Effective Project Manager: 4 Crucial Characteristics

crucial characteristics of project manager

Many years ago, I came out of a rather difficult appraisal discussion thinking to myself, “what is that makes project managers produce amazing results?”

That incidence started a quest to look for those crucial characteristics that make one an ‘effective’ project manager. An ‘effective’ project manager who produces successful results more often than not.

Download a free infographic at the end of this post.

While there are many, the 4 characteristics that I consider crucial for an effective project manager are here. The core project management knowledge and soft-skills are of course a given, and hence not called out here.

An effective project manager can turn around a failing project, get customers to see her point of view, get her team deliver during the times of critical delivery, get that promotion during performance appraisal – she can do what is required, when it is required and how it is required.

An effective project manager can make everyone she interacts with – customer, team, support staff, manager, executive management – get the feeling of comfort that she has their best interests in mind and can help them reach their goal.

For these reasons,

1. Dependability is crucial for an effective project manager.

Now, we all know that 90% of time of a project manager is spent on Communication related activities.

It could be verbal or written, internal or external, presentation or persuasion, up the hierarchy or with subordinates, with peers or with support groups, official meetings or over-the-tea conversations, proposal or casual email – effective communication is really the key to success.

A project manager must be able to put across her ideas effectively, persuade, motivate, educate, correct, and interact with stakeholders.


2. Good Communication would be a crucial characteristic to have for a PM.

Have you admired someone you know handling a crisis situation with a calmness that almost is unnerving?

On February 5th 2009, a U.S. Airways flight Airbus A320 carrying 155 passengers and crew had bird hits near LaGuardia airport and both engines were rendered useless under 4 minutes of taking off.

What the pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger did next was unimaginable.

Listen to the conversation leading up what he did, the calmness of the pilot under crisis is striking.

Crisis management needs a lot of maturity on the part of project manager, in addition to experience and knowledge. A typical project will have many crisis situations to handle.

What helps is the subject matter knowledge, in my opinion – a project manager who became one from being a software developer or technical architect, for instance, will understand the crisis situation better and can deploy her resources effectively to manage the situation than a pure-play project manager.


3. Ability to manage crisis is another crucial characteristic of a project manager.

Have you ever worked for a ‘serious looking’ manager?

We need not be very serious in life, no one got out alive anyway.

Humor at workplace can be a blessing. 

It peps a team member feeling blue, makes life easier when team is stretching during times of project delivery, makes constructive criticism palatable, builds trust and friendship, wins over adversaries, and increases productivity. The last one probably is crucial from executive management’s perspective. 🙂

Sherryl Savage in her research report indicates this quite effectively, as –

The Blumenfeld and Alpern (1994) on “Humor at Work” provides the following data: In a recent survey of business executives and deans of business schools, 62% of the deans responding to the survey said they  felt that humor contributed to executive success; and nearly all the CEOs who responded felt that humor has an important role to play in the conduct of business, helping to keep business healthy. (1999, p.7)

What if you do not consider yourself to be a humorous person?

While to a certain amount humor is something that can be cultivated with some effort, you can use this strategy – while interviewing people for your project keep sense of humor as one of stealth-criteria for selection! Having someone in the team who can see the funny side of a situation and crack humor can do a world of good to the team.

Hence, it goes without saying that,

4. Sense of Humor can do wonders to a project manager’s career.

These are the characteristics that I consider are crucial (not necessarily in the same order) for an effective project manager.

While some of these characteristics might be hard to cultivate (ability to manage crisis effectively, for instance) others can be developed.

The easiest way to develop some of the characteristics?

Surround yourself with people you want to be like.

There may be many other characteristics you have discovered to be crucial for a project manager. What are they, I’d love to hear from you.

(image courtesy alles-schlumpf)

Download Infographic: 4 Crucial Characteristics of effective project manager

effective project manager

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