What Makes a Successful Manager

woman at table with 3 other workers viewing laptops

Lessons Learned from 28 Years

WHAT makes a successful manager? For years I dodged the question. The answers, I thought, were always unique to the person. And while I believe that is true, there are some patterns I’ve noticed. I love the work I do. And since 1992, I’ve coached well over 1,000 managers, senior leaders, and CEOs. Our company has conducted hundreds of training sessions on leadership. And, we have delivered dozens of customized Leadership 360 Assessments. So, here are the patterns that we’ve noticed that make a great manager:

1.They work like dogs. Never have I found a successful manager who had a lackadaisical approach to work. These workaholics don’t know how to relax. Work-life balance is their opportunity. But, they all:

  • Return emails promptly,
  • Anticipate the needs of others,
  • Plan their work, not just attend meetings.
  • These people are not procrastinators. They thrive on achieving results.

2. They’re lifelong learners. These people are curious about what makes the business and its people tick. They understand the relationship between employee engagement and leadership, and business results. Some of their habits include:

  • These people read books on leadership, go to workshops on team building and read articles from HBR about leadership,
  • They conduct after-action reviews (Postmortems) after projects are completed,
  • They encourage learning in their people by asking the right open-ended, thought-provoking questions that inspire reflection.

3. They’re emotionally intelligent. These people realize it’s not just what they say but how they say it that matters. They’re good at:

  • Adjusting their communication style to the preference of their audience,
  • Considering the long-term effects of their written and spoken word,
  • Managing their adverse reactions in appropriate ways.

4. They’re visionaries. These people are always looking ahead to what could be and are not limited by what is. They:

  • Communicate a compelling vision for their team or company,
  • Align others to that vision by explaining how they support a brighter future,
  • Create their leadership brand not on their credentials but on meeting the emotional needs of others.

Successful managers do not follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Each person and its company’s unique qualities and context require a customized approach to developing one’s management skills. However, consider the lessons learned from other managers: Hard work, lifelong learning, emotional intelligence, and sharing a vision.

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“Good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”

– John D. Rockefeller