7 Personal Qualities That You'll Need
to Be a Successful Project Manager
(and How to Develop Them)

See also: Project Planning

Project managers provide an invaluable service in all sorts of situations, holding together teams of disparate people and giving them the framework within which collaboration and productivity can flourish.

Some people are right for this type of role because of the personal qualities that they either possess innately or have worked hard to develop.

Let’s look at the most important examples of the skills and abilities you need to succeed as a project manager and talk about what is involved in acquiring them.

Woman managing a project.

Excellent self-study skills

To get ahead in this field, you’ll need to get certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and to do that you have to pass an exam.

If your ability to study in a structured and disciplined way is not up to scratch, then it’s worth checking out this ultimate study plan to achieve PMP certification.

Recognizing your weaknesses is the first step to minimizing them, and using study aids and schedules is a great example of how this concept can be put into practice.

Compelling communication capabilities

Much of the job of managing projects revolves around communicating with others, whether in a one-on-one situation at an in-person meeting, as part of group discussions where multiple parties are involved online or off, and even via written mediums like email and instant messaging.

Learning to communicate effectively is as much about gaining practical experience as it is about undergoing training courses in this subject, although of course, you’ll be able to make improvements quicker if you’ve got specific instructions and advice to follow.

Managing motivation across entire teams

This feeds into being a good communicator but applies specifically to the act of working as a motivator in a project so that other team members make the greatest attempts to optimize their own contributions.

A lot of this comes down to recognizing and celebrating the input of everyone who’s contributing to a project. If people feel that their work is valued, they’ll be more likely to go the extra mile.

It’s also necessary to understand that not everyone is motivated in the same way. Some respond well to regular praise, while others prefer a different approach. It’s the role of the project manager to develop motivation skills so that they learn the difference and act accordingly.

Getting to grips with this skill can be tricky, and it’s sensible to learn from an experienced project manager, watching how they handle their motivational duties and what they do to cater to the unique needs of team members.


Decision-making skills are what separate adequate project managers from truly good ones. Every day you’ll have to make all sorts of choices that may be pivotal to the trajectory the project takes, and you need to be able to decide on the appropriate course forward, or else delays and outright derailment may arise.

A lot of good decision-making is not about being quick to react when presented with a choice but about being prepared for this scenario in advance and already having a plan in place to tackle it.

Context is key as well, and you also need to be willing to study the results of your decisions and see whether the outcome was satisfactory or not so that you can improve when facing conundrums further down the line.

Keeping a level head

There’s no way around the reality of working as a project manager, which usually involves high-pressure scenarios and looming deadlines that you are partly or wholly responsible for hitting.

Because of this, you cannot afford to have your feathers ruffled by even the smallest issue or the most minor amount of stress in the workplace.

Things can and will go wrong, and it’s vital for project managers to respond in a measured way rather than making things worse through their response or lack of it.

This is perhaps why top-tier project managers are comparatively rare and sought-after. It’s a job that needs you to be both a people person and a technically minded pragmatist. Such skill sets are not always combined naturally, and so using training and experience to develop and merge them is a must if you want to crack the upper echelons of this profession.

Being accountable

In every project, mistakes will be made. Admitting to your own missteps rather than blaming others, and taking lessons from things that go wrong rather than dismissing them as pure bad luck, will make you a better project manager than most.

Accountability goes hand in hand with professional integrity, and ultimately these are the qualities that all good leaders must covet and nurture.

For some of us, that means having to work to overcome our natural instinct to deflect blame elsewhere. And of course, it’s useful to know if this is simply not in your wheelhouse and never will be. There’s only so far that personal and professional development will go.

Demonstrating empathy

This is another skill that’s adjacent to the one just discussed. In this case, empathetic project managers are able to see things from the perspective of other team members and adapt their behavior and decisions accordingly.

This empathy should also be applied to each project as a whole, encompassing the different moving parts and the people involved at every level.

A good way to develop empathy if you feel this is an area you need to work on is to make sure that you’re getting feedback from the people you work alongside and reflecting on what they say about your performance to better understand the viewpoints others bring to the table.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

In a nutshell

You cannot expect to become a superstar project manager without putting in the hours, being aware of your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and studying how other specialists in this field go about their roles.

Time and effort are required to succeed and thrive in project management, and the rewards for making this commitment will be worth the winding journey involved.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.