different methodologies to Project Management at your disposal. Which one you use depends on the project so analyze the environment and choose the best approach. 

We offer several fundamental courses that help delineate the differences in agile and traditional approaches (like this one!). And, we discuss agile topics in many of our podcasts. One of our Manage This podcasts was with Steve Kraus on the topic: Is Agile Right for Me? 

Make sure the strategy or approach for managing the project is a good match for the environment, the team, the project outcome, and for you – the project manager!

Flexibility and Intuition

Alright, we talked about how important having a plan is, but being flexible and able to think on your feet is right up there as well. 

Being flexible goes hand in hand with having a plan. Trust us; it’s much easier to be able to roll with the tide if you’re switching to a plan B or C rather than just winging it. 

For example, having a schedule that you follow is essential, and that schedule is going to serve you best if you put in place contingency plans. The same is true for the budget. Account and plan for those possible budget emergencies in advance, and your sponsor will have much more confidence in the project plan.

Positive Communication

Establishing and maintaining positive communication is key to a successful project. This stretches beyond functional managers or department heads. The Project Manager should create clear communication channels across departments, with contractors, with management, with the customer, and most of all with other team members.

Brad led a large land development project, and he described his PM role as the hub of a bicycle wheel. The contractors and other team members were the spokes feeding into and out of that hub – they all fed Brad information regarding their specific project responsibilities. Brad had to determine what information was important to whom. He knew that too much information would be ignored. Brad tailored the data and reports to the appropriate stakeholder to keep everyone on the same page, up to date, and satisfied with the project progress. (Hear the interview with Brad in this course.)

Good communication reduces misunderstandings and oversights. Feel your communication skills need some work? Try our Communications Excellence course or the handful of others we have that focus heavily on this topic.


Sometimes, even in a well-planned project, things can get a little stressful. And your team members might get tense and frustrated. 

But reacting poorly to stress isn’t really a luxury that a Project Manager can afford. 

You might have deadlines approaching a little faster than expected or a client that isn’t that easy to work with. 

It’s up to the Project Manager to take a breath and be able to stay level-headed in these situations. You need to be able to make responsible decisions when things become chaotic because that’s the role of the Project Manager. 

A suggestion we have for developing your composure is to take inventory of yourself – What is it that truly unhinges you in a professional environment? Acknowledging your weak points can help you overcome them. 

The Project Manager needs to be who the rest of the team can turn to for guidance and positive motivation. You want to be able to confidently communicate with your team and ease their panic, not add to it. 

If you want to learn more about leading during times of crisis, check out this podcast with Matt Harper, who was serving aboard the USS Cole in Oct 2000 when the ship was bombed.

Negotiation and Compromise

Your goal as a Project Manager is to deliver a successful project while also attempting to make everyone happy… the client, the project sponsor, management, other departments… the list gets impossibly long.  

What if the client needs aren’t realistic within the given timeline? What if the sponsor wants to cut the budget but not budge on anything else? Or, what if the maintenance group lists new requirements that were not in the original scope? What if the team is getting burned out? 

A good Project Manager will face one or several of these “what-if” scenarios on projects. And, the savvy Project Manager learns how to negotiate and find the win-win solutions to keep the project train clicking down the tracks towards completion.

At times, team members get sideways with each other, or with the client, or with a contractor. Once again, the wise Project Manager learns how to deftly negotiate these situations. 

Having the ability to hear two sides of an issue and guide them to a compromise is an invaluable skill necessary to be a successful Project Manager. 

Author Neal Whitten wrote this self-paced course on Effective Negotiation Skills. Learn tips from one of the best!

In Conclusion

All in all, many different qualities make a successful Project Manager. And every Project Manager is different.

How you handle each different project depends on you and your style. But there are a few common themes in good Project Managers. 

  • Plan in advance. Know where you’re leading your team and tell them in advance what you expect of them and when. 
  • Listen to your team. They have the knowledge in their areas of specialty and have wisdom regarding their tools and how their work can efficiently move forward in the project. 
  • Calm in crisis. Be a strong presence who holds steady in the winds of chaos, someone your team can look up to. 
  • Learn. The most successful project managers are dedicated to continuously learning. Every day try to learn something new about your project or your team members. 

And if you enjoy learning, check out velociteach.com, where we have a wide variety of material to expand your Project Management skills. We offer instructor-led courses geared toward teaching your team about many aspects of project management, online materials and courses that you can take at your own pace, and a podcast called Manage This, where we speak to seasoned professionals about their experiences in the workforce. 

Even the most successful project managers are still learning – we all are. At Velociteach, we want to make sure that you have all the opportunities to learn more about your profession. 

It takes a passionate person to be a Project Manager, and that’s exactly what we are: Passionate. 

  1. Business2 years ago 3 Reasons Charisma Is The Most Impactful Quality All Great Leaders Have | Minutes.co
  2. Communication Challenges in Project Management – How to Overcome | Orangescrum.org
  3. Negotiation | Projectmanagementknowledge.com