10 Essential Skills for Effective Project Managers


Globally, demand for project managers has skyrocketed, amplifying the gap between the demand for skilled project managers and the number of project managers available to meet that demand. In a recent report on job growth, the Project Management Institute (PMI) attributes the project management talent deficit to three major factors: increased demand in jobs where project management skills are necessary, attrition and retirement as many skilled managers age, and accelerated demand for skilled project management, particularly from developing markets. By 2027, the PMI estimates 87.7 million project management professionals will be required

Project managers are often pivotal players in driving change and increasing productivity at organizations, as they lead the projects that provide strategic initiatives, new innovations, and process improvements. In today’s workforce, Wayne Brantley,  a certified Project Management Professional® (PMP) for almost two decades and an adjunct professor in Florida Tech’s 100% online MBA in Project Management program, says that project managers must be more “holistic” in their development.

“In addition to schedule, cost, quality, risk and other traditional aspects of project management, organizations should consider leadership, communication, negotiation and presentation skills, along with management theory, motivational techniques and conflict management training.”

With an increasingly project-focused global economy, professionals should focus on these 10 essential skills to develop as a highly skilled, effective project management professional.

Technical Project Management

Effective project managers must possess the hard technical skills required for their job. The nuts and bolts of the role require a technical understanding of project management methodologies, proficiency in gathering and modeling data, budget management, scope management, estimating time, cost, and budget, and overall lifecycle management. Surprisingly, these skills are often said to be the more difficult ones to find, according to a whitepaper on project talent by the PMI. However, these processes and approaches can be learned through certification processes or degree programs.

Strategic and Business Management

Project managers must also possess a clear understand the broader environment. For this big-picture perspective, they should understand the market and current conditions, how departments within the business function, and any part of their project that may be regulated by compliance. An ability to manage the business, both through data modeling and more hands-on customer relationships, as well as a strategic perspective on planning, equips project managers for success.


As the key individual at the helm of the project, leadership is implicit in the project manager’s role. Project managers lead at multiple levels: coaching and mentoring team members, influencing key stakeholders, negotiating to solve problems, and building their project team. When it comes to execution, project managers will need to delegate tasks, set goals and evaluate performance. Brantley explains why leadership is so important:

“Why has leadership grown into such a critical skill for project managers? The fact that the workforce has grown more diversified and geographically dispersed are two obstacles that project managers now face with increasing frequency. Projects, by nature, consist of cross-functional teams throughout an organization that do not always report to the project manager.

Faced with such challenges, project managers must motivate and lead.”


Project managers are constantly communicating; according to Liquid Planner, 90% of a project manager’s role is some form of communication. Updating stakeholders, motivating the team, asking for support on a new direction, or advocating for the project to a new audience. Successful project managers clearly and effectively disseminate information, communicating in a way that inspires trust and avoids glossing over anything that could cause issues for the project overall.

Decision-Making Skills

Even the most carefully planned projects are likely to encounter obstacles. Skilled project managers should be able to identify issues and make a business-based decision to resolve them. This is often a balancing act between competing desires and limited resources or options, and the project manager will need to astutely navigate these scenarios.

Interpersonal Skills

Even the most technical projects depend immensely on people. Project managers will need to skillfully partner with stakeholders – often many – to balance competing demands and goals, all while ensuring everyone involved feels valued. Project managers must also establish a skilled team and lead the group, which may include delivering challenging development conversations, resolving issues and motivating the team.


Projects are practically synonymous with stress, uncertainty and struggle. To combat that, project managers need persistence to tirelessly pursue their project goals, fight for clearer definition, and stay calm – and firm – in the face of obstacles. Project managers will need determination to seek stakeholder feedback, which may also entail an unrelenting drive to get face time with busy leaders.

Change Management

According to PMI’s 2015 Pulse on the Profession report, 25% of organizations surveyed stated that poor change management was a primary cause of project failure. Proper change management ensures that a project management mindset is embedded in the organizational culture. The report states that high-performing organizations create a culture for project management in which the organization fully understands its value, has actively engaged sponsors, and aligns projects to strategy.


As we’ve established, stress often accompanies project management, as do multiple stakeholders, and often a large project team. This means project managers should be prepared to facilitate conflict resolution, avoid organizational politics and firmly avoid distracting side issues or agendas that pose a threat to project success.


Successful projects are delivered on time and in budget, and successful project managers make it happen. While it sounds simple enough, this requires meticulous organization on a personal and professional level, careful planning in the early stages of the project and diligent tracking throughout each stage to measure progress. Project managers should be able to clearly outline a detailed schedule for the project, from the bigger pictures to the minute details.

Although the first three skills are highlighted specifically as the PMI Talent Triangle®, developing each skill will position project management professionals to thrive in the many opportunities. Employers and recruiters alike will expect to see these skills in future project managers to meet the growing complexity of projects along with the increased demand for professionals to manage them.



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