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Key Roles the Project Manager Often Plays on Projects

Aug. 1, 2020
This article was written for The Know How Network by Brad Egeland — It’s not a secret that project managers wear a variety of hats on nearly every project they […]

This article was written for The Know How Network by Brad Egeland —

It’s not a secret that project managers wear a variety of hats on nearly every project they manage. Exactly what hats they wear usually depends on several things: the complexity of the project, the culture of the organization, how much authority the PM is given, and sometimes even how the customer wants the project manager to lead the project (important customers tend to have a lot of weight on some projects).

I’ve asked around, started discussions in forums and social media, and the roles that seem to come up the most often in people’s minds are these 4.

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This is probably an obvious one, but remember what a PM must do as a leader:
• They must lead individuals for whom they do not have direct responsibility.
They must lead a customer they don’t know that much about — yet.
They must listen well, speak well, encourage often, agree, disagree, make on the spot decisions often without enough information, and
they must do all of this while taking on full responsibility for a project where many things will happen — both good and bad — that they likely can’t control.

It’s a tough leadership position to take on.


The ability to say "no"
to the customer who is off base in their notion of what they need and what the project should be
to the team member who disagrees with the path the project is on
to executive management who may be taking an action that is negatively affecting the project

All of these are critical to the role of project manager. Agreeing is easier, but the project manager must be stubborn — must be willing to stick to their decisions and stay focused on the success of the project.

It isn’t about making friends, it’s about doing what is right for the success of the engagement overall.


I will never sway from my stance that the key role of the project manager is that of an effective and efficient communicator. If the PM fails in this role, there is very little hope for the project to succeed.

All project communication happens with the project manager — it all needs to go through this one position. And if it doesn’t, if critical communication routinely circumvents the process and goes around the PM, then the project is likely headed for disaster.

The PM is the central point for project status, project meetings, emails, revised schedules, issues tracking, risk tracking, and budget management. And if the project manager is a poor communicator, then even if all communication flows through the PM it may not be utilized properly, and miscommunication and erroneous and dangerous decision-making can be the result.


By definition a project is change. It is a one-off effort to introduce a new solution or revise a process within an organization.

The project manager is delivering change with every project he manages. The project manager is the change agent and sometimes has to work hard to knock down barriers to change within an organization. The PM must work well with others inside the business, or with the client, to make that change happen and to help that change to be accepted.

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That’s 4; there are many, many more hats that we wear as project managers — I just can’t list them all here. And sometimes they happen so fast that you don’t even think about it. One time I had to report to 2 major milt-million dollar project clients — giants in their industry — that my company’s CEO was a fraud and had just taken his own life as the FBI, IRS, and Treasury Department, were closing in on him. I’m not sure what hat that fell under but it was one I don’t want to revisit anytime soon.

How about you?  What key roles stand out to you as ones that the project manager must regularly fill in their leadership role within the organization?

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management (PM) to the masses. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become "Cheetahs" using Cheetah Learning’s innovative PM and accelerated learning techniques. Michelle also developed the Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM) program based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality profiling to help students master how to use their unique strengths for learning, doing projects, and negotiating. Michelle is recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit To read my business-oriented blogs, please visit Cheetah Learning Blog at,, and read my columns here in ISE magazine at