10 Essential Skills of a Project Manager: What are they and why are they important?

What is Project Management?

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements as per PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition of PMI of USA

Importance of Project Management:

  • Helps the project manager achieve project objectives (set at the start of the project). These objectives are then aligned with the company’s strategic business objectives

  • Helps project manager to utilize resources optimally

  • Helps project manager to balance the triple constraints of Scope-Time-Cost by maintain Quality throughout the project life cycle.

Project Management process groups

PMP certification:

PMP certification exam is conducted by PMI of USA.

Who should apply?

  • Those who are performing their tasks as a manager and is responsible for all areas of the project for the entire life of the project.

  • Those who are leading and directing teams from different functions to deliver projects.

Benefits of PMP certification:

  • It is a widely recognized project management certification.

  • It has a worldwide recognition of your knowledge of Project Management.

  • It demonstrates a proof of your professional achievement.

  • Definitely helps improves the way you manage your projects.

  • Increases your marketability.

  • Shows your willingness to pursue growth.

  • Very much increases customer confidence as the customer feels his/her project is in safe hands.

  • It has a global value across various industries, verticals & companies.

10 Essential Project Management Skills:

Skill set is defined as a person’s abilities (capabilities and capacities) in a given area.

10 essential skills
1. Subject matter expert (SME):

Skill set definition: SME is an authority in a particular field and its recognition is achieved through a combination of education, experience and a lot of thought process that goes to understand that field.

As per project management definition, a project manager is managing his/her project by preparing an approach on how to execute, control and close his/her project. (S)He should have a sound knowledge of the organization project processes and procedures, so that they are applied and ensure compliance through regular audit process. The project managers -

  • Should use tools to track the project progress and communicate the progress or ‘health’ of their project to all the stakeholders

  • Should engage all their project stakeholders to ensure a successful completion of his project

  • Should balance the triple constraints of scope, time, cost and quality, where a change in any one would impact the other two, throughout the project

  • Should ensure realistic estimates are arrived at and not through gut feeling as there is high risk involved in gut feeling estimates

(S)He must have a good balance between managing and leading a project. 

A project manager has worked on many projects throughout his/her career. (S)He has the required experience and expertise in managing any kind of project irrespective of size, scale, complexity and nature. 

Since project manager is an SME his/her field of project management, it is one of the essential project management skills required.

2. Leadership:

Skill set definition: Leadership is an ability of an individual or a group of individuals to inspire, guide and motivate others in an organization

There is a common saying that "Leaders are born," but leadership can also be learned. Although it is a timeless discussion, we know that leadership is all about managing, motivating, and guiding the team to accomplish a definite goal.


It is not easy to motivate people and inspire them to act, as first of all, it is essential to have a clear vision with a strong strategy and an achievable road map. A leader possesses all of this. A leader always motivates team(s), serves them, coaches them and inspires teams throughout the project for a successful project completion. 

Leadership is one of the must-have essential project management skills required of a project manager to make steady and effortless progress in the project and in that process the company also moves ahead.

3. Communication:

Skill set definition: Communication helps in conveying or sharing ideas and feelings effectively.

Not all can communicate effectively. When managing projects, the project managers communicate with all their stakeholders upward (reporting to management), downward (motivating, guiding, delegating and getting work done from the team members) and side wards (discussing with peers). For effective and efficient communication in projects, a project manager is using various mechanisms such as written, spoken, formal or informal, through gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, through media. On some occasions (s)he also uses pictures, actions or specific choice of words.


Communication is never effective unless the person with whom you’re communicating understands what you’re trying to tell him. If a project manager cannot communicate the project progress effectively and efficiently then there would be gap between all the stakeholders, especially key stakeholders, and the project team. The stakeholders would never come to know the health of the project. 

A project manager must have and should possess excellent communications skills which is one of the essential project management skills required of a project manager.

4. Planning:

Skill set definition: Planning is a thinking skill where an individual will develop strategies and approach of how to do a particular assignment, an activity or a task.

In projects, developing a project schedule is creating a timeline, where all the activities to deliver the product are listed, sequenced, resources and durations are estimated. Whereas planning is developing an appropriate strategy and approach on “How” to execute, control and close the project. While answering “how” of the project the project manager also considers the “What”, “When”, “Why”, “Where” of the project.


Planning is paramount skill in project management. A project manager without planning skills would be helpless because nobody on the project would ever come to know about the direction in which project is heading. During planning a project manager should plan for risks, scope, cost, quality, procurement, communications, resources and stakeholder management.

Planning is one of the key project management skills required of a project manager.

5. Time management:

Skill set definition: Time management is the ability to use one's own time effectively or productively, mostly when you are at work. Time management applies to non-work-related activities also.

time management

Time management is managing of your own time as well as of others. This applies to project the most, because every project has a fixed start date and a fixed end date. The project managers should look at how to utilize their time, team members’ time and also their stakeholders time. Everybody’s time is important and we have to complete the project with eight hours of work every day.

Time management is identifying almost all of the project activities needed to deliver the product and developing a realistic schedule.  

Time-management is one of the essential project management skills that helps project managers in doing the right thing.

6. Cost management:

Skill set definition: Cost management is a process planning, spending and controlling the budget of a project

Cost management is the skill to plan, spend and keep things within the budget, provided to the project manager by the project sponsor. It is important that everyone involved in the project should control the costs because if you have budget then you will be able to complete the project without any delays.

It is very important to keep the spending within the budget. It is very difficult to do so though. Project manager cannot control everyday expenses on the project which are already planned to develop the product. But (s)he and her/his team must work towards controlling defect repair, error correction, avoid rework, optimal usage of resources, etc.

Hence cost management is one of the essential project management skills required of a project manager.

7. Risk management:

Skill set definition: Risk management is identifying, analysing, planning risk responses and controlling risks

A project manager should plan for every possible known risk on the project. Risks can occur anytime during the life of the project. It is important to pay attention to these risks by documenting preventive measures (risk responses in project management terms) well in advance so that the losses can be avoided and/or reduced to a larger extent.

It is important in risk management to identify potential risks before they occur so that risk response activities should be planned and implemented across the life of the project to respond to the risks.

This will help the project manager to control adverse impacts on achieving objectives.

risk management

Risk management skill is one of the key project management skills required of a project manager. as risk is for every aspect of the project such as scope, time, cost, quality, resources, communications, procurement and stakeholders.

8. Conflict resolving:

Skill set definition: Conflict resolving is a process involved in facilitating a peaceful ending of conflict

Conflicts are inevitable. A project manager can help reduce or resolve the conflicts but cannot totally eliminate it. The ability to resolve conflicts depends largely upon the environment, the stress level and most importantly, willingness to resolve it. 

For a project manager it is very important to maintain harmony among the project team. If the project environment is stressful then all the project faces a lot of resistance from all stakeholders throughout the project.

In projects, large part of work hours is lost in resolving conflicts because it takes up project time. But if a project manager can document methods wherein employees can resolve the conflicts or before a conflict arises in the minds of the project team members then a large amount of project work hours would be saved.

Conflict resolving is one of the very essential project management skills required of a project manager.

9. Adaptability:

Skill set definition: Adaptability is adjusting to new conditions

We are currently in an era of evolution. Changes are happening everyday at the blink of an eye. Business, environment, industry, technology, systems are all changing and the effects of failing to adapt to these changes are very high and uncontrollable. 


Adaptability is all about adjusting to these changes at a faster pace. Any delay would further incur large losses to the organization. 

Project managers need to understand that different methodologies for managing projects are evolving at an alarming rate. Project managers need to adopt to what is necessary at their earliest else they will regret later.

10. Negotiation:

Skill set definition: Negotiation is a process by which people settle their differences

Project management often brings together a different group of people with competing interests. Project manager is responsible is to get these people with different interests on the same page so that (s)he can accomplish project goals. 

At any point of time during the project a project manager is negotiating for support from senior management or for resources from his/her peers or with vendors and suppliers or with clients there are always varied interests that we need to try and align. A project manager must be an excellent negotiator.

It is necessary that project managers invest their time to understand stakeholders’ needs and interests in the project to move the projects forward. Failure to do this will lead to project failure. This time that is invested will help the project managers to negotiate resources, budgets for change requests and schedules. Project managers who are experienced and successful know how to compromise and when to put their foot down without disturbing their workplace relationships.

The key to successful negotiating is a “win-win” situation for all parties involved. All parties must be happy with their take-aways.

Negotiating is one of the essential project management skills required of a project manager.


All the project management skills mentioned above are essential skills required of a good project manager to achieving project objectives and a successful completion of the project. A project manager may be good in most of the skills while (s)he may have to improve some by making a conscious effort in improving those skills.

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Nitin S Gokhale