Project Leaders and Project Managers Key Differences

Project Leaders and Project Managers at first glance, may have the same meaning. However, if you dig deeper, some significant differences between project leaders and project managers are essential for you to understand.

In general, a project leader can become a project manager. Still, as a project manager is quite challenging to become a project leader.

According to John C. Maxwell in “The 360 Degree Leader”, managers (managers) work with processes, while leaders (leaders) work with people.

John Paul Kotter added that the scope of management work includes planning, budgeting, organization, human resources, control, and problem-solving resolution.

Besides that, according to him, leadership has worked such as determining the direction of the project, directing the team, and providing motivation to the team.

Project Leaders Jobs Overview

As projects grow more complex, organizations may realize that it takes more than one project manager to drive the success of their project, namely the project leader.

The reason is that the project leader can understand the significant picture dynamics that affect the project agenda and is quick to issue a recommendation to stop the project if the future goes against the organization’s strategy.

Launching, a project leader is a professional who leads people and keeps projects running.

As stated above, the project leader’s scope is about team involvement, motivation, addressing team needs, and maintaining a healthy and productive work environment.

The roles and responsibilities of project leaders include:

1. Developing project plans, timelines and budgets

2. Identifying and managing project risks

3. Coordinating and communicating with project team members and stakeholders

4. Managing project scope, timelines and deliverables

5. Monitoring project progress and making adjustments as necessary

6. Ensuring project quality and delivering results within the given budget and on time

7. Managing and motivating project teams to achieve project goals

8. Continuously monitoring and reporting on project progress to stakeholders

Project Managers Overview

According to PMBOKĀ® GUIDE Sixth Edition, a project manager is a person assigned by an organization to lead a team responsible for achieving project goals.

The role of the project manager itself is different from that of the functional manager or operations manager. Generally, available managers focus on providing management oversight for functional or business units.

Whereas the operations manager is responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of the company.

Launching, a project manager cultivates the people skills needed to develop trust and communication among all project stakeholders.

From the sponsor (who will utilize the project results and determine the resources to be used) to the project team.

A project manager also has other duties and responsibilities, including:

1. Starting a project is like checking feasibility and working out a budget, team and resources.

2. Carry out planning that includes setting goals and objectives, determining roles and scheduling tasks to suit client needs

3. Lead and motivate the project team and stakeholders

4. Manage the project, which includes coordinating the project team to keep them on track and keep the project on budget

5. Perform monitoring and control activities to track project progress

6. Identify and manage risks to ensure projects are on time

7. Implement the necessary changes during the project process

8. Make regular reports to management and clients

9. Evaluate successes and challenges to enhance learning for future projects.

Project Leaders and Project Managers Key Differences

According to Forbes, there are 5 differences between Project Leaders and Project Managers, let’s see together!

1. Project Managers The Organizer, Project Leaders The Motivator

The Project Manager is responsible for coordinating and keeping the team organized and preventing potential risks and bottlenecks. That’s why they must be more analytical and detailed in their work.

Meanwhile, the Project Leader is more focused on the big picture of the project. Their goal is to create a vision around the project that will motivate team members to increase their performance.

2. Project Leaders The Planner, Project Managers The Problem Solver

The project leader is a strategist and always has high innovation. Meanwhile, the project manager is bound by a schedule and precise task details to solve a problem. They have to manage any unforeseen issues that may arise during the process.

3. Project Managers Focus on Tasks, Project Leaders Focus on Team

Project leaders are the same as project managers; they also want to achieve achievements. However, the project leader still wants to find ways to improve team performance and set team goals.

In this case, they try to create the best working atmosphere for the entire project

4. Project Leader Supports, Project Managers Directs

The project leader focuses on building a good emotional connection with the team through empathy, sympathy, motivation and feedback.

The goal is to influence and ensure each team member aligns their personal interests and goals with those of the team and the project.

Unlike the project leader, the project manager directs the team members and assigns them different tasks depending on the problems and needs that may arise during the project.

They can demand that the team complete their work quickly and precisely because they are responsible for maintaining the timeline.

5. Project Manager Maintans Satus Quo, Project Leaders Set The Goals

The Project Manager’s goal is to maintain the status quo and ensure everything goes according to plan. That’s why they are specialists, and their attention is focused on technical and logistical issues.

In contrast, Project Leaders are always thinking ahead and setting goals. They strive to find new ways of doing things. They also motivate the team to innovate and continuously improve. The goal is to create positive change and efficiency.

How Important Are These Roles?

The role of the project manager and project leader, which are considered quite important, is based on this. A project manager is basically a technician.

They focus primarily on solving problems and ensuring the correct and effective functioning of all processes in the project. This is to ensure they earn and maintain the trust of all project stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the role of the project leader goes beyond just the project management mechanism. They are faced with becoming strategists, setting project directions, aligning, and motivating teams.

They need to develop people-oriented skills because they aim to influence the team to achieve project goals in a way that meets or exceeds expectations.

Thus, the constant presence and motivation of the project leader can improve the performance of team members and encourage them to have innovative ideas.


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