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Project Lead vs Project Manager: Unraveling roles, differences, and similarities

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Updated on:
July 9, 2024
July 9, 2024
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The roles of a project lead and a project manager may seem similar, however, one should keep in mind that there are key differences too. As usual, a project lead focuses on the team by guiding them towards the successful achievement of tasks. 

In contrast, a manager of a project is more focused on the overall project management. The remarkable thing about them is they also oversee the implementation of the project from start to finish. It’s astonishing how they utilize their project supervisor leadership skills.

It’s evident that roles and responsibilities for both project leaders and project managers include planning, budgeting, scheduling, and risk management. Yet, it’s an interesting thing to emphasize that the supervisor's scope of responsibility is usually wider than the project lead's roles and responsibilities. Let’s talk about remuneration now., What’s notable is project managers often command a higher salary compared to project lead salary. It is because of the larger extent of ownership and leadership abilities which are required for the role. This article discusses project manager vs project lead comprehensively. 

Introduction to project management

One amazing thing is project management plays a pivotal role in achieving targeted objectives within set parameters. 

Certainly, in this ambit, the roles of project managers and project leads are crucial. Over and above that, a project manager takes a commanding role by employing project supervisor leadership skills, whereas a project lead guides the team with project leadership skills.

What’s obvious is the project lead's roles and responsibilities generally include the coordination of the team along with progress oversight. At the same time, the manager of the project oversees the bigger picture and strategies accordingly. Be it the manager of the project or the project leader, one thing is for sure: strong leadership abilities are necessary to drive a project toward success.

Understanding the importance of project management in agencies

It’s essential to mention that project management is crucial in agencies to ensure the achievement of set goals and objectives. Evidently, the distinct difference between a project manager vs project lead lies in their roles and responsibilities. One noticeable thing is a project lead manages a team whereas a project supervisor oversees the entire initiative.

Another interesting thing to emphasize is qualities such as project leadership skills and leadership abilities are crucial for success. Of course, these include communication, transparency, as well as the ability to motivate a team.

Mastering the role of a project manager with Bonsai

Bonsai equips project managers to lead, plan, and track. From assigning tasks to monitoring progress, Bonsai empowers them to keep projects on track and clients informed.

Project managers roles in Bonsai:

The platform guarantees that every project task is in line with the larger business goals, ensuring that all efforts contribute to the overall mission. Through Bonsai, project managers are provided with improved oversight and authority, facilitating easier navigation of projects towards successful results and the attainment of managerial proficiency.

Here are the key features:

  • Strategic Planning: Define project scope and objectives, ensuring alignment with business goals.
  • Resource Management: Allocate tasks and track team member contributions and time.
  • Risk Mitigation: Identify potential issues and develop strategies to address them.
  • Stakeholder Communication: Maintain clear, consistent dialogue with all project participants.
  • Performance Monitoring: Oversee project progress and implement improvements as needed.
Link to Team

As a project managers, you can:

  • Bringing in new clients
  • Assigning appropriate tags for organization
  • Invite existing team members to projects
  • Archiving clients when necessary
  • View Timesheets
  • Edit Client Data and Customer Fields
  • Access Resourcing and see team members' capacity
  • Edit Two-Factor Authentication Settings
Link to Task Management

There are 4 user roles in Bonsai:

  • The Owner: Is the founder of the company account, enjoying unrestricted access to all account features. Each company is limited to a single Owner.
  • Partners: Assist the Owner in company management, with comprehensive access,no access to banking details.
  • Project Managers: Oversee clients, projects, tasks, resourcing, and time tracking, with authority over team assignments per project, but no visibility into financial data.
  • Collaborators: Contribute to specific projects, capable of time tracking and task addition, without insight into client information, financials, or key company documents like proposals, contracts, and invoices.

Defining the roles: Project lead and project manager

It’s no secret that the roles and responsibilities of a project lead and a project manager often intertwine, and, to be precise, this sparks the frequent ‘project lead vs project manager’ debate. Essentially, the project lead is accountable for leading the team towards a successful execution of the project. One obvious thing is this is required for robust project leadership skills. They are focused on task-level management. And coordinating the work of team members.

On the other hand, project managers take on a broader view. And handle project management on a strategic level. Generally they orchestrate the entire project, taking care of schedules, budgets, resources, and stakeholder communication. The fantastic thing about good project supervisors is they often display strong project manager leadership skills which may include: 

  1. Planning
  2. Communication 
  3. Conflict resolution abilities

As a result, the manager of the project’s salaries typically exceeds the project lead's salary. Usually, this reflects their wider scale of responsibility. Nevertheless, the notable thing about both roles is they are essential to lead project management to success, clearly each complementing the other's tasks.  

What is a project lead?

In general, a ‘Project Lead’ is often interchangeable with a Project Manager who plays a key role in maintaining project leadership. What’s worth noticing is they coordinate the team's efforts, manage timelines, and handle any issues that arise during a project's execution. 

Remember, project leaders often need strong project manager leadership skills, including: 

  1. Strategic thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Problem-solving abilities
  4. Delegation

Although the terms Project Lead and the manager of the project may vary in different companies; with some instances in which a project lead reports to a project supervisor. Another notable thing is their salary ranges also differ. It’s fascinating how it is based on the complexity and size of the projects they lead.

What is a project manager?

You should know that a manager of a project is a professional who provides project leadership. To add on, he oversees every aspect of a project in order to ensure it meets timeframes, budgets, and goals. 

Subsequently, he is the one responsible for planning, executing, and closing projects. It’s amazing to find out how the roles and responsibilities entail defining the project along with managing the project's budget.

What’s obvious is project Managers require an array of project management leadership skills. To be precise, this includes leadership abilities in the following spheres:

  • The management of the team
  • Risk management
  • Decision-making

Commonly, decision-making skills, coordination abilities, and communication strengths are integral to the role. 

Key responsibilities of a project lead

It is a well-established fact that a Project Leader plays a crucial role in project management. Putting it all together, this role involves guiding team members, making key decisions, and ensuring tasks are executed successfully. Basic responsibilities include leading the team, planning and scheduling tasks, ensuring quality, and managing risks and issues.

While there's a fine line of difference when it comes to leads of the project vs the manager of the project, however, a project lead typically focuses more on the operational aspects, while a project manager is expected to have overall leadership of the project, including strategy and goal setting. 

Project leads need excellent leadership skills and project management competencies. They are typically salaried employees.

Leading the team

One thing is for sure: Project leadership is about leveraging your project manager leadership skills to guide the project leaders and project managers under your wing effectively. If someone is the project lead, it’s crucial to be aware that their roles, and responsibilities extend further than the simple execution of tasks. 

What's evident is a project lead's salary may differ from a project supervisor's salary based on the project leadership skills and leadership abilities required in different organizations. Irrespective of the title, predictably, cultivating stellar leadership qualities is key to successful project management.

Technical expertise and guidance

A project lead and a manager of a project may have similar roles and responsibilities, but there are key distinctions that make each role unique and exciting! 

It is important to highlight that a lead of the project typically focuses more on the technical aspects, showcasing their fantastic communication and organizational skills. 

On the contrary, project managers need excellent leadership skills so that they can:

  1. Guide a team
  2. Manage resources
  3. Maintain budget control 

Collaboration with project manager

In an organization, one fascinating thing is the collaboration between a project manager and a project lead significantly influences project outcomes. Despite the similarities, the project supervisor vs project lead debate sheds light on distinct roles and responsibilities. There is no denying that a manager of a project focuses on planning and executing projects while a project lead takes control of specific project stages. 

Conversely, among the noticeable things about the project lead’s roles and responsibilities is they lie more in leading specific phases or teams within a project. Of course, this division helps ensure effective lead project management.

Amazingly, both roles require substantial leadership abilities and project leadership skills! It’s astounding how they play crucial roles in project management that contribute to the successful completion of tasks! 

Key responsibilities of a project manager

Without any doubt, it can be said that a Project Manager holds significant roles and responsibilities in the vibrant world of project management. One of the important things to note is their main duty is to plan, execute, and finalize projects within a given time frame, budget constraints, and quality standards, and, ultimately, make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Compared to a project lead, a project supervisor has more comprehensive leadership skills, including:

  1. High-level decision making
  2. The management of risks
  3. Conflict resolution

The noticeable thing about them is their regular communication updates, challenges, and changes to all stakeholders. And, one obvious thing is this highlights the importance of effective communication.

Furthermore, another obvious thing is project managers are also responsible for administering the project lead’s roles and responsibilities. 

Planning and defining scope

Defining the project scope is all about understanding the distinct roles and responsibilities of a project leader and a project manager. Picture the project lead diving into specific management tasks, while the project supervisor takes on the broader role of project leadership. It is apparent that both require a unique set of skills and leadership abilities to succeed.

It's indisputable that the project manager's salary and the project lead's salary reflect the value placed on these roles in project management. That’s why getting a grip on the project lead vs project supervisor dynamic is crucial for effective leadership.

Together, project leaders and project managers are the backbone of a project's success. Likewise they shape its outcome and boost its recognition within the organization.

Resource allocation and management

Understanding the differences between a manager of a project vs project lead plays a significant role in resource allocation and the management of projects. 

The project supervisor, who usually earns a higher salary, handles the big picture– starting, planning, executing, controlling, and finishing a project. Specifically, they need strong leadership skills to get the job done right.

Risk management and quality assurance

In any project, it’s an undeniable truth that both project managers and project leaders play crucial roles. What’s remarkable is each of them brings their unique talents to the table. The remarkable thing about them is their roles and responsibilities differ significantly, adding variety and excitement to the process. One notable thing about a project manager is they require leadership skills to manage resources, control budgets, and balance project risks with quality assurance. 

To wrap things up, risk management and quality assurance hinge on the proficiency of project supervisors and project leaders, their exceptional leadership skills, as well as a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Similarities between project lead and project manager

It is fair to say, “Both a project lead and a project supervisor are super important in project management. They both have great leadership skills to motivate the team and hit project goals on time.” 

One fascinating thing is they share many tasks like planning, delegating, tracking progress, and fixing issues. Commonly, a project lead's tasks often overlap with those of a manager of a project, making both roles crucial. While their paychecks might be different, both need solid leadership skills. Another fascinating thing is they both make key decisions that ensure the project's success.

Shared goal of project success

One thing is for certain: Project success is a shared goal for both project leaders and project supervisors. To achieve this, the project lead's roles and responsibilities include providing effective project leadership along with the utilization of their project leadership skills to guide their team towards completing tasks on time, on budget, and in accordance with quality standards.

A notable thing to observe is The project manager, meanwhile, gets into the nitty-gritty of planning, resource allocation, and risk management. It's worth noting that They use their leadership skills to keep the team focused and the project moving smoothly. Whether it's the project lead or the manager, one should know that both have essential roles that contribute to a successful project, even if their salaries differ! 

Importance of communication skills

Inarguably, communication skills are a must in project management, especially for project leads and managers. It’s staggering how they need strong leadership skills to clearly explain their roles and responsibilities to the team and stakeholders. Effective communication is key to completing projects successfully, reducing misunderstandings, and boosting team morale. Leaders who communicate well often earn higher salaries because of their skills. So, if you're a project manager or leader, work on those communication skills to ensure smooth decision-making and project success!

Differences between project lead and project manager

If you're wondering about project leads and project managers, although they often get mixed up, but, it’s crucial to understand that they have different roles. A project lead usually focuses on leading a specific team and handling daily tasks. One interesting thing about a project supervisor is they oversee the whole project, manage resources, and timelines, and keep everyone happy. So, while the project lead takes care of a team's tasks, the notable thing about the project manager is they look after the entire project.

Another interesting difference between a project lead vs a project supervisor lies in the leadership abilities required. 

What’s fascinating is project leadership skills in a manager include delegation, conflict resolution, and a broad vision to guide a project successfully from conception to completion. A project leader needs solid technical skills and the ability so that they can inspire their team to complete tasks efficiently. Plus, from a remuneration perspective, the manager of the project usually earns a higher salary than project leads. As a consequence, this reflects their broader scope and higher responsibility.

Level of authority and decision-making

One thing to be noted: The level of authority and decision-making greatly varies between a project lead and a project manager. Usually, the project lead's roles and responsibilities include overseeing a subset of a project, while a manager of a project sees the whole project from initiation to closure.

It is important to mention that project leadership involves not only managing tasks but also inspiring team members. 

Despite the dissimilar roles and responsibilities, both positions are intertwined. To be specific, both the project leaders and project supervisors profoundly impact successful project management. 

Focus on technical vs. strategic aspects

A project supervisor handles the technical side, at the same time, they make sure tasks are done on time and within budget. What's evident is they use their leadership skills to track progress. Nevertheless, a project lead focuses on planning, organizing, and achieving goals. While both roles need leadership abilities, the scope is different. 

One of the crucial things to note is the project manager looks after daily management, while the project lead sets strategies. 

Although roles vary, it's worth noting that the typical project lead salary might not differ greatly from the project manager’s salary. This depends on factors such as industry, region, and level of experience.

Transitioning from project lead to project manager

Transitioning from a Project Lead to a Project Manager invites an increase in responsibilities and leadership abilities. Typically. if you move from a Project Lead to a project supervisor, you'll take on more responsibilities. Among the important things to emphasize is the project lead focuses on technical tasks, while the project manager handles planning and strategy. 

As apparent, the differences between these roles often involve overseeing teams, managing resources, and meeting stakeholder expectations. If you have these skills, you might earn a higher salary as a project manager compared to a project lead. One thing is proven: Both roles are essential in managing projects and achieving goals.

Skills and experience required

For the position of ‘Lead of the project vs manager of the project’, in particular, it is essential to possess strong project leadership skills. What’s amazing is this can often distinguish the roles and responsibilities of project leaders and project managers. 

As a project leader or project supervisor, you will oversee strategic planning, coordinate teams, manage risks, and ensure projects are completed on time and within budget. Previous experience in a similar role with a proven track record is often necessary.

Given the said roles, project leadership skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, communication, and team building, are highly desirable. For HR, an understanding of the project manager's salary and the salary of the project lead could be beneficial in negotiations.

Challenges and how to overcome them

The distinction between a project lead and a manager of a project can often blur, creating a dynamic and exciting challenge in defining roles and responsibilities. Another fascinating thing is Project leaders focus on strategic aspects, while project supervisors handle tactical elements, making for an engaging balancing act. 

Owing to this, enhancing project manager leadership skills has become crucial. They need to build their leadership abilities and drive project leadership across the team. 

It’s a worrying thing that another challenge lies in the disparities between the project manager's salary and the project lead's salary. But the good news is ensuring pay commensurate with responsibilities can be overcome by proper lead project management roles definition and evaluation.

Tools for effective project management and leadership

Project leadership skills are so important in management because they help guide the team to reach their goals. Being a project lead or manager is a big responsibility. You get to plan, coordinate, and monitor tasks, and handle any issues that come up. Both roles need strong communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. Whether you're a project lead or a manager, your leadership is key to success!

Bonsai: Enhancing collaboration and workflow

Bonsai is a top-tier project management and leadership tool that significantly enhances collaboration and workflow efficiency. The best thing about this tool is it has been designed to streamline the complexities of project management. As a result, this makes it easier for teams to work together and achieve their objectives with greater precision and effectiveness.

Link to Project Management

Here’s how Bonsai helps:

  • Bonsai promotes a culture of collaboration, and, consequently, it encourages team engagement and fosters strong relationships within the organization.
  • With features tailored for remote work, Bonsai ensures that teams can collaborate effectively, regardless of their location.
  • The notable thing about this platform is it provides modern collaboration tools that are indispensable for maintaining a cohesive work environment.
  • Bonsai's project management workflow is awesome for any project's success! As usual, it involves detailed planning, task management, and automation to keep everything running smoothly.
  • Workflow diagrams in Bonsai make tasks and processes super clear, so nothing gets missed, and overall project quality goes up.
  • Bonsai ensures everyone can see what's happening with the project, setting the stage for great collaboration and leadership.
  • Another noticeable feature of this tool is it helps leaders with performance reviews and feedback, which are crucial for continuous improvement and effective leadership.
Link to Project Management

In summary, Bonsai is a powerful solution for project management and leadership. It streamlines workflows and enhances collaboration, providing tools to manage projects efficiently, foster teamwork, and lead successfully. If you are in a small team or working at a large enterprise, the cool thing about Bonsai’s features is they boost productivity and drive successful project outcomes.

Slack: Enhancing team communication

Slack– a modern tool that enhances team communication, making roles and responsibilities clearer for project supervisors and project leaders. What's intriguing is it facilitates project management by allowing the project lead to properly delegate tasks along with addressing issues promptly.

Some of the fundamental project leadership skills– for example, coordination, and problem-solving are significantly improved with Slack. 

Asana: Task management and collaboration

The Asana platform is a fantastic tool designed specifically for project management and collaboration. It greatly complements roles such as project lead, the manager of the project, and the project leader by simplifying the implementation of their roles and responsibilities. It is relevant to mention that the use of this tool also enhances the project supervisor’s leadership skills.

Asana provides features that facilitate project leadership and ensure smooth project management. 

Conclusion: Choosing the right role for your agency

In determining between the role of the lead of the project vs the manager of the project– the essence of project leadership must be the principal factor. Certainly, the project leader's roles and responsibilities often involve using their leadership abilities to guide the team, in contrast, a project manager focuses more on admin-type tasks. 

It's a well-documented fact that each role in the lead project management is vital for the successful completion of projects.

You should consider the financial aspects like project lead and project manager salaries. It’s obvious that both roles are rewarding, but know that the project supervisor might have a higher pay scale. Deciding whether to focus on developing project managers or project leaders depends on your company's structure, management method, and available resources.

Start your free trial of Bonsai management tool today!
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