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Are Good Project Managers Born or Made?

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Some people just seem to be born into project management. They’re sociable, professional, and so organized they probably have records of every meal they’ve ever eaten. The rest of us either look on in envy or run ourselves ragged trying to keep up, but hey we’re no slouches either. We know our way around a Gantt chart and can squeeze miracles out of a project team given a week and a truckload of coffee.

How did we get that way? Are we just wired for project management, with our lives just being a lead-up to this moment? What gives us the ability to skirt deadlines by the skin of our teeth and still function as normal, sane people outside the office?


Project management is a very demanding, high-stress industry, and not everyone can tackle such an environment. It’s a bad industry for people who are insecure, complacent, temperamental, and moody. The deck is stacked against them, and yet I’ve seen and worked with project managers who exhibit some (or all) those traits. One thing they all have in common is that they overcome their quirks and function for the sake of the greater whole–the team.

Talent vs Skill

Talent is innate and unique, while skill is something developed over time. Talented project managers make the process seem effortless, while others have to persevere and grow the right skills during their careers.

But here’s the thing: talent can only get you so far. Unless you’re a polymath, you’re not going to be gifted with the complete set of talents and skills that a project manager needs. You’re going to be lacking in something, and you’ll have to work just as hard as the rest of us poor sods to develop it. The trick is figuring out which skill you need to grow.


In addition to having the right genes, “born” project managers can also get birthed into the right circumstances. You could be born into a family of IT professionals, for instance, and growing up around technology. Or you could be born in a boomtown with lots of construction that played a big role in influencing your career decisions. In that sense, you’re “born” into project management.

On the other hand, you could be like me and be drawn into the industry from a totally different field and for different reasons (personally speaking, I was interested in the money). There’s a reason the term “accidental project manager” exists: some people just fall into the role, and instead of sinking, swim.

But what it all boils down to is that you make a choice to enter project management. You applied for the job. You signed up for it. You accepted that promotion. Your career wasn’t mandated by destiny. You chose to develop your talents and skills for this purpose.

So yes.


Image credit, Greenog, Flickr

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