Over the past 5-10 years, there has been a surge in requirements for project professionals; PMI research highlights that the project profession would need an additional 25 million project managers between 2021 and 2030 to fulfil global demand and release GDP benefits for regional economic advantage. Projects are not only more numerous, but they’re also becoming larger, more complex and more ambiguous, with mega projects and organisation-wide transformations becoming the norm. However, hybrid working, mixed delivery models, technological advancement and digitisation of organisations have led to businesses and projects finding themselves in a constant state of rapid evolution. As a result, the demand for people with the proven ability to manage projects, with a transformational and adaptive mindset, has surged.
As the business world continues to evolve at pace due to technological advancement, the skills required for project professionals to lead projects effectively are changing accordingly. Project Managers are not just a group that focuses on scope, cost, quality and schedules alone — they are infinitely more. The leading project managers today are leveraging technology to streamline much of what they and their teams have done in the past by focusing on influencing outcomes, building relationships and achieving the strategic goals of their organisations. It’s this expanding and increased value proposition that makes project leaders so valuable to organisations and solidifies that the profession is not on the decline, but the opposite.
Let's take a look at what the future of project leadership might look like, and the skills required to stay ahead of the curve.
Project professionals have always been associated with the fundamental skills for project delivery. This requirement has not changed, and a highly organised and professionally certified professional is still incredibly valued within the modern work environment. However, many organisations are selecting a hybrid delivery method during transformation, but to leverage the benefits of one delivery model over another, project professionals now need a deeper understanding of both agile and waterfall delivery methodologies.
Due to the growing ambiguity and complexity of projects, there is a requirement for a shift in cultural mindsets to increase collaboration and innovation. Adaptability and flexibility are becoming more important than ever before. In an era of accelerating change, the ability to pivot quickly, embrace new technologies and methodologies, and adapt to changing circumstances, is crucial. Having the mental flexibility to navigate ambiguity in complex projects and to do so in a constructive and controlled manner that empowers teams and drives innovation is an increasing skill set for project leaders.
Project professionals have an increased requirement for strong knowledge of how organisations work and how they operate within their specific industry. As projects navigate across matrix organisations, they need a deep understanding of processes and key dependencies to benefit at an organisational level. There has also been a shift towards understanding business analysis skill sets to obtain a strong understanding of key business problems and how strategy and project delivery can provide a vision to support project execution.
In the age of remote work and virtual collaboration, remote team management is becoming an increasingly necessary skill for project leaders. To be successful, project leaders must be proficient in the use of digital communication and collaboration tools to manage remote team members and keep them engaged and motivated.
Project leaders also need to leverage evolving technology to streamline processes and use automation to enable enhanced data decision-making while understanding the limitations of data within the process.
There is a misconception that the rapid creation of optimisation models, forecasting models, dashboards and visualisations will highlight an obvious answer. Understanding the data, its limitations and how to engage with an unconscious bias to drive the right discussion and inform decision-making is becoming a critical skill of the future project leader.
In a future where automation and AI can handle many routine tasks, creativity and innovation will become even more critical. Project leaders must be able to think critically and creatively to provide innovative solutions to problems.
These skills will become increasingly important as businesses seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors and stay ahead of the curve.
Emotional intelligence and Soft skills:
In the era of automation and artificial intelligence, the importance of soft skills can get overlooked. However, soft skills, such as communication, leadership and teamwork, are going to become increasingly important in project leadership.
Effective communication skills will remain crucial, and project leaders need to be confident in their ability to communicate effectively with a range of stakeholders, from team members to executives.
Meanwhile, the importance of teamwork will increase, as businesses strive to foster a culture of collaboration. Project leaders must be skilled in bringing together individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets while creating a sense of unity and purpose to achieve project success.
Leadership skills will also become more critical, as project leaders need to be able to inspire and motivate their teams while navigating increasingly complex projects.
To summarise, the future of project leadership is likely to be more complex and challenging than ever before. Successful project leaders will need to be skilled in communication, leadership and teamwork, as well as proficient in business acumen, data analytics, mixed delivery methodologies, virtual collaboration and critical problem-solving. To succeed in this ever-changing landscape, project leaders must be continually learning and adapting. Those who can stay ahead of the curve will be the ones who thrive in the years to come.
You may also be interested in: