Roles of a Project Team Leader

Both Discovery and Development project leaders are expected to take on the following roles in the project team.

  • Leadership. The project leader works with the team and key stakeholders to set the key goals and major objectives. The PL is expected to maintain focus and provide clear direction to both team members and with respect to external influencers, to be the champion for the project, to be clear about the program’s priority in the portfolio, to demand scientific excellence from team members and to support team member personal development. The PL will often be called upon to clarify the roles and responsibilities of team members both between potentially competing team members and to their bosses. A good leader actively solicits input from team members and key stake holders. The good PL also recognizes and acknowledges the contributions of team members.
  • Decision Making/Judgement. The PL should include the team in formulating decisions but should accept accountability for the decision. Provide an honest assessment of the project relative to current and future cost. Proactively acknowledge the time to advance the project to the next stage (not “we’ve got a couple experiments we’d like to finish first”) and when to recommend termination.
  • Knowledge. Understand the scientific rationale and technical issues associated with the project target and lead agents (small molecule or biologic), with the clinical and market drivers, and with the processes and progression criteria associated the stage of Discovery or Development.
  • Planning. The PL is responsible for developing a project plan that works to achieve progression criteria using sound scientific processes in the shortest amount of time with the least cost. The PL must challenge work that is not directly related to the critical path. The PL negotiates approval of the project plan with management. The PL ensures that the plan is re-evaluated, adjusted and re-negotiated at regular intervals, or when internal data or external information suggests that the timeline may slip or certain objectives may not be met.
  • Influencing. Making sure all team members and their line managers and key stakeholders support the project. The term “herding cats” is appropriate.
  • Negotiation. The PL may need to interact directly with line managers to ensure resources are available when needed, and to negotiate amendments to the project plan especially those that change deliverable completion dates.
  • Meeting Management. The PL is responsible for organizing, facilitating and ensuring follow-up action on issues raised in the meeting. When required, the PL will organize corporate scientific program review.
  • Communication. Keep team members and stakeholders informed of key developments, program decisions, issues, and changes to the project and the project plan. Provide timely reporting in any corporate project reporting system or to any corporate review board. And promote and support external presentation of scientific advances made by the team. Provide relevant information to legal or regulatory groups as required.
  • Alliance Management. Fulfill obligations to external alliance partners. Support to the project by the partner may be reported by way of an employee of the partnering organization who serves as an actual team member, or through regular communications managed by the corporate alliance management group. The extent to which functions of the team are outsourced, will determine the extent to which proper alliance management is critical to an adequately functioning project team.

You may wish to refer to the section Qualities of a Good Project Leader.