Project management leadership is critical for successful projects. A good project manager with excellent communication skills builds trust, influences engagement by the team, and creates a first-class environment of collaboration. Everyone has a different approach to a job, and if you’re looking to strengthen your skills and boost consistency, it helps to determine what kind of project manager you are.
There are several project management styles and each has its advantages and disadvantages in the smooth administration of your projects. Once you identify your personal style, you’ll be able to perfect your approach and better explain your methods in future interviews.
A visionary project leader is a supporter of establishing a shared vision for all team members. Goal-setting takes center stage along with cementing a strong sense of trust. They motivate individuals to apply their specific skills based on confidence as to how their specific role directly contributes to the project’s success.
The visionary style of project management instigates all team members to be more engaged and trusting in the leader’s vision for the future.
Implement this style to effectively communicate with team members. Frequently communicating project goals with the team will keep everyone engaged and trust you as a leader, feel empowered in determining the project vision and direction.
When introducing a new team member mid-project. Reiterating project goals on an ongoing basis keeps everyone on the same page and meeting project objectives in force.
Coercive managers are known to be tough, and some heads may butt as a result. They are demanding and have their best success when stepping in to fix a problem. This management style may be necessary when working with inexperienced teams who are otherwise unsure of what their expectations are. These managers allow the least amount of freedom, instead driving the project to completion according to their own immovable vision.
Use the coercive project management style to help employees learn and grow into more experienced professionals who can take the lesson and apply it into being more independent on future projects.
When you are tasked to fix or redo a broken process or improve a sub par deliverable to make it work or operate better. This is essentially try #2 and everything is under a microscope now, including budget, resources, and the timeline.
Also known as director or autocratic, authoritative project managers sit in the most comfortable chair, but are happy to listen to their teams. These managers possess the most knowledge, and will gladly inform their teams about the complexities of a project while mobilizing them towards a vision. They naturally command respect, and team members are glad to give it to them.
Employ an authoritative management style on projects that have a tight deadline, with highly technical needs in a controlled environment. Oversee and offer direct and clear directions, while providing corrective feedback, and overemphasizing expectations.
A large repeat client is asking for a high profile quick turnaround project for an upcoming event. Rein it in by providing specific direction and creating tasks with set due dates. Make the best use of the shortened time frame to make some decisions solo or with the support of leadership while keeping close track on what the team is doing at every moment.
Affiliative project managers are essentially phantoms. These managers deliver clear instructions and check in occasionally, allowing their teams to work at their desired pace. For projects that don’t have stiff deadlines with team members who have already proven mastery of their abilities, these managers are the glue that holds it all together. Characteristics of this style include empathy, building strong relationships, and fostering communication.
Use an affiliative management style if your goal is to increase team morale, minimize conflict, and maintain and strengthen trust.
When there is a need for a “project within a project.” For example, the request for a new logo design while updating a product brand would be a good opportunity to get the design team interacting amongst themselves, collaborating on ideas, and striving to outdo each other with their creative savvy.
Democratic managers are the best at empowerment. This management style is also known as participative. Democratic leaders recognize the strengths of their individual team members, and tend to trust their judgment when it comes to their area of expertise. While a democratic manager will gladly hold everyone together, they also offer a greater amount of freedom to their team members, who are generally motivated by the trust placed in them.
A democratic style is not great for all scenarios, but is good for creative teams. It’s an opportunity to instigate group discussions and encourage collaboration and joint input from all involved as valued.
A brainstorming session is needed for additional features to a creative deliverable. When members of a creative project have some form of ownership when ideating and producing creative content, they feel more motivated to contribute and solve problems together through a wide range of individual ideas.
Pace-setters are essentially human stopwatches. This leadership style promotes a high standard of performance with a focus on the completion of work as it relates to a desired timeline, and the most important thing is that the work is done efficiently.
When working on a complicated project, pace-setters tend to favor speed over quality. With simple projects that don’t involve many intricacies, a pace-setter does a good job of keeping everyone on track.
Use this project management style with legacy team members who are comfortable with and confident in their role for fast-paced work as it does not support morale, feedback, or mentoring.
The team is tasked with completing a major project quickly to meet a very quick and important deadline. As a PM, offer to roll up your sleeves and not only lead but participate in QA of deliverables to promote a high standard of performance.
The coaching style of project management encourages team members to develop their own capacity and become more effective project contributors. Coaching style project managers allow their team to change and learn while they are working together to complete a project.
A “try this” mentality is encouraged to find new ways of solving problems or improving existing processes. As a result, individual contributors develop long-term performance goals and areas of strength.
Use this style to assign an individual a work task with guidance that is challenging and pushes the comfort level so they learn something new, and advance skills and professional development.
When a junior team member turns in work late and puts a project behind schedule. A coaching style can help develop time management skills through additional training and improve the employee’s productivity.
The Best Style
No style is the best style overall. Different projects require different approaches, and some styles work better than others. Shifting styles constantly is not a viable option, because your team requires you to be thorough and consistent. If you’re coercive one day and affiliative the next day, you’ll only create confusion and diminish trust. Create a balance that will translate well across the team for the duration of the project.
A clear winner is any style that promotes positivity and gets the job done while keeping everyone happy and engaged. Some styles can dampen morale, so the more popular styles include visionary, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, and coaching.
The Bottom Line
The project management style you use to manage your team will likely shift somewhat based on what is required of the project. Are you usually relaxed and trusting of the team? Does the work ahead need a more strict and deadline-driven plan? Establishing your style and communicating it clearly is important to set expectations early on. Let people know well in advance what you value most in your team and what you understand is necessary for the project and team to be successful.
Gain a full understanding of all the different project management leadership styles and how to successfully apply them to help you decide which leadership style is best suited for you, your team, and the project. One thing that will never go out of style is a great project manager who cares about their team’s professional development, performance, conduct, and overall happiness with work. Engage and treat with respect always, and strive to be encouraging, motivating, and fair.
Whatever style you choose to use, placing it into the context that you’re a reliable leader that your team will easily be happy to follow is always the best strategy.
Featured Partners: Project Management Software
Whether your management style is one of these listed, or a mix, clear communications and shared expectations across the team are essential to project success. If you’re interested in learning more about top-rated project management software that keeps your team pointed in the right direction, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:
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