Project Leader vs Project Manager

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StarAgile

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Feb 20, 2023

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It is imperial for project managers and project leaders to work together if you want your project to be a successful one. Although both jobs sometimes appear to be equal, there are a few differences that may clear the confusion between the two.

These are some key points that are necessary while discussing the project leader and project manager:

  • Key aspects of product manager vs Product Leader
  • Points of differences between the two
  • Points of similarities

Behind the successes of every project, the Project manager and Project leader both play an essential role.

Project Leader vs Project Manager [Comparison Table]

Project LeaderProject Manager
Leads a project team and is responsible for the success of the projectManages the entire project, including planning, implementation, monitoring, and closure
Focuses on inspiring and guiding the team to achieve project goalsFocuses on ensuring that project goals are met on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders
May not have formal authority over team membersHas formal authority over team members and is responsible for making decisions
May not have a direct role in the budgeting or resource allocation processHas a direct role in budgeting, resource allocation, and risk management
Typically works on smaller, less complex projectsTypically works on larger, more complex projects

 

It is important to note that the specific roles and responsibilities of Project Leaders and Project Managers may vary depending on the organization and the project.

Project Managers:

A project manager is a person who plays the role of technician, finds solutions to complex issues, and also ensures the project is delivered on time as required. They are responsible for engaging with clients, sponsors, senior management, and also with team leaders with objectives to keep the interest of the project’s stakeholders. They formulate strategies, determine the course of a project, bring people together to accomplish the common project goals, and also inspire the team members to perform their best.

To carry out all these purposes project managers are required to identify the uncertainty or the risk elements of the running of the project and then with the help of risk mitigation tools and techniques for addressing the same and rectifying it. All these risk mitigation procedures also require strong management skills.

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Project leaders:

Sometimes, the terms project manager and product leader are used interchangeably which leads to mixing up their roles and responsibilities. However, it depends upon the management structure to describe their roles separately.

The role of project managers is wider than project leaders. Project managers are more concerned with project deadlines, schedules, and daily updates whereas project leaders are more concerned with leading the workers and motivating them to effectively complete their tasks within the given deadline.

Although the terms project managers and project leaders are used interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between the two. Here are some of the points of differences between project managers vs project leaders.

1.  While project managers provide guidance, project leaders inspire their team members

Project managers manage and provide direction for the successful completion of the whole project. They encourage team participation, try to establish a friendly atmosphere, and maintain familiar relationships with every team member. They set perfect objectives to align the project goals and team members have a common objective so everyone can work together for a common goal.

Project leaders inspire teams to find solutions on their own. They also understand how to stimulate, inspire and encourage the teams to derive projects' roles and vision.

2.  Project leaders are people-centric whereas project managers are project-centric

Project managers ensure that strategies formulated by them are successfully implemented to produce desired outcomes. One of the important key roles of a project manager is to check that the projects are delivered on time and are within the budget. They are more focused on the success or failure of the project. In short, they are project-centric.

Project leaders are more focused on broadening the choice and possibilities of people. In essence, leaders work toward people and their motivations. They are more people-centric.

3.  Project managers are experts whereas the project leaders are members of a working team with leadership skills

Project managers are the people who are responsible for overall projects and formulate strategies for the effective operation of the project. They are experts in their field along with having exceptionally good skills.

Project leaders are the individuals who lead the team and effective team participation. All these require good communication and leadership skills. 

4.  Project leaders take chances and risks, whereas project managers seek to keep the status quo

Project managers generally avoid taking risks and stick more towards the goal of the status quo i.e. current state of things. They take a review of project scope, timelines, and check the quality and ensure everything goes as per the planned schedule.

Project leaders like change, creativity, and taking risks. To increase efficiencythey want to embrace change. Hence, they both are two distinct but related personalities. Both of them have exceptional qualities and responsibilities to enhance the project’s overall success.

5.  Project leaders take chances and risks, whereas project managers seek to keep the status quo

Project managers generally avoid taking risks and stick more towards the goal of the status quo i.e. current state of things. They take a review of project scope, timelines, and check the quality and ensure everything goes as per the planned schedule.

Project leaders like change, creativity, and taking risks. To increase the efficiency they want to embrace change. Hence, they both are two distinct but related personalities. Both of them have exceptional qualities and responsibilities to enhance the project’s overall success.

6.  Project leaders always strive to learn, while project managers are results-driven

The primary goal of the project manager is to complete the project according to a strategic plan. These objectives are communicated by the project managers to project leaders to work on them. Project leaders are more focused on learning while improving the team’s productivity.

7.  While project managers formulate strategies, the project leaders work towards implementing them

Project managers have a lot of work and responsibility to carry out in order to assure the success of the project, one of the main roles is to formulate strategies and fix schedules. On the other hand, the project leaders work more towards implementing those plans along with inspiring the team to give their best.

8.  While project managers formulate strategies, the project leaders work towards implementing them

Project managers have a lot of work and responsibility to carry out in order to assure the success of the project, one of the main roles is to formulate strategies and fix schedules. On the other hand, the project leaders work more towards implementing those plans along with inspiring the team to give their best.

9.  Project managers use short-term perspectives whereas project leaders use long-term perspectives

Project managers are more concerned about the duration of the project and to make sure that the project is within the budget. They have a short-term perspective and create an action plan to improve their performance daily.

However, project leaders seek to meet goals, discover ways to improve team performance, and set team goals. They encourage and inspire teams to work towards a long-term perspective.

Similarities between project managers and project leaders

Project managers are the qualified person responsible for leading the project and finishing the task on time. Project leaders provide guidance to team members to appreciate, motivate and inspire them to perform effectively.

Hence, both have the responsibility to inspire each team member to perform their work in a quantitative and qualitative manner. Some of the features which are similar between the project manager and project leader are enumerated hereafter.

  • Both have the responsibility to identify the key risk, analyze and assess their impact on occurrence, carry out risk handling procedures and maintain a risk document of the project for the purpose of addressing the possible dangers.
  • Carrying out surprise checks on subordinates to ensure efficiency in operations.
  • Both have to establish internal control so that they can carry out their work effectively.
  •  Maintaining documents for strategic plans, budgets, and human resources.
  •  Managing and addressing issues of team members, keeping a track record of their work, and aligning individual goals with common objectives.
  •  They both strive to solve the problems which can affect the success of a project.

The nature and size of the project determined whether the project manager or project leader's function will be different or interrelated.

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Conclusion

Thus, even though the roles and responsibilities of project leaders and project managers both have to comply with their established objectives. Both roles are necessary and have their own importance for the success of an entity since they represent different but interrelated action systems.

With the rise in demand for Professionals In product management, it is really hard to stand out as the competitions are also higher. We do provide a course for project management professional from Staragile. The course is designed in such a way that If you complete the coursework then you are sure to get a boost in your project management career.

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