Characteristics of a good manager

Characteristics of a good manager: what can and can’t be taught

You’ve heard the expression “born leader” before. Is there such a thing? And if being a good manager is due to inborn traits, is there value in all the leadership training programs currently available? The truth, as you probably suspected, is a combination of both. Here’s a look at some of the inherent qualities that contribute to effective leadership, together with an exploration of the ones that can be taught:

Inherent leadership qualities

According to Psychology Today, about one third of leadership ability springs from a person’s innate tendencies. These include the following:

  • Extraversion: A good leader often has to deal with other people all day long, so it’s better to be energized rather than drained by the experience.
  • Social intelligence: Managers don’t necessarily need the kind of intelligence that allows people to solve calculus problems, but they need a quick understanding of the structure of social interactions.
  • Assertiveness: Obviously a leader must be willing to put their message out in clear terms.
  • Willingness to take risks: Leaders must be capable of taking calculated risks without being timid or foolhardy.
  • Empathy: Good leaders have the capacity to see the world through the eyes of those whom they direct.

Leadership qualities that are teachable

In one study, managers who took a leadership course saw improvement in many of the characteristics of a good manager as long as they started with one key quality: employee motivation. University of Notre Dame, which offers leadership training, identifies business course topics that contribute to the development of skilled leaders. These topics include:

  • Good communication skills: A person’s extroversion is only beneficial if it is backed up by skillful speaking and writing abilities.
  • Team building ability: Leading depends on building effective working groups and bringing stakeholders together. This is the learned skill that extends social intelligence into measurable progress.
  • Recognition of the need for change: Taking bold steps to enact change when it’s necessary can feel risky, but a good manager is ready to step outside their safety zone and try something completely different.
  • Vision and goal setting: A persuasive manager develops visions and goals interactively through an empathetic understanding of subordinates’ needs.

Tips on training your managers

Leadership author Erika Anderson points out that the central leadership quality of self-awareness can be developed by inviting feedback from direct reports and encouraging managers to listen carefully. Instituting organizational channels for two-way communication between managers and their teams is good way to nurture self-awareness.

Rudy Giuliani is quoted as having said, “Leadership does not simply happen. It can be taught, learned, developed.” With training opportunities available to develop their innate abilities, your managers can prove his point.

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