Is there any difference between a project leader and a project manager? Is their involvement different in any aspect?
What are the tasks performed by project managers? What are the tasks performed by project leaders?
The answer to the question pretty much depends on definitions of project leader and project manager. While the latter, despite being interpreted to some point, is something which most of us perceive in a similar manner, the former will vary vastly, depending on who you ask.
For me project leader is someone who genuinely lead people in the project. Something who has the vision and is able to get people signed in to this vision and engaged. In means that in one project functional manager can be project leader, in another it would be project manager and in other one of sponsors or stakeholders.
Also if you scale it down to one-man projects there's probably project leader (the only person in the project, who is probably just a developer by the way) and there's definitely no project manager whatsoever.
If you scale a project up to the point where you have multiple project managers responsible for specific modules or parts a project leader would be probably someone sponsor who is high enough in the hierarchy to take responsibility for the whole project.
And if we keep a definition like that: you can have project where you have project manager (who is dealing with all typical project management stuff) and no project leader. By the way this wouldn't be the best project to work at, as there as fairly small chances it would be a success.
Here is a great article, Are You a Manager or a Leader, that clearly and objectively, as well as with a nice diagram, describes the differences between leadership and management.
You may have a few project leaders in a big project, not all have to be project managers. From a business perspective, a project leader is the one that:
Now, all the above can and should be used by the PM. So in general:
Not sure what you mean by project leaders.
There are two ways to interpret this question.
One is the designation “Project Lead” or “Technical Leads” used in multiple organizations.
If this is your interpretation the differences are simple:
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Project management role compared to a Team Leader’s role is much less technical (unless you are a technical manager) and is much more operational. Roles range in multiple areas.
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In smaller organizations which focus on innovation both designations often mean similar things since people are allowed to play multiple roles. I’ve also seen projects being executed with any project manager per say where the project leader was playing the role of the project manager and doing some basic status reporting.
The other way to interpret the question and the word “project leader” is a person who leads a project or a team. E.g. Steve Jobs is a classic example of a leader for the Macintosh team but most people would not call him a manager. He is known for his leadership qualities, which include vision about which products will work, which features will make a product click, which interfaces will have the biggest appeal and how to introduce the products on stage where he practically plays the face of the team. The skills of leadership don’t essentially always make you a good manager. Qualities of a Project Leader are a good plus to have but management has a scope which includes other areas particularly, understanding, working with, empathizing with, helping growth and getting all operational impediments (more colloquially reffered to as “Bullshit”) cleared.
I have noticed (in practice) three different approaches to the 'difference' between Project Manager and Project Leader:
It is a very small linguistic difference between the two titles. In my experience, there are only a couple of differences:
I find that the distinction between the two titles is only mildly useful. In a large organization with long running, multi-phase projects, it might be a more useful distinction.
While many companies typically choose to overlook, or operate without, any functional difference between project manager and project leader, in reality there is a great difference between the two.
The easiest clue? Salary.
A project lead by definition is the responsible party for the entire project, and gets compensated accordingly. A project manager is usually responsible for aspects of the project, especially those requiring day to day task allocation and supervision.
While the difference in salary can be as difficult to decipher as the difference in the titles, a project manager typically tops out around 125k in the US, and a leader about 175K. If you have the option to choose your title, I know 50,000 reasons to choose leader.