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Project Leader vs Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

15th Sep, 2023
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Project Leader vs Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

Both the project leader and project manager roles are crucial to a project's success if project management is your area of interest as a career. Even though both jobs are sometimes viewed as identical, some important distinctions may determine which is a good fit for your personality and interests. Research and introspection are required to comprehend and decide which role is best for you, especially if you are interested in pursuing a career in project management. Understanding the definition of project management and the differences between the roles of project leader and project manager is crucial for ensuring the success of a project.  

Although both jobs are sometimes viewed as similar, some important distinctions may determine which is the right match for your personality and interests. Research and introspection are required to understand and decide which role is best for you. In this article, we will put forward the points which describe and support the concept of project managers vs. project leaders 

In essence, a project manager is a technician. They primarily concentrate on finding solutions to issues and ensuring the proper and efficient operation of the process as a whole. They are in charge of engaging with sponsors, clients, senior management, and their teams because they must earn and keep the trust of the project's stakeholders. Project managers do more than just follow the rules of project management. They must be strategists, determine the course of a project, bring people together, and inspire the team.  

Because they want to persuade the team to carry out the project's objectives in a way that meets or exceeds expectations, they must develop people-oriented abilities. Their intervention can promote innovation, transformation, and the development of new systems, products, and services. As a result, their constant presence and inspiration inspire team members to be change agents and develop creative ideas. In this article, we will compare the project lead vs project manager, the project lead's roles and responsibilities, and other aspects of understanding the difference between project lead and project manager. Look for Project Management training online to prepare for the PMP exam from experienced experts and lead project teams successfully. 

Project Leader vs Project Manager [Comparison Table]

Let's compare project leader vs project manager.

ParametersProject LeaderProject Manager
Problem-solvingLeaders inspire others to find solutions themselves.Managers solve the problems of others so others can work.
Risk-takingLeaders like change, creativity, and taking risks.Managers stick to the status quo.
PerspectiveLeaders use a long-term perspective.Managers use short-term perspectives.
GoalsA leader is focused on broadening the choices and possibilities others have.Manager's goal is to have control and limit the choices of others.
Focus pointsLeaders are more focused on the people and their motivation.Managers focus on bettering how the team is working and monitoring their performance while their primary focus is on the tasks.
Management waysA project leader (PMO lead) has a goal in mind that they want to achieve. They also understand how to stimulate, encourage, and inspire others.Excellent managers can think tactically and solve problems in novel ways.
Primary ResponsibilitiesTheir duty is to drive a project's total role and vision.Being motivated by the tasks that must get accomplished to complete a project
Working styleWhen working with others, you can be more inspiring and innovative.When collaborating with others, you should be more authoritarian and rule-oriented.

Difference Between Project Leader vs Project Manager

Before going into the difference between the project manager and the project leader, we'll briefly see the project manager and project leader.  

Who is a Project Manager?

A project manager is an expert who arranges, plans, and implements operations while adhering to deadlines and budgets. Project managers are responsible for leadership roles, goal orientation, interacting with stakeholders, and completing tasks. 

Whether running an advertising campaign, building a tower, developing a computer network, or launching a new product, the project manager is ultimately responsible for the task's success or failure. Questions like "how long will it take to create this new algorithm?" It is the best they can come up with. A long list of known unknowns helps with risk mitigation and organizational leadership management. However, unknown elements always derail a project, and finding those requires strong management skills.  

Moreover, managers must be excellent communicators. You must be able to explain goals and aims clearly to your team members while also providing status updates to stakeholders and team members. Communication as a project management skill begins with understanding and dealing with your team's various communication styles. 

Who is a Project Leader?

Mixing up the roles and accountabilities of a PMO lead and project manager is common. However, depending on the management structure, managers' and leaders' roles and responsibilities may vary considerably. Regardless, there are considerable differences between the two roles. 

While project managers are concerned with the big picture project deadlines, schedule management, and daily updates project leaders are on the ground encouraging the project's team. A project team leader is an expert in their field who can essentially make plans that endorse project goals and lead their workers to conduct themselves efficiently.

Some companies interchangeably use the two terms. Project managers typically have less authority over a project and less opportunity to experiment with their own management approaches than project leaders do. Between the positions, there are significant yet minor changes. Project management and project leadership are fundamentally different.  

Let's compare project leadership vs project management and explore the differences between project lead and project manager. 

1. While project leaders are generalists, project managers are experts.

The project manager is in charge of organizing and coordinating the team and guarding against risks and bottlenecks. They must therefore be more analytical and thorough in their work. 

Project managers, on the other hand, concentrate on the larger picture. Their objective is to establish a vision for the project to give the team members a feeling of direction and inspiration and to have an impact on their performance to achieve success. 

2. Project managers deal with difficulties while project leaders formulate plans.

Leaders of projects are strategists. They contribute to the development of long-term strategies and concepts that motivate the project's participants to reach their objectives through their motivating attitude. 

Project managers have a list of things they must complete. As a result of their ties to the schedule, they are required to handle any unforeseen problems that may develop. 

3. Project leaders concentrate on the people, while project managers concentrate on the task.

Project leaders, like project managers, seek to meet goals, yet they also would like to discover ways to enhance team performances and set team goals. In this way, they foster an environment that pulls out all the best in its staff members. 

4. While project managers provide direction, project leaders inspire their teams.

Project managers emphasize encouraging each team member; they are friendlier and more sympathetic and try to establish a personal connection with the project team. They hope to impact them and ensure that every team member matches their own goals and interests with those of the group and the project. 

Depending on the needs and challenges that could develop throughout a project, project managers guide team members and give them various duties. Additionally, since they are in charge of the project's schedule, they can insist that their teams perform their tasks promptly and correctly. 

5. While project leaders take chances, project managers seek to keep things the same.

Project managers' goals are maintaining the status quo and ensuring everything goes as planned. They oversee a project's scope, timeline, and quality and must give team members clear instructions to respect these resources. They are specialists because of this, concentrating on technological and logistical concerns. 

On the other hand, project managers always plan ahead and create objectives. They work hard to develop fresh ideas, inspire their people, and drive innovation and ongoing progress. To increase efficiency, they want to encourage change. Due to the fact that they are two distinct but related action systems, both roles are essential to a project. When selecting or assigning a person to fill either of these jobs, an organization must take into account these qualities and responsibilities as they will undoubtedly enhance the project's overall success. 

6. While project leaders strive to learn, project managers are results-driven.

The project manager's main objective is to complete the project on time and within the estimated budget. These objectives are shared by project managers, but they also look for methods to customize their management approach for each team. They set challenging team goals in an effort to find strategies to improve team productivity. 

7. While project managers work, project leaders plan.

Project managers have a list of things they must complete. To ensure that deadlines are reached, project managers oversee the budget, staffing, and roles of team members. Project managers also oversee the team's efficiency, but their main focus is on inspiring the team and encouraging the development of fresh concepts. 

8. While project leaders are people-centric, project managers are project-centric. 

The strategies used to produce the desired outcome, a successful project, are the project manager's responsibility. Their main responsibility is to make sure the team completes the project on schedule and within budget. Project managers give the project their full attention while motivating people around them to realize their goals. 

Project manager leadership skills involve motivating and inspiring teams, communicating, influencing team skills, and team building. Lead project management involves overseeing all the various aspects of a project and ensuring that the processes are carried out smoothly.  

If we compare project leader vs project manager salary according to Indeed, then a project leader earns $77,996 annually, while a project manager earns $77,199. You can check out the PMP online training to ace your PMP exam with comprehensive training from experienced experts.

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How Are They Similar?

A project leader is a professional who guides team members and makes sure a project is finished. They adore and appreciate the team by encouraging them, catering to individual needs, and providing a pleasant and effective work environment. A manager is a qualified individual in charge of leading project management and finishing tasks. Instead of inspiring the team, these experts are already in charge of maintaining order. 

Therefore, both have been doing the work of motivating the staff members or their respective team members to perform their work qualitatively and on time. Some other features which are the same among both roles are:  

  • Managing and addressing their team's issues, keeping track of the progress of the work and the members' profile, and aiding in defining the project objectives, goals, and deliverables. 
  • Maintaining the project's budget, documentation, and staffing and ensuring everyone has a job to play; delivering updates on a project's status and potential challenges. 
  • Taking care of problems as they come up, finding possible dangers, and making strategies for them if they do, progress reporting and documentation to keep the team and important stakeholders informed and performing quality control checks on the finished product. 
  • The day-to-day technical tasks of pushing the project forward are handled by a project manager, but a project leader also leads, motivates, and inspires the team to do their best possible job. 

The size of the workforce frequently determines whether these functions are distinct or interrelated. Lesser clubs have become less unlikely to have a committed "project leader" at least one with a formal title. 

On the contrary hand, some teams are sizable enough to support many project leaders.

What Should You Choose Between Project Leader vs Project Manager?

After comparing the roles and responsibilities of project leadership and project management, it might not be incorrect to say that leadership is required at every step of the work. However, it is vital at first when the emphasis is on outlining the goal and inspiring and encouraging employees to maximize performance. Therefore, administrative leadership is concerned with people, team cohesiveness, trust, and communication, while project management is concerned with processes, restrictions, and resources. Due to its comprehensive perspective of the entire business, leadership is crucial in separating a project lead from a project manager. 

Businesses can also use "risk brainstorming sessions" to identify potential dangers by using skilled managers and executives. It is advantageous to have several risk identification techniques to find unforeseen dangers and experiment with them. 

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Thus, this article compares project manager vs leader job roles and explains what a project lead or project team leader is. Even though their roles and responsibilities differ, project managers and leaders have always made plans and established objectives. They seek out novel approaches to problems, inspire their groups, and lead by example in terms of creativity and ongoing development. They want to encourage change to boost productivity. 

Both roles are necessary for a particular activity since they represent distinct but connected action systems. When choosing or assigning a person to fill either of these jobs, an organization must consider these traits and functions as they unquestionably enhance the project's overall performance.  

Besides, Knowledgehut has provided a new opportunity to train yourself in project management skills. To learn more, check out the KnowledgeHut Project Management training online to learn essential project management skills from experts. The course will train you how to lead project teams successfully, which will help you advance your career. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. Is the project leader higher than the project manager?

Even when some businesses use the terms project lead and project manager interchangeably, a project manager has more ownership of the project and more freedom to experiment with different management styles than a project leader.

The positions differ in significant but subtle ways. Project leaders are primarily concerned with project coordination. On the other hand, project managers are accountable for the project's overall success and vision. 

2. Who does the project lead report to?

Project leads usually remain accountable for part of the allocated task, such as procurement or accounting. On the contrary, a project manager deals with different leads to develop the outline, collect data, and guide the entire work. And the project lead usually reports to the manager, who then reports to a director or other high-level administrators.

3. What must a project leader do to eliminate project risk?

The most important thing you can do to enhance your program management is to incorporate risk management into your projects. Many companies and organizations are now implementing risk management to train their employees to detect risks before they worsen. One must have expertise and experience to identify risks to concentrate on future scenarios. 

4. What key aspects must every project manager consider when dealing with risks?

When looking for risks that may impact your project, consider the specifics of your project and the circumstances that may affect your delivery. That may seem obvious, but many individuals search the internet for project risks and then list them, regardless of whether they apply to your project or not. 

5. What's the most crucial skill for a great Project Manager?

Project managers are not spectators. While your team members are coding, designing, and checking items off their to-do lists, you are directing, supporting, and removing roadblocks. In an instant, the best project managers can switch from planning sprints to facilitating a disagreement or inspiring a team that has hit the right spot.


Kevin D.Davis

Blog Author

Kevin D. Davis is a seasoned and results-driven Program/Project Management Professional with a Master's Certificate in Advanced Project Management. With expertise in leading multi-million dollar projects, strategic planning, and sales operations, Kevin excels in maximizing solutions and building business cases. He possesses a deep understanding of methodologies such as PMBOK, Lean Six Sigma, and TQM to achieve business/technology alignment. With over 100 instructional training sessions and extensive experience as a PMP Exam Prep Instructor at KnowledgeHut, Kevin has a proven track record in project management training and consulting. His expertise has helped in driving successful project outcomes and fostering organizational growth.

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