Project Management and Leadership Competencies: A Snapshot

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.

We Asked People Why They Earned the PMP® Credential

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

Why do people earn the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential? Is it because, as the Project Management Institute (PMI)® reported in its 10th Annual Salary Survey, that PMPs earn 23% more than those who don’t hold the certificate? Perhaps.

Is it because it is the most ubiquitous and desired credential on earth, with PMI Today® reporting that as of April 30, 2018, there were 871,893 active PMPs?  Maybe.

Or is it because, as PMI® suggests, it is not based on any specific methodology and it can be easily transferred between industries, market segments, and geographic locations? Is it because  PMI conducts in-depth studies to ensure the PMP reflects current skills, knowledge and best practices; and, the credential encourages professional growth through a continuing credentialing requirement? Of course.

But to understand why people earn the credential, we need to ask them. That’s just what I did.

A while ago, I posted the following question in one of the many LinkedIn groups I belong to: What do you think is the main benefit you realized as a result of earning the PMP? 

Here’s a selection of responses from real people:

“Was [a] culmination of proof to myself that I have the knowledge to do the work”
“Don’t forget the ongoing education (requirement). There’s a degree of commitment to the PMP that adds to its validity.”
“It changed my perspective of handling projects. It gives a structured way to approach pretty much everything we do.”
“To stay competitive in the job market. Period.”
“…the certification…will…get rid of various addictions, to recycle and learn the practices another way.”
“Not all carpenters are alike. The certification gives those hiring you a comfort level that you’re serious about your profession.”
“..when I prepared for the certification, I learned about some topics …I didn’t know about. Gave me spite of certifications being considered ‘a paper’ for some clients.”
“The greatest value for me was learning a more systematic approach than the way the Army was doing things.”
“Wanted to shape a project culture in the company and talking all with the same language.”
“The PMP gave me a guide to follow.”
“..most of all, it gave me the confidence to look for a new job. And of course, it helped me get that next job….and the next.”
“The association with PMI chapters brings greater value for your career.”

Based on all the responses I received, I can say with confidence that there are two primary reasons real people earn the PMP:

  • They see it as a challenge to meet the highest levels of professional standards
  • They want greater access to jobs and higher salaries

You can’t blame them, can you? Look at it another way—can 871,893 people be wrong?

Ready to earn your PMP? IIL can help. Learn more about our PMP Certification Prep course or request a free consultation

PMP, PMI and PMI Today are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.


What is a Project Management Certification? And Why Do I Need It?

By Anselm Begley, PMP, PRINCE2, CBAP, CSM, APMG Managing Benefits

Project Management certification demonstrates an individual’s experience, knowledge, and skill in project management – and in many companies, it’s a requirement for new and current project managers. To achieve certification, candidates need to meet certain eligibility requirements and pass a certification exam developed by a governing body or professional association, such as the Project Management Institute (PMI)®, and the exam content corresponds to a global standard – such as PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

As a project management instructor, it would be terrific if I knew that every student who attended my Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification prep classes were enthusiastic, engaged, and motivated to learn the content and concepts necessary to succeed on the PMP® certification exam. However, when students attend a certification prep course, they quickly learn that additional time and effort will be required to become ready to sit the exam. At that point, their commitment wavers and they question their need. Occasionally there are attendees who are sent to the class by their management. Most of these draftees become enthusiastic while others are skeptical.

I detect the emotional shift in class and this sixth sense is essential Emotional Intelligence for any instructor. Questions increase the relevance and value of the certification. The most common questions are:

“I know what I’m doing, why do I have to do this?”

“In my area, there isn’t anyone who knows more than I do. How is this going to help me tomorrow? This does not have anything to do with what I do all day.”

To begin to answer these questions I need to depict the impact of not possessing a certification. I employ the following example: My brother, now retired, is a ‘board certified’ radiologist.  ‘Board certified’ are the keywords in his profile. When you and I are faced with selecting a family physician or specialist, we will review the list of the specialists on the insurance rolls and while perusing the name, specialty, and hospital affiliation as well as their board-certified status. In the absence of a personal reference, who are you likely to choose?

If there was a choice between two or more physicians, you, like myself, will probably choose the board certified one. Pursuing this line of thought, would you select an attorney with a JD but who was not a member of the state bar? Would you choose an accountant who has a CPA or one without?

So, how many times did an executive manager, manager, or director at your company pass you over for someone – perhaps less qualified – for an opportunity because they were a ‘board certified’ PM? Were you informed? Did anyone tell you the selection criteria? I think not. Why? Because for the corporation, there is too much risk for corporate liability if they do not assign a certified professional and you will never know.

So – what does certification do for you? Certification announces to your management, executives, customers, clients, hiring managers, steering committee, etc. that you are ‘board certified.’ As an instructor, I must possess certification to teach in each discipline. After working for 43 years, 35 as a professional, do you think I require a certification?

Truth be told, there are nurses who are better than the doctors they support and there are secretaries who are better executives than the managers they serve. Life isn’t fair and you will never know what opportunities you have missed. You could have been working on a different and more exciting project than the one you are on today or what you will be doing tomorrow. Likely, the absence of a certification has impacted you already.

In requisitions, hiring managers may stipulate “certification preferred” or “certification required.” Despite your history, it is less likely that your resume will be sent up for interview selection if the requisition has this requirement.  Government contracts will require a certified project manager. Companies propose to government contracts because they are large and lucrative so you won’t get to lead those. So, the absence of a certification will cause your resume to be excluded from the interview shortlist even if you are the most qualified. Some companies will not permit a project manager to join their PMO without a certification. The certification is the price of admission to a higher rank.

Get PMP® Certification training in three convenient delivery methods from IIL


The preceding material is negative motivation but I need to get your attention. Let’s continue discussion of “Why do I need project management certification?” from a more positive viewpoint.

Here I’d like to point out that a project management certification is more valuable to the individual lacking a college degree and in some organizations, a certification trumps a degree. Possession of a certification may permit hiring managers or HR to ignore the absence of a degree.

The presence of a certification demonstrates your commitment to enhancing your professional skills. It shows that you sacrificed your personal time to pursue the enhancement of your skill set. Individuals with initiative and continuous skill acquisition are what hiring managers seek because necessary skill sets are evolving.

Authentic project management training organizations supply exam training with professional skill enhancement. They make the instruction apply to the exam as well as to a professional’s activities. Following an exam, I enjoy learning from students that the training remained with them. All was not brain flushed upon certification receipt and they saw what initially appeared to be superfluous to be an activity they were performing already but differently.

Project managers have transferable skills. We all possess experience and expertise in a specific area. Likely you were selected to become a project manager because you displayed leadership capabilities as a subject matter expert. This usually occurred when you were in an operations area, where we all usually begin following college. I have found project managers who learned in banks and later worked in film production.

In recent years, I have observed that universities are now jumping on the project management bandwagon, delivering preparation for the PMP® certification exam and creating Master’s degree programs in project management. I recall working as a high school student on Wall Street where few traders and brokers had a degree. Now times have changed and today, a degree from a “big name” institution is required to work there. I advise while there is a window of opportunity for project management, jump through.

Certifications that are available include:

There are various project management certifications which have different requirements, different benefits and are recognized in different regions. None are a walk in the park to achieve and each has separate renewal requirements.

The PMP® was started by three industries: construction, manufacturing, and defense. Do you think you can learn something from those who developed the nuclear-powered vessels? Missiles? Computer operating systems? Assembly lines? Chemical plants? Or constructed the World Trade Center? Madison Square Garden? Your local school?

What do you take away from preparing for the certification exam?

I’ll answer this with another diversion. In class, it has been my experience that senior, experienced project managers state: “I wish I had taken this training years ago. I had to learn much of this myself through trial and error and it was painful. This training would have provided me a jump start. Most especially, I needed to know the tools, the processes and the sequence of processes. I would have been able to see how the project management process could be transitioned to other disciplines.” The senior professionals view this as a sabbatical that lets them examine their experience in a new setting.

I have taught classes worldwide, to professionals in industries from defense to retail. I can assure you that a project management certification is recognized everywhere and can open doors.


PMI, PMBOK, PMP, and CAPM are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

About the Author

Anselm E. Begley (MBA, PMP, CBAP, CSM, CSPO) has been teaching project management, business analysis, and general management for companies and government organizations worldwide since 2007. A retired business manager at HP, his career has spanned 30 years in systems analysis, network architecture, business support, business management and opportunity pursuit.  He was an adjunct professor at NYU, and he has lectured at City University of NY and Rutgers.