What Makes A Great Manager and Leader?

Est. reading time: 6 minutes

It’s pretty difficult to be considered great in a leadership position because of all of interpersonal skills that need to be mastered, but this article will explore some introspective questions you can ask yourself to strengthen leadership qualities. They are designed to help you think about how you want to lead others. It’s easy to be a bad leader because it requires little effort or thought, in fact it’s human nature for most bosses. Contrary, being an effective leader takes work, and in times of challenge, it is increasingly more important to demonstrate strong leadership and provide motivation and support for employees.

True leaders display certain characteristics. As a business owner or manager, review the below questions and answer “yes” or “no” to the following as you examine your leadership style:

1. Do you offer frequent praise to employees?

Hopefully, you answered yes to this foundational question. It may be that you deserve some of the credit, but there is someone else who deserves more than you. A person who is a poor manager will often take credit for all good things that happen in a business but will blame his or her employees when something goes wrong. A good manager is quick to give praise when praise is due and willingly takes responsibility when required. This is one of the simplest leadership skills to add to your management style because you can do it right away. Who on your team can you go recognize?

2. Do you trust your employees and empower them to make decisions?

You need to trust people, and they also need trust you. If you don’t trust your staff, then you won’t be able to delegate tasks effectively, leaving you no choice but to micromanage everything yourself. A true leader builds explicit trust through effective communication, talking the talk, and implicit trust through actions, walking the walk. An average manager only achieves the former and bad managers, well they often lack proper communication skills entirely. Whatever their position, employees must feel empowered to do their jobs and know they’re trusted to get the job done. When you properly empower them, individuals develop additional soft skills, and begin to make decisions that benefit the business because they understand the common goals. An employee who develops these essential qualities becomes a real asset and may even become part of your own leadership team.

3. Do you evaluate how much work is on the plate of each of your employees?

You might be working longer hours than any of your employees, but you must also consider how much work they’re doing. Without hard-working staff, a manager’s job would be even harder. When was the last time you asked an employee to share with you what was on their plate, outside of a performance review? Successful managers provide the strong leadership an organization needs by balancing workloads effectively. In order to do that you need your team to feel comfortable telling you if they are overwhelmed, and from time to time they may even share that they have additional bandwidth to help take something off your own plate.

4. Do you have a formula to tie salary to job performance and position?

Employees usually hope that they will enjoy their jobs, but they also want to be paid fairly. An effective manager takes into consideration an employee’s job performance and position when equating that to salary and is open in communicating about expectations. Employees must be adequately paid so they aren’t always looking for another job or becoming dissatisfied with their current one. An employee who becomes complacent or dissatisfied with their role is often more damaging to the organizational goals than having no employee in that role at all. 

5. Do you focus on the strengths of your employees?

Certainly, this is better than focusing on their weaknesses. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, but motivation comes from recognizing and encouraging all employees to use the strengths they have to the best of their abilities. The most effective leadership is where business leaders position duties in the hands of those with the greatest alignment of their technical skills. This takes finesse, and a true understanding of your team. While weaknesses can be improved upon over time, dwelling on an employee’s weaknesses does nothing to improve performance. If you aren’t providing constructive feedback and opportunities for professional development you will lose the battle either way.

6. Do you hire slow, promote cautiously, and fire fast?

Often the hiring and promotion process is rushed and negative results are the end product. Great people managers take time to hire the right individual for the right job – i.e., multiple interview rounds, probing open-ended questions, reference checks or skills testing. Strong leaders are cautiously optimistic when providing advancement opportunities. Promoting an internal individual into a position with higher responsibilities is part of a natural cycle, but performance in the current role is 100% not equivocal to performance in a higher role. You must evaluate the candidates performance and attitude based on the new and expanded job responsibilities, or otherwise you didn’t need that higher role in your organization chart to begin with. Hanging on to employees too long is another area where the soft skills of bad managers can lead an organization astray. If you have had to provide more honest negative feedback than positive feedback and have offered enough quality time for the individual to get additional training and rise to the expectations of the position the individual is probably not the right fit. One individual can prevent all team goals from being achieved in certain circumstances so effective management also lets go of individuals quickly, as a service to them to find something that is a better fit and for the business.

7. Do you avoid micromanaging?

There is no room in great leadership characteristics for a micromanager. While some employees do enjoy being micromanaged or actually do need to be micromanaged (perhaps a bad hiring decision), people with true leadership skills are able to build enough confidence in these individuals through positive communication and praise, personal development, alongside good job training. If you are in a managerial position you need to have the management skills to hold people accountable and to understand the key takeaways of their current job performance without hovering over their shoulder (or screen). Most employees enjoy a certain amount of freedom to perform their jobs without being micromanaged as long as they understand predetermined objectives because it builds a sense of accomplishment (which you can then praise – back in number 1). 

8. Do you have your employees’ backs?

Supporting employees if there are disputes with customers or vendors assuming, of course, that the employee has followed company procedures is critical to building trust. Nothing is more embarrassing for an employee than when they are not backed by their boss. Perhaps, a dispute might take a bit of diplomacy on the part of the boss, but employees must know where they stand if an unpleasant situation occurs and it is imperative to being a successful leader that you have cultivated a safe environment for your team.

9. Do you provide well defined directives, and establish realistic expectations for time?

Employees need clear guidelines, directions, and objectives for what they’re supposed to be doing and to know how well they’re doing it. It must not be left to chance. Great bosses don’t shy away from giving guidance, direction, and goals to start a project, but they do not move the goal posts once underway. Employees operate in limbo when their bosses don’t know what they should be doing or not doing.

So, Are You Great?

Hiring and training employees takes time, money, and effort. If employees aren’t motivated and happy at work, then they’re unlikely to put forth any effort. Either they get bored or they decide to leave. If an employee is not satisfied with his or her job, then whatever option is chosen will have a negative impact on a company, its operations, sales and profits, and other employees. Strong people management can save a small business or power it to the next level.

Regardless of whether a business has a few employees or hundreds of employees managers must be great leaders. They need to motivate employees, engage them, build relationships, and establish a culture where employees want to stay and help the company succeed. Retention is key.

Now that you have answered the above questions, where do you fit, do you provide strong leadership?

If you answered YES to all these questions then you’re set up for excellence, but if not have you considered signing up for a free 15 minute introduction to learn how short term consulting could benefit your business?