Introduction to “Leadership in Project Man

Developing Leadership Skills in Accordance with the PMI Talent Triangle®

If you have a PMI certification, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP)®, you know how critical leadership skills are. For one, you must learn leadership techniques and styles for the PMP exam. And on the job, a good project manager both leads and manages.

Project Management Institute (PMI) recently updated the Talent Triangle to reflect today’s workplace. First, the Strategic and Business Management standard evolved into Business Acumen. Next, technical Project Management became Ways of Working. Finally, Power Skills replace Leadership.

This post focuses on leadership in project management related to the PMI Triangle®. First, we’ll explain what qualities a leader should have. Then, we’ll explain how these skills can advance your career. Finally, you’ll find out where you can earn power skills PDUs (Professional Development Units).

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The Role of Leadership in Project Management

What do leaders in project management do? What is their role? To succeed as a leader in project management, your role is to:

  • Lead the team and guide them
  • Manage resources for the project
  • Manage and anticipate the risks
  • Determine appropriate risk response strategies
  • Assign project work based on their roles, strengths, and weaknesses

When there is a lack of leadership, the team becomes less productive and loses cohesion. This type of dysfunction leads to below-average results or even project failure. Each dysfunction builds on top of the other. PMI lists five dysfunctions:

Absence of trust: A project manager with no direction loses workers’ confidence. Who wants to follow a leader with no vision?

Fear of conflict: If the team cannot trust the project manager, then they won’t speak up. Some people feel that bringing up an opposing viewpoint could mean getting in trouble or losing their jobs. Others may think doing so gets them nowhere. So, why bother?

Lack of commitment: People who feel unheard don’t fully commit themselves to the project. There’s no reason to put much effort into something when you don’t feel like a contributor. It’s best to do the bare minimum.

Avoidance of accountability: If the team doesn’t care about the project, they won’t take responsibility for mistakes. Why put oneself in the spotlight? After all, everyone is happy to fly under the radar. Good project management requires everyone to be accountable for the tasks they do.

Inattention to results: This last dysfunction in project management results from all the above. People on a team who have lost motivation will focus on themselves. Their personal goals become more important than the team’s goals. After all, why worry about results when the project never had a direction? Isn’t it smarter and less frustrating to put effort into something else?

Leadership Qualities a Project Manager Should Possess

Successful project managers know their leadership skills should complement their project management skills. Below are the leadership qualities a project manager should have to lead a team effectively.

  • A clear vision and the ability to communicate it effectively: A project manager needs to see the big picture, assess risks, and make decisions accordingly. And a good leader knows the importance of communicating the vision to the team.
  • Balancing stakeholder needs and team ability: As a project management leader, you know the demands of the stakeholders; however, you also understand your team’s capabilities and available resources. A good leader can balance the needs of stakeholders with the team’s abilities. They can have strategies to deliver good results while keeping team morale up.
  • Self-confidence and trusting their instincts: Whether you need to make a fast decision or resolve a conflict between two teammates, there are times when you should listen to your gut. The skills you have gained from your PMP certification provide you with a solid foundation to fall back on. And don’t forget all your work and life experience. A project leader is self-confident to get their team out of a tricky spot.
  • Enthusiasm: Would you want to work for a project leader with a negative attitude? Probably not. See, leaders lead by example. So, if you want your team to be enthusiastic about a project, you must also be. Plus, enthusiasm rubs off on people. It’s how fitness instructors, the most enthusiastic leaders, get people off the couch!
  • Respect for teammates and co-workers: Do you remember the first dysfunction of a team? It’s a lack of trust. Many times, this stems from a lack of respect. Treating people right makes your job as a leader easier. If people like and respect you back, they will want to work with you. The result is that the whole team is more productive.
  • Saying No: Project leaders must work well with many people but cannot be people pleasers. If a stakeholder wants to add parts to the project or change a crucial role, it is your job to say no. For many people, this is difficult and awkward. If that’s you, this may be a leadership skill to work on and practice.
  • Knowing when and how to adapt to changes: Not everything happens according to plan. Therefore, a project manager must adjust as things unfold. If one piece of the project changes, a successful project manager has strategies to adjust and adapt.

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Leadership Responsibilities in Project Management

An effective project manager possesses both leadership and management skills. Therefore, responsibilities can be divided into leadership and management responsibilities. As you can imagine, management responsibilities are the nitty-gritty everyday things such as:

  • Planning the overall program and monitoring the progress
  • Managing budget, risks, paperwork, and stakeholder communications
  • Setting deadlines and schedules for tasks
  • Assigning personnel to certain parts of the project

Leadership responsibilities in project management make the “management” part of “project management” easier.

Focusing on the people: It’s easy to get sucked into the details of project managing. Sometimes, you forget that there are human beings on the other end of the workflow ticket. A good leader focuses on the people on the team, considering their different personalities. A good example would be scheduling meetings at a time that works well for all members of the team and considers team members’ work schedules.

Delegating work: As a project leader, you cannot do everything yourself. Delegating work is one part assigning tasks and one part trusting that people will do their jobs.

Establishing trust and relationships: What does trust look like? Trust is building on your relationships with people on your team and knowing they’ll get things done. There’s no need to check up on them constantly because you know them. A team member who works later might not start something until 4 pm, but an early-bird leader trusts that things will get done (even after hours).

Articulating a vision: It is easier to sail past rough spots when people can see the vision they are working for. A project management leader must paint the team’s vision, so everyone understands their role.

Creating change: Leaders are always looking for ways to improve how the team does things. Your team doesn’t have to live with a redundant process that has outlived its usefulness. A good project management leader will find new strategies to improve productivity.

Using influence: Change is difficult for people, especially when they’re used to “how we’ve always done things.” A good leader uses interpersonal skills, the relationships they’ve built, and the trust they’ve fostered to influence the team.

Taking some risks: A project management leader has a vision and drives the team towards it. Sometimes, to get there, one must take some risks. While managers are focused on doing things right, a leader takes risks to do the right thing.

How Can Power Skills Advance Your Career?

Why would a project manager want to work on their leadership skills? After all, project managers can get the job done by managing things well, right? Yes, good management skills are the basic requirements for a project manager. But leadership skills improve team performance. It’s one thing to assign tasks to people. It’s another to inspire them to go above and beyond the bare minimum.

How well you do your job is based on your team’s performance. Having various leadership techniques makes you a more confident leader. Project management is a bit like coaching a football team. The coach uses different techniques to coach up his players. At the end of the season, his performance depends on how many games the players won. Leadership skills help you “win” more games. And when promotion time comes around, you want skills that set you apart from the everyday manager.

Learning Leadership Skills

Leadership is both an innate and learned skill. Some people are born with natural leadership abilities.  Others need to practice leadership in project management. Your leadership style in project management is what you will develop over time as you acquire leadership skills. The Power Skills section of the PMI Talent Triangle is a way to demonstrate this learned skill.

Leadership PDUs

To keep your PMP certification active, you will need at least 8 PDUs in the Power Skills section of the PMI Talent Triangle®. Professional Development Units or PDUs are continuing education credits. One PDU equals one hour of a class or activity. There are many ways to earn power skills PDUs, including online classes and conferences. For the PMP® certification, you will 60 PDUs every three years to keep it active. Keep in mind that these requirements change depending on the certification you hold.

The purpose of continuing education is to make sure you stay current on what skills employers look for. And yes, these skills include leadership skills! Some of the skills you’ll learn while earning Power Skills PDUs include:

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Communication
  • An innovative mindset
  • For-purpose orientation
  • Empathy
  • Servant Leadership

Where Can I Acquire Power Skills PDUs?

Project Management Academy (PMA) is a PMI Premier Authorized Training Partner (ATP). The classes you take from us will count towards any PMP PDU requirements you need to meet. We offer many ways for you to get your PMI PDU leadership credits. If you enjoy working at your own pace, Club PDU, our course catalog, has many videos on demand. No need to open a book! There’s even an annual subscription that gives you access to all the newest lessons, classes, and videos we create.

PMA offers live training PMP PDU classes for those who want the expertise provided by taking a course with a live instructor. These are instructor-led training and interactive Q&A sessions. And you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to earn these PDUs. Most of our training classes are offered in a virtual format! These live classes are also pre-approved by PMI as PDU trainings. You’ll be automatically approved once you put in a claim with PMI for PDU credits when taking one of our pre-approved courses. In addition, you can browse our course schedule to see if any leadership classes interest you.


You need impeccable management and leadership skills to reach your potential as a project manager. The former keeps you organized and lets you manage the day-to-day tasks of a project. The latter enhances the type of manager you are. Instead of being just organized, power skills allow you to stay organized and be inspiring. With the number of PDU classes that Project Management Academy offers, you will have no problems finding courses to hone those leadership skills. Plus, these continuing education courses allow you to keep your PMI certifications up to date. Sign up for an instructor-led or self-directed, on-demand course today and earn those PDU credits!

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO