Project management expertise is employed across many professional sectors, including clinical research organizations, to ensure that efforts undertaken by the organization are completed on time and according to specifications and are capable of achieving the needed impact. Increasingly, project leaders (PLs) who possess this expertise are being employed in academic settings to support clinical and preclinical translational research team science. Duke University’s clinical and translational science enterprise has been an early adopter of project management to support clinical and preclinical programs. We review the history and evolution of project management and the PL role at Duke, examine case studies that illustrate their growing value to our academic research environment, and address challenges and solutions to employing project management in academia. Furthermore, we describe the critical role project leadership plays in accelerating and increasing the success of translational team science and team approaches frequently required for systems biology and “big data” scientific studies. Finally, we discuss perspectives from Duke project leadership professionals regarding the training needs and requirements for PLs working in academic clinical and translational science research settings.