5 Essential Leadership Tips for an Engineering Project Manager

The duties of an engineering project manager are many and varied. One of the most important skills is leadership. The success of a project is dependent upon strong, clear leadership and a unified team that is organized and knows its duties. The following tips on leading provide a guide for project managers to advance themselves and their team.

Project manager talking with the team

Lead By Example

Leading by example requires that the project manager act as a role model for the rest of the team. The project manager should embody certain attributes that, if adopted by the rest of the staff, would make the team and organization as a whole more effective, efficient, and successful. The characteristics of effective leadership include taking responsibility, strong organization, planning, prioritizing, self-management, and discipline. Leaders look to do things that haven’t been done before, encourage creativity and innovation, and make changes to keep their team functioning in the most productive way.

Instilling a sense of unity is a key aspect of leading by example. By promoting teamwork and empowering every member of the staff, the project manager encourages everyone to work together and be productive.

Handling Conflicts

People who work together often have conflicts. It is the responsibility of the project manager to handle these conflicts in a timely, respectful manner. It may seem like a daunting task to get in the middle of arguing staff members, but there are effective approaches that managers can adopt to resolve these conflicts.

Team leaders should discourage destructive arguments and cruel criticism directed at individual team members. Instead, they should focus on the healthy expression of different opinions. A smart leader can use conflicting views and opinions as a basis for healthy competition, and for fueling creativity and productivity. Instead of singling people out for their differences, show how each member is a unique part of the team.

Communicate Clearly

The majority of a manager’s job involves communicating with people in all levels and roles of an organization. Formal methods of communication may involve producing presentations, emails, and conducting phone calls The project manager may act as the primary liaison between upper management and workers, and may need to negotiate and persuade those in charge to better enable the team to succeed.

Strong interpersonal skills are necessary for successful leadership. The project manager must know how to talk to people in a way that is encouraging and respectful, not detrimental or condescending. Effective leaders clearly communicate team goals and relay expectations and responsibilities to individual team members. Providing encouraging feedback is also effective. Openness and directness by the team leader promotes a sense of trust. If the team trusts the manager, they will work diligently and go the extra mile.

Forecast and Pivot Intelligently

A leader must be perceived as competent and confident authority. Wavering when making decisions only serves to confuse staff. It is important for project managers to use all the information, data, and trends at their disposal to make informed decisions about the team’s next move. Doing this in a confident way discourages dissension and any doubts about the leader’s abilities and commitment.

It is the role of the leader to anticipate any problems that can jeopardize deadlines, budgets, or a project’s overall success. The most successful leaders remain calm on those occasions when they do encounter an unanticipated roadblock. A confident leader has the ability to pivot and adapt to new information in the face of adversity.

Make Use of Tools and Technology

A project manager, especially in the field of electrical engineering, must stay abreast of evolving technology to provide effective leadership. Being aware of innovations and technological advancements can help managers lead in creative ways and stay a step ahead of the competition. There are many digital tools available, such as software and mobile apps. These range from tools for organization, time management, staff management, planning and reference, to connected tools for meetings, cloud-based storage, project updates, and managing virtual teams.


The role of a project leader is to understand what drives people and what makes them strive for success. Effective leadership produces results and provides motivation. The project manager, as a good leader, helps the team understand that their work is meaningful, and that they can achieve greatness through hard work and discipline. Success in one project can build on itself, leading to future success and career advancement for the team as well as for the project manager.

Learn more

To help you expand your technical expertise and acquire the advanced skills important for professional growth in the field of engineering, find out more information about New Jersey Institute of Technology online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program.

Recommended Readings

Skills for Managing Electrical Engineering Projects
Effective Team Work for Electrical Engineers