The Most Critical Skill for Project Success

Early in 2011, I ran a survey on social media and through several webinars that I presented to PMI Communities of practices and the top skill that kept coming up as most critical for project success is “Leadership Skills”. Now, I’ve always wondered why most organizations focus so much on developing technical project management skills while they spend little to no time developing the leadership skills of their project managers – lifting the lid on their leadership effectiveness.

Recently, while spending some time reflecting on the subject, the answer came to me…

Dealing with people and their emotions can be messy… People are unpredictable.

That’s it. That’s the answer.

Project Team Leadership and Project Management

However if we take a closer look at  the matter, we’ll realize that the uncertainty and messiness is all the more reason we should focus on developing leadership skills more than most organization currently do. We don’t need leadership because of certainty. We need leadership because of uncertainty. 

Most companies and Project Management training organizations choose not to focus much attention on developing leadership skills because it’s much more difficult to teach than technical skills. I believe this mindset is due to the myth that leaders are born and not made.

To the contrary, leadership is a teachable skill. While some people are born with talents that enhance their leadership abilities, you can learn to lead. Learning to lead might be out of your comfort zone but it is within your reach.

“75 percent of organizations rank project manager leadership skills as most important for the successful navigation of complexity in projects.” (2013 Pulse of the Profession)

As reported by the “2013 Pulse of the Profession” report published by PMI, 80 percent of project managers and organizations surveyed said that leadership skills is the most important skills for successfully managing projects. The report continues, “when organizations focus their attention on developing the leadership, strategic and business management skills of their project managers, they are more than twice as likely to succeed.”

As messy as leadership can be, it is a critical factor to project success. We cannot ignore it. The PM Leadership Coach organization exists solely for that reason – training project managers to help them increase their influence and drive better, quality results through their team by developing their leadership and communication skills.

So, over to you now. What has been your experience? What do you believe is the most important skills to project success?

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