The Top 10 Traits of Great PMP Leaders

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Have you ever walked into your project and looked around to see no one’s there? If by chance that’s ever happened it’s safe to say you are probably not leading your team. It’s happened to most of us at one point or another. One of the most popular and debated questions we are asked is, “What are the traits of a great leader?” A Google search for the term leader produces over a million results; members of our LinkedIn group and readers of our blog continually ask us to define leadership, and how to really lead teams. We’ve had some great discussions and heard varying opinions from everywhere. But today what I’m going to present is that which time and experience have taught me: ten traits that I look for in a great leader and try to replicate myself. Who do you follow? What makes you want to follow them? If you are following a great leader, begin studying them for similar traits.

  1. A great leader is grounded and centered.  Great leaders can’t be knocked off base because they are centered and grounded. They have strategic pause, and actually decide instead of react.
  2. A great leader is aware and mindful. Great leaders are very aware and mindful of not only themselves but their team members and those they interact with. They see how to get people to work together effectively, because they think about things like patterns, and ask, “What are my patterns? What do I usually do? What are the patterns of other people? What triggers responses in me as a leader and what triggers my team members?” A great leader is also aware of his or her projections. For the males, he may be perceived as a father figure; a female leader, as a mother figure.  Great leaders have these things in mind and are taking it all into consideration as they work among team members or people they are leading.
  3. A great leader creates solutions. Leaders look at the bigger picture, think of ways to do things creatively, and consider things that haven’t been done before.
  4. A great leader analyzes facts, looks at the patterns and what needs to be done.
  5. A great leader evaluates risk. He or she identifies risk and is great at evaluating what will occur if action A or B is taken, and prepares by putting plans in place.
  6. A great leader generates a sense of urgency.  As is likely with your own teams, urgency within the team gets things done. The great leader is able to get the team to spring into action.
  7. A great leader uses insights. Intuition is a tool that we all have but a lot of times don’t use. We forget about it, or it gets out of tune because we stop listening to ourselves. Or, we have an intuitive feeling and talk ourselves out of it using logic. Great leaders use their insights and make decisions.
  8. A great leader builds cohesion among team members or people involved in initiatives so that they work together.
  9. A great leader motivates people. People on a great leader’s team want to be there, want to be involved, are engaged and believe in the cause.
  10. A great leader achieves results. We all as project managers are responsible for achieving results in our projects, and getting our team members to buy in and produce results.

These are my top ten traits of great leaders, but your list may be different. Again, identify who your role model is, and study and try to replicate the traits that you find effective for leading teams.

All great leaders I study or follow have their own mentors, and are always learning and growing. They don’t feel like they know everything. They also have mentees, and are always mentoring others. I know from my own experience teaching and sharing ideas that I learn from my mentees as well as from my mentors. It’s a great cycle. I’ve also observed that the leaders I follow have a great sense of curiosity. They are always wondering “why,” and look at things from multiple angles. They are always asking great questions, and get people to think about how to do things themselves; they don’t always give the answer, but ask the other person to look within and draw their own conclusions for what might be the best thing to do.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at

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