Project Leadership & Project Management – Why You Need Both

Brandi Johnson

Jan 6 2017 4 min read

Almost everyone in business today is a project manager of some sort – whether it’s our official title, or just a role that comes with our job, like a marketing manager who needs to organize the execution of a trade show. And since we were children we were encouraged to be leaders.

We think you need to be a blend of both a project manager and a project leader in order to successfully deliver projects on-time.

The Difference

Before we talk about how to be both a leader and manager of your projects, we should start with defining what each is. In the simplest terms, a project manager focuses on “doing things right,” while a leader focuses on “doing the right things”.

Manager FocusLeader Focus
Goals & ObjectivesVision
Short RangeLonger Range
Telling how & whenSelling what & why
Organization & structurePeople
Directing & controllingInspiring Trust
Bottom lineTop line

When you’re working strictly as a manager, you’re focused on the outcome of the project. You’re less focused on the peripheral elements like team building or empowering team members. If your team works together well or individuals gain new skills from working on the project, they’re extra benefits – not your goal.

On the other hand, when you’re focused on being a project leader, your focus is primarily on team development, communication, and influencing the project outcomes. You need the project to get done on time, but it’s as important (if not more so) that the team grows through the project as well.

You’ve probably worked on projects with both of these kinds of people. Which projects were more successful? Which left you feeling the best about the project?

Finding Balance 

The most successful project managers are actually a hybrid of leaders and managers. While they stay focused on the ultimate goal of project execution, they also invest time in developing their team. They practice the three F’s – fair, firm, and friendly. They’re visible, and make sure to say “thank you” for work that’s done, and apologize when they’re wrong.

Project Leadership 1024x512

Balancing leadership skills with management skills takes practice and perseverance. But it’s worth the effort to create harmonious teams that accomplish their project objectives.


Brandi Johnson

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