By Dr. Willis H. Thomas, PMP, CPT 

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® Talent Triangle® has addressed the need for project leadership competencies.

Technical competencies can be thought of as the science or hard skills; whereas, behavioral competencies can be considered the art or the soft skills. It is important to have a balance of the hard and soft skills in the ongoing professional development of team members.

The PMI Talent Triangle

(1) Technical Project Management
(2) Strategic and Business Management
(3) Leadership

Below is a contrast between project management vs. project leadership competencies.


Project Management Technical
Project Management Behavioral
Leadership Technical Competency
Cost Track budget Resolve conflict when discussing project budget Oversee Return on Investment (ROI) analysis Direct financial management
Time Coordinate schedules Improve acceptance to schedule compression Synchronize schedules to strategic plans Refine KPIs and link CSFs
Scope Control scope Monitor perceptions of scope creep Revisit scope for potential growth Gain acceptance for related sub-projects
Quality Confirm requirements are met Exceed expectations through relationships Highlight benefits through Return on Quality (ROQ) Drive Quality initiatives through a quality system
Risk Identify uncertainties Reach consensus on risk mitigation Enhance risk approaches using guidelines Change risk averse attitudes to risk neutral
Resources Align resources, i.e., people, systems, equipment, facilities, materials Ensure ongoing effective utilization of resources Identify resource gaps and needs for sun-setting or replacement Optimize resource use through i.e.,  motivation and upgrades
Communication Hold meetings Promote active meeting engagement Analyze meeting effectiveness Improve virtual meeting facilitation
Stakeholder Create stakeholder register Increase stakeholder engagement Use tools such as Power and Influence Grid Re-focus challenging stakeholders
Integration Participate in a business case Show opportunity and sunk costs Research business cases for validity Defend a business case for approval
Procurement Select vendor based upon criteria Manage vendor relations Evaluate vendors using online tools Guide vendors for improved performance

Note: Items in italics represent the Competing Demands experienced in projects and items in bold italics represent the other four Knowledge Areas identified in the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

For a downloadable image of the table above, click here.

More on this topic of project leadership…

Formalized programs and academic infrastructure for project leadership has been established by PMI® to provide sound guidance on the recommended approach.

For example, The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) established in 2001 for Project Management Education Programs is an academic accreditation body with policies, procedures, and standards for project, program, portfolio management and related programs at the bachelor’s, postgraduate and doctoral degree levels that operate independently from PMI. GAC is also a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).

The PMI website provides information about GAC and the 100+ degree programs that have promoted. Being educated in project management and leadership programs is an important research effort for those making an investment in project management and leadership certifications, credentials, and degrees.

Whether an individual decides to pursue project leadership through ongoing education or through a Post-Graduate degree option like a Master of Science in Project Leadership (such as available through the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, where I am an adjunct professor) will depend upon their career goals. The decision does require research whether a Master of Science or an MBA in Project Leadership will lead to the desired educational achievement.

The International Institute for Learning (IIL) is a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) and there is likely a path forward that will enable students to choose what path they decide to pursue if it involves a degree vs. certification. In other words, courses that you have taken at IIL can be part of your educational roadmap and long-term strategy, i.e., becoming a professor and teaching project management and leadership courses part-time during retirement.

Having a strategy for your project management and leadership education is important as one could expect to invest up to $50k to complete a post-graduate degree in project leadership.

To this end, IIL offers courses to enhance leadership competencies. Find out more by browsing our leadership courses or requesting a free consultation.

PMI, Talent Triangle, The PMI logo, and PMBOK Guide are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

About the Author

Willis H. Thomas, Ph.D., PMP, CPT has worked for large corporations and academic institutions in the areas of human resources, learning and development, quality assurance, project management, sales and marketing, measurement and evaluation, and operations.

He has been in senior management for life sciences companies for the past 15 years. Dr. Thomas is a member of adjunct faculty at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, International Institute for Learning and Institute of Validation Technology.

His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.” This book was an 8-year effort that enhanced the framework for the evaluation of projects using the PMBOK® Guide.

He has been a featured speaker on an international basis and has received the Apex Publication Excellence Award for implementing useful tools for project management, evaluation, and training.

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