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A project requires the help of many people, coming in and out of the workflow as needed, to ensure every task gets completed and the project is a success.

Project managers look after the well being of the project and keep things on track, but who looks after the well being of the team responsible for that project? Enter project team leaders. 

Project team leaders (PTLs) play a vital role in ensuring the smooth operation of a project.

They’re responsible for leading and coordinating the work of a team of employees, and ensuring that deadlines are met and projects are completed on time. PTLs differ from project managers (PMs) in several key ways, including their focus on teambuilding and their emphasis on communication. 

In this article, I’ll discuss the role of a project team leader and how they function as part of the greater project management team.

Project leadership is essential for efficient teams and ultimately a successful project, and having the right people in each important role is a key part of the success.

What Is A Project Team Leader?

Every team needs a leader. 

A project team leader is a leader and manager of a team responsible for carrying out the tasks necessary to complete a given project.

They’re focused on bringing the project to completion on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards, all while ensuring that the well being of the team is prioritized. Project team leaders are essential to motivating the project team and keeping the workflow going.

Their day to day typically involves hiring new team members, training them, and tracking performance. They use their leadership skills to solve problems as they arise and bring teams together to complete their goals.

A project team leader works closely with their team members and other stakeholders in order to ensure that each task is correctly identified, assigned, and executed within the agreed parameters. 

Their primary focus is managing deliverables against key performance indicators in order to provide accurate reporting while taking ownership of any potential problems or issues along the way.

Communication is the baseline of any effective project team leader and should be a key component of selecting someone for this role.

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What Is The Role Of A Project Team Leader?

The role of the project team leader is an important one in the successful completion of any given project. Acting as a liaison between upper management and project staff, it’s the responsibility of the project team leader to ensure that all tasks are completed efficiently, on time, and within budget. 

Project team leaders track team goals and team performance. Being an effective and proactive leader, they anticipate team needs and mitigate issues before they arise. Their team should feel comfortable approaching them with any issues and communication should flow freely among the team. 

They must have strong interpersonal skills to be able to delegate tasks or assign personnel as needed and resolve conflicts that may happen among team members. Project team leaders usually have excellent soft skills, such as customer service and listening skills, to resolve team disruptions.

Additionally, a project team leader must continue to monitor progress on each task by giving feedback, providing guidance where necessary, and encouraging team collaboration.

A project team leader must always be aware of the project objectives and provide a work environment that encourages team members to deliver on those objectives.

What Skills Do Project Leaders Need?

Project team leaders need to possess a variety of skills in order to be successful. 

Here are some of the most common ones to look for:

In addition to the typical sought-after project management skills such as budgeting, creating a project plan, and creating a project schedule, they must also have strong communication and leadership abilities. 

Project team leaders should be able to articulate complex information clearly and succinctly while also inspiring the team with their confidence and enthusiasm. They should understand how to motivate the team by tying individual goals into the overall mission of the project and the common goals. 

They'll need to foster collaboration both within the group and between departments for optimal outcomes. Inspiring and maintaining teamwork is the name of the game and that’s why PLTs are so important to the entire team.

Conflict resolution skills are also needed to resolve any issues with the numerous personnel they will be leading. Conflicts can also arise between team members and stakeholders outside of the project team. PTL’s will be relied upon to solve these conflicts and keep team members empowered.

Additionally, problem-solving skills are a must for dealing confidently with curveballs that may arise suddenly throughout the course of a project. Project team leaders can lead more effectively with the help of project management software to ease the manual processes burden and ensure workflows are more streamlined

PTLs are essential to great team management and overall flow of the day to day activities. These abilities together form an invaluable toolbox for project team leaders as they strive towards achieving their organization's objectives.

Project team leaders might also consider getting a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI), which many project managers opt for. The skills and abilities learned through that certification are largely transferable to both roles.

Top Differences Between Project Leaders vs Project Managers

While there are overlapping functions between project team leaders and project managers, some key differences exist in regards to skill sets and day-to-day responsibilities.

The main difference between a project team leader and a project manager role is that a PLT has more day-to-day involvement with providing leadership and direction directly to team members.

Project managers determine project scope and deliverables and focus mostly on the project itself. Project leaders motivate and develop teams to accomplish the project while also ensuring things are completed with the right time frame.

Another major distinction between the two is an issue of authority. While project managers have final decision-making power on tasks, project leaders focus more on guiding and motivating team members to work together as efficiently as possible. 

They see project success through having a successful team and encouraging them throughout the entire process.

Additionally, project managers tend to emphasize deadlines and cost control to their teams, while project leaders motivate by teaching lessons and emphasizing development opportunities. 

Finally, though both must collaborate with project stakeholders, the level at which they do so varies depending on the role. 

Project managers communicate more frequently with stakeholders concerning the overall direction of projects; on the other hand, project leaders are more likely to engage stakeholders at specific times throughout a team’s timeline when specific problems need to be addressed.

Project Leaders Paving the Way

Project leads must use their leadership role to motivate and excite their teams. Gathering personnel, nurturing relationships, and creating effective solutions with team members are the essential skills of a great project manager.

Project team leaders ensure their teams are motivated, empowered, and have what they need to be successful and deliver a successful product.

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Ben Aston
By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. I'm a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut!