A project needs many pieces to come together in order to achieve its goals and objectives. The people on the team might be your most important resource, but without an effective project leader, they’re just a ship without a rudder.
What Is a Project Leader?
The project leader is responsible for guiding and instructing a team, which is simply a group of people working together to accomplish a common goal. A project leader, also referred to as a project lead, is the driving force for the team, offering everything from assignments to conflict resolution. They need to monitor the work of the team to make sure that everyone is following the schedule and not exceeding budgetary constraints.
Project management software allows team leaders to keep track of their team members. ProjectManager is online project management software that gives team leaders the tools to plan, manage and track their teams, while teams are empowered to work better together. Features include real-time dashboards that track performance and progress so even remote teams are accountable. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.
Project Leader vs. Project Manager
While the terms project leader and project manager are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two titles. In project management, team leaders are more focused on project coordination while project managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project and are accountable for the project’s vision and success.
Sample Project Leader Job Description
If you’re looking to fill an open project leader position you’ll want to post a thorough project leader job description on a job site to attract the right candidate. In order to do that, we’ve provided a sample project leader job description you can cut and paste onto a job board. The job description is customizable so you can add anything you need that is not addressed as well as remove anything you don’t need.
We are looking for an experienced project leader to take a leadership role in several ongoing projects. They will be responsible for the successful implementation and delivery of strategic projects, managing project teams, plans and schedules. Being able to monitor the project team, its progress and performance, as well as responding to any issues that might arise over the course of the project’s life cycle is also essential.
Duties & Responsibilities
- Develop project plans, set goals and budget as well as identify and manage resources
- Produce deliverables on the agreed-upon timetable
- Monitor, track and report on progress and performance, including budget
- Partner with internal and external stakeholders to ensure success
- Lead project team, offer mentoring, training and guidance
- Adjust project constraints as needed to deliver quality
Requirements & Qualifications
- Have a bachelor’s degree in project management, business or a related field
- Superior interpersonal skills
- Strong communication skills
- Able to problem-solve and work on multiple projects simultaneously
- Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a plus
At least 2 years of experience leading teams and managing projects.
Project Leader Salary
The salary that a project leader can expect is dependent on several factors, including the region in which they’re employed and the level of skills and experience they have. The average annual salary a project leader can expect in the United States is $109,650, which includes a base salary and additional benefits.
Tips to Be a Better Project Leader
You don’t have to be in a position of power to practice or demonstrate true project leadership. After all, most project leaders start out at the bottom, like all of us. From there, they hone leadership traits and skills through observation and practice.
The countless people who are running projects day in and day out are leading people, whether they have dedicated teams or not. Large or small, distributed or in an office, contractors or full-time employees, projects generally depend on multiple people to get the job done. These are daily opportunities for leadership.
Leadership is a quality that can be learned by everyone. Here are a few tips our team has learned about being a good project leader:
1. Be a Follower
It’s not just for Zen monks. The art of following is the true art of leadership. You need to put yourself in the service of your team members in order to help them, help you, succeed.
2. Ask Questions
It’s so easy to talk when teams stare blankly at you (or you hear crickets on a group Skype), while they wait for direction and leadership at the start of a meeting. But begin asking, “What do you think about…X?”-type questions and you’ll start to receive a whole ton of news you didn’t know you needed to know.
3. Demand Collaboration
Sounds like an oxymoron, but remember there’s no collaboration if your team doesn’t feel safe collaborating. And sometimes the only way to the first breakthrough that is un-comfortability, is to insist. There are personality and cultural differences that mean some prefer clear direction and are not initially comfortable offering up their opinion. But in order to get a team truly functioning, everyone needs to participate and add value through their ideas and input.
As a project leader, you can find ways for shy team members to contribute in ways that they are comfortable – so remember to offer options like an anonymous tip jar or private emails, along with your demands for better participation.
4. Give All You Can… and Then a Little More
You need to not just appear to go above and beyond for your team but actually do so while managing to…
5. Demonstrate Work-Life Balance
Going above and beyond, as noted above, should not come at the expense of your own health and well-being. All too often, leaders think that by staying extra late and working through weekends, they’re showing their commitment to their team or their project. When instead, they’re guilting their team into feeling like they need to share their team leader’s bad work-life habits.
6. Help Your Team to Stretch
Learn what skills they want to develop or what goals they have (even if they aren’t related to this present job or field.). Then, help provide opportunities to grow their skills.
7. Keep Learning and Stretching Yourself
Take courses, or attend (meaningful) conferences. Make sure you are really up on the latest best practices in your field and you’re open to learning new things. “It’s always worked for me” isn’t a sign of leadership, but complacency.
8. Hold Your Team (and Yourself) Accountable
It should go without saying, but a project leader should lead by example. That way, you can follow up on missed deadlines or unfulfilled projects by others. Leadership is about making some tough calls, too—when warranted.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously said of his company’s HR revolution, “At most companies, average performers get an average raise. At Netflix, they get a generous severance package.” While reinventing your HR culture may not be in your job description, your team’s overall health must be considered. If a team member is not delivering, despite your best intentions and support, they might need to be benched or cut from the team.
9. Be Honest
Make sure you’re clear and honest with feedback or with project news and updates. Treat your team like your trusted peers and communicate the truth whenever you can.
10. Be Human
Leadership isn’t about being a superhero. Be fallible and own up to your own mistakes. Be approachable and compassionate. Be a friend at times and don’t be afraid to shed a tear.
So what makes these tips unique to projects? Just this final tidbit: You may or not be the CEO or president, but you’re leading teams. Project leadership is about any group of people coming together to get something done. It’s not about shareholders (though they may play a part.) It’s not about the end-users (though they, too, play a part.) Leading projects is all about the team. As Susanne Madsen says: “You manage tasks, and lead people.” ROI and deliverables are only as good as the people on your team. And that starts with you.
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One thing a good leader does is supply the team with the right tools to get their job done, tools that offer features they need, and that update in real-time to give a clear and present picture of what’s going on. The online software suite from ProjectManager gives you that and more, which you can experience for yourself free with a free 30-day free trial.