The secrets to being a good project leader

Seville, Spain

In this post I am going to discuss the qualities I believe a good project leader should have, as well as letting you into a few trade secrets on how to achieve this. However, before we get started, it is worthwhile having a clear idea on just what a project is. When I say project (from the Latin proiectus) I refer to a set of activities that must be developed and are interrelated, thus requiring coordination to make them a success. A project can be vertical or horizontal. Vertical projects are traditional ones with an external client. You are commissioned a task and have to provide a service. This type of project is easily identifiable for everyone. On the other hand, horizontal projects have an internal client: the development of social networking elements in a company, improvements to the contacts database, creation of 2.0 web facilities, presentation of quarterly accounts etc.  A project can be vertical or horizontal. Vertical projects are traditional ones with an external client.These horizontal activities are not directly related to business volumes though have a major significance and in my company those responsible for these elements must take the reigns as if they were project leaders dealing with an internal client such as a Managing Director or any other Head of a department or project. In other words, they must feel responsible, committed and proactive in their tasks.

What are the secrets?

A good project leader must be capable of:

  • Planning, programming, organising, controlling and complying with deadlines, budgets and quality gestion proyectos 2
  • Bringing in new clients, playing by hook, never by crook. The client must feel at ease and that their issues are handled well. They have to trust you.
  • Measure the effort involved, to know exactly what the client wants.,What is the point of producing a 1000 page annex full of specifications or computerised listings if you can get the same message across with a simple power point presentation?  
  • Combining knowledge, technique and service. It is not enough to simply provide a top product; it must also fit their needs and timeframe.


How must they go about their work?  

Here are a few ideas I have picked up along the way:

  • Understanding the project. Running it means you defend it because nobody has a clearer overall vision  of the same than you.  I tend to classify consultancy clients into four types and you have to know how to deal with all of them.I tend to classify consultancy clients into four types and you have to know how to deal with all of them“.
  • Knowing the client and their real needs. I tend to classify consultancy clients into four types and you have to know how to deal with all of them. These are listed below with my favourite at the top: planning and assigning the tasks involved. In order to know how manage other people, you first have to manage and utilise properly your own time.
  1. The one who knows what they want.
  2. The one who knows more than you but does not have the time to get round to it.
  3. The one who does not know what they want, herein lies the challenge for the consultant, show them what you are made of.
  4. The one who has personal problems or personality issues. They are going to make you earn every penny.
  • Planning and delegating tasks. In order to know how to manage  and take advantage of your own time.
  • Encouraging the team, getting them involved. To do this I recommend that an overall view of the project be explained to the whole group. You have to try to get the best out of each team member. In short, one must manage resources just as well as the technical aspects.
  • Complying with deadlines, budgets and quality standards. A good project delivered late is the road to ruin.

What do I expect of my project leaders? 

Well, quite a lot:

  • That they try to resolve the project with the previously given instructions without leaving too much work for me.
  • That they are proactive and can get on with things on their own. A dose of clairvoyance skills is never amiss as to avoid potential disasters. gestion de proyectos 3
  • That they are accessible and available, that does not means twenty-four hours a day working (quite the opposite, you have to find time to reconcile family life with your professional obligations)
  • That if they get stuck with a problem, they let me know in advance. A boss is a General Cost as I mentioned in my post of Micro SME and HR, but they are there to help.
  • That they finish the project on time, get paid and receive a certificate of proper completion from the client. Of course, they must help me to make money and not lose it.
  • That they are capable of communicating with other Project Leaders or collaborators in a fluent and effective manner, sharing the lessons learnt in order to improve in tandem.
  • That they learn from each project, and, if possible, innovate in each of these (one project, one innovation)
  • That they believe in the brand image, and participate in the collective aim of our group to be somewhat different, continually improving and growing (not in terms of size but rather greatness).
  • That the entire project has been well thought and duly justified: a hypothesis can be argued, but it must be sided with following a great deal of thought and be able to stand up to defence in the face of then client, although afterwards the latter decides to change it.

Added to this are some of the good practices I mentioned in my post entitled: two aces up your sleeve…

 To conclude, I would like to highlight the most salient points again:  they must feel responsible, committed and proactive in their tasks.  Well then, as always, I shall leave the floor open to you to share your thoughts on how to be a good project leader. That way, we all learn. 

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