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Project Management Leadership Styles

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 1/2/2011

You may have the title of manager but what is your project management leadership style? Are you forceful, determined, opinionated, or feared? Surprisingly, there are many project management leadership styles and no style fits all projects.

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    Management Styles Defined

    The Big Boss by 0108 Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of the 1995 bestseller Emotional Intelligence, defined project management styles as follows:

    • Authoritative – A manager who falls under this style has a vision and is happy to share it with their team. They encourage and allow staff and team members to collaborate on project. An authoritative manager is project-knowledge-full and their teams notice and respect that knowledge. They recognize individual contributions and encourage strengths.
    • Coercive – Many managers who work with junior teams use the coercive style. Some team members often view this as a dictator type style; however, the project manager’s strengths are essential in outlining an entire project, setting the project scope, and monitoring the project to the end. Little input is allowed from junior associates with this management strategy. Project managers who use this style should be careful only to use it when team members have inadequate knowledge, education or drive to complete projects collaboratively.
    • Democratic – A project manager who does not lead or guide at all falls under this project management leadership style. Consider a football team without a coach or an art class lacking an instructor and you have the gist of this style. Because of the democracy atmosphere, all project team members are allowed input, which can often lengthen the time of the project. An upside to this style is employee morale.
    • All For One & One For All – A manager with the all for one and one for all management style is likely found in microbial community project management. People are encouraged to work at their own pace and use individual creativity. Managers of Gen X and Y often fall into this category because of the way they define how work and projects balance within their lifestyle, a strong trait of Gen Y and X. Too little guidance or supervision, however, can deter or lengthen the project and its goals.
    • Pacesetter – While one would think a pacesetter would reward and offer clear goals to get the job done, this is not the case. Pacesetters expect the highest standards from their teams and will often terminate the weak. Managers who utilize this style should expect a lot of stress within teams.
    • The Team Leader – A strong coaching trait and patience appears in managers who utilize the team leader style. They are experts in risk management and change control skills because of their encouraging personality, even through downturns or failures.
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    Which Management Style Is Best?

    If you search for project management leadership styles on the Internet, almost every expert agrees that no management style is able to fit all projects. Unfortunately, managers who are unable to be flexible, trustworthy, open, and inspiring may have a combination of the varying traits of management styles with no clear definition to guide a team.

    An effective manager realizes the need for change in styles and adapts the correct style to the team or project goal. Manager that fall claim to many complaints to upper management from team members should reevaluate their manager goals and consider further project management certifications to help improve their careers.

    If you’re a manager lacking any project management leadership style, seek help from a mentor, enroll in management seminars, and work on gaining respect with team members, stakeholders, and upper management. Also, be sure to check out Bright Hub's other detailed articles on leadership styles.

    While no project management leadership style may be the best style, each should be considered when tackling projects. As Daniel Goleman pointed out, a manager should consider the project and then select an effective style, or “choose the correct club for the shot,” to bring projects to successful completions.