What is project team management and leadership?

A project team is a group of people working together in collaboration or cooperation towards a common goal. Some teams are co-­located in the same geographic area; some span multiple organisations and virtual team-working is increasingly prevalent. In each case, the ability of the project professional to develop and lead teams is of vital importance.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition  📖

Teams and leaders

For teams to be effective it is important that team members are understood as individuals in terms of their capabilities, their preferences, their cultural norms and expectations as well as the social dynamics between team members. Teams are increasingly international, with individuals who bring diverse skill-sets and perspectives, and can be located across countries and continents. National cultures are influential in shaping behaviours in project-based working. The project professional has an opportunity to improve outcomes by harnessing diversity and inclusion from the people available.

Leaders need to adapt their style and approach to the needs of the team and the work that needs to be accomplished, this is called situational leadership. Leadership is the ability to establish vision and direction, to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve success.

There are some situations when the team leader needs to be directive, for example, to address an issue that threatens the achievement of objectives. A mentoring or coaching style is appropriate when there is time to focus on development of the team as well as goal achievement.

Taking time to try to understand the prevailing culture in an organisation is an important part of stakeholder analysis, project team management and team leadership. Organisational culture can be defined as the way things are done in an organisation, the unwritten rules that influence individual and group behaviour and attitudes which are applicable at multiple levels of organisation, including national culture or project culture.

Managing a team includes understanding and noticing workplace stress; the adverse reaction that people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them. Project-based working will inevitably result in situations where individuals feel stressed and it is a crucial skill for the project professional to be able to notice signs of their own stress and have coping strategies, and to be alert to the signs of stress in the team.

Featured research - Understanding leadership in the context of transformation projects

This research aims to advance understandings of individual, team and organisation-wide leadership capabilities for successfully delivering transformation projects, and ways in which they can be fostered.

The research intends to provide advanced understandings of: approaches to leading transformation; challenges/opportunities for leadership and ways to effectively respond to them; and ways to examine and strengthen individual, team and organisational leadership capabilities. This study is linked to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) Project X research initiative – theme E on capability, leadership and knowledge management.

View research

Resources on team management and leadership

  • Project leadership: skills, behaviours, knowledge and values Read more
  • Errors, lies and misunderstandings: Systematic review on behavioural decision making in projects read more
  • Human resource management and project based organising: Fertile ground, missed opportunities and prospects for closer connections read more 

Blogs on team management and leadership

Three team management hacks

The project manager has two responsibilities: not only someone “who plans, procures and executes a project’ but also a person who often manages a team. And as you know, a team can be a disparate group of employees spread across geographies and time zones, a shared resource, and quite frankly a bit of a challenge. 

Here are three short tips to ensure you’re getting the most from your team:  

1. Treat your goals as tools, not objectives
Setting clear goals and motivating the team to work better together to complete them is key to getting things done. Try treating your goal as a management tool, not an objective. Few things cause frustration faster on a project than bringing motivated people together without giving them direction.  

At the outset of a project, communicate roles and responsibilities clearly. Outline the overall tactics and activities that are needed in order to reach the project goals. Allow your team to self-organise within this frame. Remember that they are the actual experts and have their specific roles and skill sets. The last thing you need is multiple people working on the same task or overlooking some significant tasks. 

2. Invest in passion
Passion is one of management’s most powerful forces. And it’s almost impossible to  foster passion without a communicative and transparent climate. Letting your team and stakeholders know what the plan is and how everything is coming along means they’ll feel more involved and invested in the outcome. 

In today’s digital and connected world, transparency is much easier to accomplish by making information accessible and visual. This is why Kanban boards have become so popular. They provide a tangible way to visualise your team’s, and each team member’s, tasks as cards and arrange them in columns depending on what’s in in progress, finished or yet to be started. Kanban boards are great for teams and project managers to set out who should be working on what, while at the same time painting a clear and comprehensive picture of what stage each section of a project is at.

3. Keep it real 
If you’re working in the same location as your team members it is extremely important to balance all other ongoing communication by hosting quick meetings IRL (In Real Life). Keep it quick and simple. Use video conferencing if you’re not in the same location. Meet as a group or one-to-one.

Don’t let travelling or other whereabouts be an excuse, flexible working is a right, even a prerequisite – but there is also an obligation to be available in the same way as if you would be in the office. Agile methodology suggests a strict daily regularity to the meetings, e.g. daily 10 minute stand-ups, but you should of course find a pace that fits your team’s agenda.

Team management is one of the key roles of the project manager. To find out more about what is involved, download our free eBook Project Manager’s Guide to Getting Things Done Part 1: How to set goals, organise teamwork, and measure success or Part 2: How to manage your team’s workload.

You can also sign up here for free to give Kanban boards a try and get your project up and running in five minutes.

Posted by Mia Nordborg



APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

You can read more about team management and leadership chapter three of the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios.

APM Body of Knowledge


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