What makes a good project manager

The traits that make a good project manager from top leaders and experts

Mark Trego
Feb 09, 2018

Like any creative position or other leadership role like CEO or director, it’s difficult to pinpoint what makes a good project manager. Unlike other roles, it isn’t one hundred percent based on education or experience or another measurable attribute. Project managers can vary in background, personality, communication style, and methodology.

good project manager

So, what makes a good project manager? Want to improve your project management skills? We did a little research and found the top common traits you can learn from.

Traits of a good project manager:

They provide a clear sense of structure

International capital project manager and author Rory Burke wrote “Project management can be defined as a way of developing structure in a complex project, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources and human behavior come together.” No matter which method or tools used, project managers main, core competency should be to be able to provide and maintain structure for projects whose other factors often change. A valuable project manager has systems and processes that provide a structure even times of extreme change and volatility for a team to maintain productivity and quick, organized communication. In the digital age, good communication and organization happens online. Try a project management organization tool like Hibox that covers all the functionalities you need for good structure like task management, company chat, and group video chats.

Good project managers are able to foresee problems.

Taking it back to a classic, Arnold Glasgow, Forbes and WSJ celebrated businessman, said “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” The most valuable project managers are ones that can predict problems ahead of time, thus saving time, money, stress, and employee trust. The best project managers know all areas regarding the project well enough and their own plan well enough to see where there may be problems unfolding down the line. And not only are they able to identify them, they are actively thinking of ways to avoid and mitigate them ahead of time. Over 90% of projects go over time and over budget because project managers are stuck dealing with unforeseen problems. Any project manager with this ability is worth more than the other 90%.

Good project managers don’t actually manage, they lead.

Decent project managers know how to manage others but great project managers lead in an all encompassing way that spans beyond just basic operations. Government and Fortune 500 management consultant Warren Bennis says  “The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.” Managers do the baseline: delegate work, check and measure progress, and delegate again. But truly valuable project managers are also focused on being inquisitive and involved. They analyze all the moving parts while being hands on with their team and as a result they are able to align strategy and motivate towards one goal convincingly for max productivity.

good project manager

Good project managers make plans actionable.

Companies, and especially project managers, undoubtedly have a meeting problem. There are constant, time-wasting meetings that take up unnecessary amounts of time but don’t translate to actual work. It’s easy to make plans, brainstorm ideas, and outline what you’d like to do but it takes good project managers to translate that to the work for the whole team necessary to get it done. Management expert Peter Drucker says, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” The more actionable a project manager can make conversation, the more successful and productive overall the team will be. It’s a seemingly simple goal but hugely important and rarely achieved.


Project management feels common sense from the outside and like a somewhat abstract skill, but it is incredibly difficult and those who have nailed down points like the ones mentioned above have likely proved their value. For clear structure, concentrated collaboration, and actionable communication, try Hibox with your team for project management.

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