Leadership Styles

A project manager may adopt various leadership styles depending upon personal, team members, organizational and environmental characteristics.

Basic Leadership Styles

The four basic leadership styles of the project manager are described below.


The project manager is primarily focused on getting the tasks done, with little regard to the team member’s feelings.


The project manager tells the team members what, when, where, and how to do things.

Democratic or Participative

The project manager encourages the team members to actively participate in the decision-making process. A lot of authority is delegated to the team members and they play an active role in managing the project.


It’s a French term, literally meaning “let do”. The project manager turns things over to the team members, and only monitors the work at a high level.

Other Leadership Styles

A few other leadership styles defined in the PMBOK® Guide, 6th Ed and other project management references include:

Servant Leader

A servant leader demonstrates commitment to serve and put other people first. Agile approaches emphasize servant leadership as a way to empower teams. Servant leadership style works best when the team members have the necessary skills, and need the project leader to manage outside stakeholders. Read Servant Leadership for a better understanding of this topic.


Rewards are based on accomplishments against goals.


Empowering, motivating and inspiring the team members.


Able to inspire; is high-energy, enthusiastic, self-confident; holds strong convictions.


A combination of transactional, transformational, and charismatic leadership styles.


A pace-setting leader leads from the front, sets high standards for performance, and expects the team to exceed with minimal management. The leader always wants to do things better and faster. This style should be sparingly used as it can lower team morale and lead to demotivation.

Situational Leadership Styles

Project managers need to adapt their leadership style according to the situation, maturity and skill levels of the team. There’s no one-size-fits-all or best leadership style. The two primary leadership models described in the PMBOK® Guide, 7th Ed are:

  • Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® II
  • OSCAR Model

Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® II

Ken Blanchard’s situational leadership model focuses on adapting leadership styles to meet the needs of individual team members based on their level of competence and commitment.

Competence refers to a team member’s level of knowledge, skills, and experience related to a particular task or responsibility. Competence can range from low, where the team member is new to the task and lacks experience, to high, where the team member is very experienced and knowledgeable.

Commitment refers to a team member’s level of motivation and engagement related to a particular task or responsibility. Commitment can range from low, where the team member lacks motivation or is disengaged, to high, where the team member is highly motivated and fully engaged.

The model is based on the idea that different situations require different leadership styles, and that effective leaders are able to adjust their style to fit the needs of the situation and the team member.

It maps four leadership styles to four competence and commitment levels of the team members as described below.

Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership II Model


The OSCAR coaching and mentoring model can be used in project management to help project managers provide effective support and guidance to their team members. It was developed by Karen Whittleworth and Andrew Gilbert. The model is particularly useful for project managers seeking to adopt a coaching style.

Five Elements of the OSCAR Model

The OSCAR model consists of five key elements:

  1. Outcome: The desired outcome or goal of the coaching or mentoring relationship should be clearly defined and agreed upon by both parties.

  2. Situation: The project manager should assess the situation and consider factors such as the team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and challenges, as well as external factors that may be impacting their performance or wellbeing.

  3. Choices and Consequences: The project manager should help the team member explore and evaluate different options and choices for achieving their desired outcome.

  4. Actions: The project manager should help the team member develop an action plan for implementing their chosen options and achieving their desired outcome.

  5. Review: The project manager should continually review and evaluate the team member’s progress, providing feedback and making adjustments as needed to ensure they stay on track towards achieving their desired outcome.

The OSCAR model emphasizes the importance of collaboration and partnership between the coach or mentor and the mentee, and it encourages the mentee to take ownership of their goals and actions. The coach or mentor’s role is to facilitate the mentee’s exploration and decision-making process, and to provide guidance and support as needed.

By using the OSCAR model, project managers can help team members to develop their skills and abilities, overcome challenges, and achieve their goals.

Further Reading

Also read the following:

  1. Tuckman Ladder: for the various stages of team development and the corresponding leadership styles to be adopted.
  2. Shu Ha Ri Model: for Agile coaching styles.


Related Articles

  1. Diversity and Inclusion
  2. Management vs Leadership
  3. Servant Leadership
  4. Tuckman Ladder
Last updated: June 15, 2024