We often say that someone is a “born leader.” Or you argue so well, you need to become a lawyer when you grow up – see the next paragraph… But are project managers pre-disposed to be project managers? Is it something they are born with? Something they grow up to be? Something they are pushed into unwillingly? Maybe all three?
I realize that so many people who show characteristics that should lend themselves well to one profession often end up in a completely unrelated profession. My parents always told me I should grow up to be a lawyer because I always needed to have the last word and I was very good at arguing a point. But, as you can tell, that didn’t end up being the case.
Let’s look at what I consider to be a few key characteristics of the most successful project managers…
The project manager must be an organized person. I realize just like the successful carpenter or building contractor who’s own house remodeling may never get finished, how one conducts themselves at home may not translate to the business world and vice versa. I really can’t honestly say that I’m a very organized person at home or in my daily life. However, when it comes to managing projects, I consider myself extremely organized and thorough and I believe my project team members would tell you that as well.
Excellent communication skills
Project managers must be good communicators. I’ve always said that I think this is the #1 responsibility of the project manager. If a project manager isn’t a good communicator, then they’re not likely going to be project managers for very long. This characteristic, however, isn’t just for project managers – this characteristic is a good one to have in just about any profession and is usually a key one to have if you intend to get noticed, advance, or obtain any kind of leadership position.
A proven and strong leader
There’s no question that project managers must be strong leaders. We’re often required to manage 5-6 or more very different personalities and character types on a project and to bring the team cohesively together and working toward common goals requires a strong leader. Again, I’ve seen many project managers who where not outspoken leaders in their every day lives become very successful project managers with a propensity toward leadership.
A stubborn decision-maker
Last, but not least, project managers need to be stubborn decision makers. I can personally attest that in this case personal life experience doesn’t always translate into professional characteristics. With a good argument, I can be swayed in the decisions I make personally, but I try not to waver in my PM decisions. I listen to my team, gather information, etc., but once I make a decisions that I believe is right, I stick to it unless I ultimately realize based on new information that a different path should be taken.
These are just a few that I consider to be key characteristics – I realize there are many more. But these are some key, high-level characteristics. It is obvious, based on my discussions above, that I really don’t think we are pre-disposed to be project managers. Many of us are pre-disposed to be strong leaders or have other key PM characteristics, but many of these traits translate well into many different professions.
What about our readers? What’s your take? Are PMs born, raised, fall into the profession through luck or divine intervention, or are they pushed into it by management? Or several of the above? How did you get here?