Do You Have the Personality to Be a Great Project Manager?

Published inCategorised as Project Management Tagged , ,

I often hear people say, “I would love to be a project manager, but I don’t have the personality for it”. This is shortly followed by, “I’m not confident and outgoing”. These are some misconceptions that I’d like to explore below. Some of the best project managers are introverts!

Table of Contents

Everybody can be a Project Manager!

I believe almost everybody can be a project manager! Myself, I have an introverted but friendly personality. I can work with a wide range of people and make quick decisions when I need to. I’ve also been able to form and lead groups. Organisation is one of my biggest strengths, and I seldom rush to do things at the last minute. All these traits are good. But I can’t stand “strategy” and big long-term visions. If I spend a lot of time looking at “big” things, I get bored and frustrated because it takes so long.

Ask any project manager, and they’ll tell you what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. This is true even if they’re not the best project manager. Despite this, they do well because the stereotype is wrong. I understand that we like to talk about a job or a job title in a specific way. We also want to say that to be good at something, you need particular skills, abilities, experiences, and personality traits. However, there isn’t a single way to succeed in project management, and there isn’t a single way to become a good project manager.

Every project manager has a few things in common. It’s a field that is becoming more about people, with software taking care of the administrative and technical tasks. It’s a business-oriented job that requires a lot of knowledge about the specific domain you’re working in (IT, Construction, Retail, Finance, etc.). It’s a job that requires a lot of flexibility.

Quickly Determine Your Personality Type

Every project manager must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They need to know which parts of project management they are good at and which parts need more work to succeed.

Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and where you are most comfortable. Then figure out how to change them.

A quick way to map your personality onto project management competencies is to take a fast Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test and compare your result to the project management leadership competencies in the next section.

For a free MBTI test that takes a few minutes to complete, have a look at https://similarminds.com/jung.html. This test is a free and quick way to determine your MBTI type.

A list of the four dimensions that the MBTI is based on is shown in the tables below. The tables show general trends, so don’t expect any of them to describe you completely. Everyone has a little bit of each dimension in them, just like we all have two hands. In most people, we prefer to use one hand more than the other, and for most of us, we are either right-handed or left-handed. But both hands work and could do the same task.

The Source of your Energy

E = ExtraversionI = Introversion
E’s pay attention to people and things outside of their bodies.
The best way for E’s to think is when they’re talking with other people, like at work.
They are usually calm and confident, and they like to be with other people.
They need to be around people, and if they stay alone for too long, they might lose some of their excitement.
As a rule, they are interested in many different things.
They are more concerned with getting things done than with planning.
I’s pay attention to concepts and ideas inside of them.
They think better when they’re alone.
They are usually quiet and curious, and they like to be alone to focus on what they are working on.
They need to be alone and may get tired if they are around too many people for too long.
They usually like to go more in-depth with the things they like to do.
They think about ideas and may plan well, but they may not follow through with the plan.

The Source of your Information

S = SensingN = Intuition
In their own experience, S’s pay attention to what is going on in the world.
Their attention to practical things is good.
Their favourite thing is to get things right.
They usually feel most at home when they use skills they’ve learned to do predictable things.
They are real people.
N’s pay attention to the underlying meaning because they think about what might happen in the future.
These people are good at coming up with new ideas and making things look good.
As a group, they look forward and see how things will work out in the long run.
They like learning new things and making things different.
They can handle a lot of things.
They are people who think outside the box.

How you make Decisions

T = ThinkingF = Feeling
T’s make decisions based on reason.
It’s important to them to follow the rules and tell the truth.
They treat everyone the same.
They are good at finding flaws in arguments and coming up with ways to fix them.
They look at things objectively.
F’s make decisions based on what people need.
It is important to them that there is harmony and peace in the world.
They treat people well.
They are good at figuring out what other people need and giving them their best.
They know about the human side.

Your Orientation Towards Getting Things Done

J = JudgmentP = Perception
J’s make decisions based on the needs of people.
It is important to them that there is harmony and peace in their lives.
They are nice to people.
It’s easy for them to see what other people need, and they have a lot of energy.
They know about the human side of things.
The P’s don’t like to make decisions until they know everything there is to know about what’s going on.
They like to start a project and learn everything there is to know about it.
They are likely to be tolerant, flexible, adaptable, and interested.
They like to live in the moment and see what happens.

Quickly Find Your Project Leadership Competency Strengths Based On Your Personality

Once you have your MBTI result, the table below maps your result to project management competencies. This mapping is from a PMI Project Management Journal whitepaper. The total scores at the bottom indicate which MBTI results are best suited for project managers (the higher the score, the better).

The following table maps out the strengths of your personality type as it applies to the different phases of a project lifecycle:

So, what does this mean?

Understanding your comfort zone according to your personality type is important. A good project manager doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy every aspect of the role. Some people are better at using specific skills or working in different places than others. Project management is a job that you’ll only truly understand when you’ve done it. If you don’t like leading people, working with ambiguity, or working in stressful situations, project management might not be the best job for you.

In Summary

When I hear people say things like “introverts can’t lead teams” or “you can only be a good project manager if you’re very detail-oriented,” it makes me question them. I’ve worked with many project managers with different personalities, methods, techniques, and views. I’ve seen both successful introverts and bad extroverts who aren’t very good at paying attention to details. There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” way to be a project manager.

If you want to be a project manager, go for it! Depending on the job, you may have to change your behaviours to fit the needs of the job. If you’re comfortable with this, you will have success!

By Shaun Dicker

Agile Delivery Lead & IT Project Manager with 20+ years of expertise in software development & digital transformation projects, Shaun works alongside clients and agile practitioners to build & run modern software applications. He is a geeky husband 🤓 who enjoys 📈 project management, ✅ personal productivity, 📱 technology, the 🏞️ natural world, 🦸‍♂️ graphic novels & 🎮 video games.

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