7 Communication Skills You Need to be an Effective Project Leader

31 Dec 2018 Posted in ⟨For Business Leaders⟩

There are many project managers out there who possess sound technical knowledge and organisational skills. But is that all you need to pull off a successful project? A true project leader requires more than that. A true project leader must be able to communicate effectively.

According to the Project Management Institute’s Essential Role of Communications Report, ineffective communication is the reason why one out of every five projects fail to meet the goals that were originally set out.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise since project managers are expected to guide a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders. Add in the fact that stakeholders often operate at different levels and locations around the world, it is clear how important effective communication really is.

But don’t just stop at being a good project manager. Be a project leader who guides teams to success by mastering these 7 communication skills today.


An effective project leader only talks when necessary. The rest of the time, they listen as this is the basis of understanding. Rather than pushing their own agendas, they ensure that they are just there for their team, absorbing and processing what their counterparts have to say, with an open mind.

Erik Anderson, senior project manager at the Swedish engineering firm, ÅF Technology ABa, describes the two-way nature of communications well in saying, “I liken good communication to a dance. Both partners must exchange and understand the signals sent.”


Strong project leaders are transparent in their communications. This keeps everyone on the same page and engenders trust as it is clear that there are no ulterior motives to hide.

“If people are excluded from conversations, they’re out of the loop and communication starts to fail. Tensions develop, inefficiencies happen, and people start feeling isolated and excluded.”Jon Lay, the founder of the design agency, Hanno

Although there are some conversations that should be kept private, a simple way to decide what should and should not be shared is to ask: why is this conversation not public to other people?


Effective project leaders do more than just manage work flows. They lead their team towards a vision (where are we heading?) and keep them inspired through purpose (why are we working on this project?).

This should not be a purely informational endeavour though. According to CIO consultant, Abbie Lundberg, the ancient art of storytelling – of using narratives – is integral to painting a clear picture of a vision and purpose that inspires teams to move forward and keeps everyone on track.


Great project leaders have the ability of turning the complex into smaller, achievable chunks of information or work. Whether it is visualising big data or communicating ideas simply and directly, project leaders ensure that their audience is able to understand their message as clearly as they do.

While this requires meticulous attention to detail, Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, once said –

“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

This clarity born from simplicity is evident in all of Apple’s products as well as Steve’s annual keynote presentations.


Business and IT differ not only in their goals and perspectives, but also in how they speak. While business executives may speak about ROI, those from IT often use words and jargon known only to the initiated. Project managers themselves are not immune to this either as they have their own lingo too.

An effective project leader must understand both how they, as project managers, and their audience speak. Having understood all sides of the equation, they can then choose how to communicate their message in a way that will be clear to all parties.

As a rule of thumb, the less jargon, the better.


Project leaders must be confident in their knowledge and abilities, and exude this in how they carry themselves to inspire trust amongst stakeholders.

While it may be tempting to act confident just through words, project leaders should be confident in totality, especially given that posture, body orientation, gestures and tone of voice all constitute communication as well. This can be achieved through self-awareness, preparation, a thorough understanding of the project at hand and communicating honestly.


As project teams are often a mashup of different departments, many comprise of people of different ages, cultures, genders as well as levels of education and experience. An effective project leader does not sit back and wait for the work to be completed by others, nor do they take sides. Instead, they are proactive in getting their hands dirty when necessary, and impartial – valuing the opinions and contributions of every team member. It is through this respect for all parties, that respect is earned by the project leader themselves.

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