7 Habits of True Project Leaders: Intro and First Habit

Our last posts discussed how failure is not an option for projects, and the way to avoid failure is through perfect planning and flawless execution. This series will cover the deeply ingrained habits a project leader needs to instill the discipline necessary to make project failure obsolete.

When organizations seek talent for project leadership positions, they often focus on the experience and hard skills that make them qualified for the position. While these qualities are fundamental, they’re the minimum price of admission to the Project Manager club. What separates qualified project managers from truly great project leaders are the leadership skills that do not show up on a resume.

Rather than highlighting some general characteristics, we will demonstrate the seven habits that a project manager needs to consistently exhibit.

And then there is the question of nature versus nurture. Are successful project managers naturally gifted, or are they put in favorable situations? We will also cover how your organization can nurture project leaders to put them in the best position to succeed.


The entire basis of the project stems from its charter. The charter starts with the “why” and “how” of the project. That is, the objectives/problem statement and the solution to that problem. When you get specific with the problems, you can be specific with the solutions. From there, you get the tasks. And once you have the tasks, you can map the skills needed. This in turn will serve as the basis for the people and effort necessary to perform the project.

So every aspect of the project manager’s job has its roots in the project charter. Just having the technical skills and experience to draft a charter isn’t the measure. It’s the solid, detailed approach to the problem that gives roots strong enough to support everything that stems and branches from that, or else the project will topple.

Many times a propensity for weak project charters is engrained in the culture itself. Many organizations have low standards for project charters, or view them as optional altogether, and a true project leader won’t stand for this.

Nurture: The organization needs a standard in place and it needs to comply with that standard. Just as importantly, is using it as intended rather than just going through the motions to tick the boxes. The parts that often get glossed over are measurable objective, Cost Benefit Analysis, and monitoring that it is kept up-to-date with the changing business environment all the way through execution.

Click here to read Habit #2: Demands a Strong Architect.