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The Real Power Behind AI in Project Management: Power Skills 

By Attila Engert 20 Jun 2024
The Real Power Behind AI in Project Management: Power Skills 

When I discussed this topic with my dear friend and colleague Rob, he gave a great analogy that illustrates its importance. Throughout history, we have used to navigate nature in various ways. Today, most of us use our phones with GPS and navigation apps. We don't look at maps or prepare much; we mainly rely on the tool. What happens when our phone battery dies? Are we lost? Can we find our way out of the forest without knowing and honing the necessary skills? 

In today's fast-paced and technology-driven world, AI and advanced project management tools are becoming indispensable. They streamline processes, automate repetitive tasks, and enhance decision-making through data analytics. However, while these tools represent significant advancements, they often give an artificial boost to our capabilities. Relying solely on them can tend to create a false sense of proficiency, masking the real need for power skills when facing real-life challenges. 

AI and Hard Skills: The Technical Backbone

power skills in project management

AI and project management tools fall under the category of hard skills. These are the tangible, measurable abilities acquired through education and practice. Although these tools in project management are indeed powerful, their impact is limited to technical execution. 

They streamline tasks such as scheduling, risk management, and reporting, enabling project managers to focus on higher-level strategic decisions. However, this technological crutch can sometimes give project managers an artificial boost in their capabilities. The danger here is that it may lead to complacency in developing the essential power skills that are critical when technology is not at hand. 

Hard skills are typically acquired through very clear, tangible methods. Courses, certifications, and hands-on practice can quickly bring someone up to speed. Yet, the dynamic nature of technology means these skills must constantly be updated. What remains evergreen and critical, however, are power skills. 

The Critical Role of Power Skills

power skills in project management ii

Power skills, often mislabelled as soft skills, are critical for navigating the complexities of human interactions within project management. These include communication, leadership, adaptability, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Unlike hard skills, they are challenging to measure and require continuous development. 


Effective communication ensures clarity, prevents misunderstandings, and fosters a collaborative environment. It is vital for stakeholder engagement and team coordination. This involves not just relaying information but also active listening and providing feedback. In a project setting, clear communication helps in setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and maintaining transparency.


Inspiring and motivating a team through vision and direction cannot be automated. Leadership involves decision-making, conflict resolution, and the ability to drive change. A project manager with strong leadership skills can influence and guide the team towards achieving project goals while also managing the different personalities and dynamics within the team. 

Critical Thinking 

This skill enables project managers to analyse situations, foresee potential issues, and develop innovative solutions. AI can provide data, but interpreting it and making informed decisions requires human insight. Critical thinking involves evaluating information from multiple perspectives and making decisions that are not only effective but also ethical and sustainable. 

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing one's own emotions, as well as empathising with others, is crucial. It helps build strong relationships, lead teams effectively, and navigate the organisational landscape. High EQ allows project managers to handle stress, manage conflict, and create a positive working environment which motivates team members. 


The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected challenges is a hallmark of a proficient project manager. AI tools can support this, but the human element of flexibility and quick thinking is irreplaceable. Adaptability involves being open to new ideas, adjusting plans as necessary, and maintaining productivity under pressure. 

The False Sense of Proficiency

While AI tools can enhance our abilities, they can also create an illusion of mastery. Project managers might rely heavily on these tools, becoming overconfident in their technical prowess. 

However, in scenarios where quick, decisive, and human-centric responses are required, power skills come to the forefront. 

For instance, during a critical project crisis where immediate and empathetic communication is required, no AI tool can replace the human touch. Similarly, leading a team through a significant change initiative demands emotional intelligence and persuasive leadership that no software can emulate. 

AI tools are excellent for providing data-driven insights and optimising processes, but they lack the ability to understand context, emotions, and nuances in human behaviour. This gap can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and, ultimately, project failures if not managed properly. 

Real-Life Scenarios: The Power of Human Skills 

Imagine a project where unexpected stakeholder resistance arises. An AI tool might help in rescheduling tasks and reallocating resources, but addressing the root cause requires a project manager who can communicate effectively, understand the stakeholders' concerns, and negotiate a solution. This involves not just presenting data but also empathising with stakeholders, understanding their perspectives, and building trust. 

In another scenario, if a project faces an ethical dilemma, critical thinking and strong leadership are needed to navigate the situation appropriately. AI might provide options based on data, but the decision-making and ethical considerations rest with the project manager's judgment. This requires a deep understanding of the organisational values, stakeholder expectations, and the potential long-term impacts of the decision. 

When a project encounters unforeseen events, such as a sudden change in market conditions or a major technical failure, adaptability becomes crucial. A project manager with strong adaptability skills can quickly assess the situation, develop a contingency plan, and guide the team through the crisis. This involves staying calm under pressure, making quick decisions, and maintaining team morale.  

Building True Proficiency 

To avoid the false sense of proficiency that AI can provide, project managers should focus on developing their power skills alongside their technical skills. Here are some options to ensure a balanced skill set: 

Continuous Learning

Engage in training programs that emphasise both hard and powerful skills. Workshops, roleplaying exercises, and real-world simulations can be particularly effective. 


Seek mentors who exemplify strong power skills and can provide guidance and feedback. 

Practice Empathy and Active Listening

Regularly practice these skills in both professional and personal settings to build strong relational dynamics. 

Reflect and Adapt

After completing projects, reflect on what worked and what didn't in terms of interpersonal interactions and decision-making processes. 

Conclusion: Balancing AI and Power Skills 

While AI and advanced tools are transforming project management, they should be viewed as complementary to, not replacements for, power skills. Mastering these tools can boost efficiency, but the real edge comes from developing strong interpersonal skills. These power skills are the foundation for managing projects successfully, especially in complex and unpredictable environments. 

In essence, while AI enhances our capabilities, it is the power skills that truly drive project success. Investing in the continuous development of these skills ensures that project managers remain effective and adaptable, regardless of the technological tools at their disposal. 

For project managers, the challenge is to strike a balance between leveraging AI tools and nurturing power skills. This balance not only enhances individual performance but also contributes to the overall success of the organisation. By focusing on developing both sets of skills, project managers can navigate the complexities of modern projects and achieve sustainable success

So, while embracing AI and technological advancements, never lose sight of the human element. Power skills are the true differentiators that will propel your career and ensure your projects are not just completed but excel.