What Qualities Make a Great Manager?

When you’ve had a long working career, you often remember the good and the bad when it comes to managers. A bad manager micromanaged, played favorites, gave unclear or terrible directions, or simply failed to communicate at all. You’re not alone if you’ve ever experienced this: at some point in their career, half of Americans have left a job to get away from their manager.

But we’re not sharing bad manager horror stories here. Let’s talk about those wonderful managers in your life who inspired you to do better, whose enthusiasm and passion was contagious, who lifted other people up and empowered their employees. These are the great managers who set the standard for every manager that came after them.

So what exactly makes a great manager? Let’s talk about what qualities a good leader has and why they’re so important to employees.

Communication skills

Good communication skills doesn’t just mean giving enough instructions to complete a task. It means communicating the vision or goal of a project to everyone on a team. A great manager must be able to communicate their point thoroughly in person and through the written word, too.

Communicating well also means knowing what to communicate and how. A great manager listens and gives honest feedback (but not in a rude way.) They can navigate conflict and shut it down without taking sides. And they encourage open communication from everyone else.

Trust and belief in their employees

Have you ever said, “I wish my manager would just let me do my job!” Sounds like you had a micromanager. A micromanager fears handing over control to others and doesn’t believe they’ll do the job right. That makes it harder on them and their employees to get anything done.

A great manager trusts in their team and gives them the freedom to do their job. They won’t obsess over small details or feel the need to be in charge all the time. Feeling like your manager believes in you and trusts you is inspiring and way more motivating than a micromanager.

Decisive and responsible

On the other hand, you don’t want a manager who gives up all the power to their team. Sometimes called a “macro manager,” this kind of leader is hands-off with a lax attitude about supervision. Compared to a micromanager, it sounds like a good thing, but it’s not. A great manager strikes a balance between the two managerial styles.

A great manager must be decisive, responsible, and supportive of their team. They know when they need to make judgment calls, boost morale, or make sure everyone stays on track. A team of employees can’t do their best work when they’re obsessively controlled, nor can they work efficiently when they’re not managed at all.

Positivity and energy

No one wants to work with someone who’s glum and pessimistic. Great managers are positive and energetic. That doesn’t mean they need to be smiling and hyperactive all the time; that’s unnatural. But a manager who projects enthusiasm and a good attitude will infuse the working environment with that cheer. Employees are more likely to feel more productive and happier in a positive work environment.

Ability to handle stress and pressure

We all know work can get stressful. It’s common and understandable to have a bad day where you snap at a coworker or need to take a breather outside. Stress and pressure at work can get to anyone. How you handle it is what’s important.

It’s even more important that managers are able to handle the stress and pressure of their job. They’re responsible for others, which can be even more stressful. An emotionally stable, calm manager will do better than someone who takes their frustration out on others or is prone to angry outbursts.

Confidence and courage

Because you’re responsible for the performance and wellbeing of employees on your team, you’re also their advocate. When an employee can’t speak for themselves, their manager needs to have their back. Sometimes that involves making difficult decisions or having tricky conversations. A great manager will have the courage to tackle those things head-on, not delegate it to another person or avoid the situation.

Similarly, managers must have the confidence that they know what they’re doing. They need to believe that they’re making the right decisions. Not everyone will agree with you all the time, so you must have the confidence to argue your point when you know you’re right.

Openness and willingness to learn

Have you ever had a manager that seemed like a know-it-all? An arrogant, lofty person lacks humility and feels superior to other people. When someone is overconfident, they don’t have a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses. No one wants to work with someone like that.

Managers who are open to new ideas and willing to learn are inspiring. They’re honest about who they are and how they can always work to improve themselves. They’re willing to do better and be better. And they’ll inspire their employees to think and act the same.

Empower others

Employees learn, work, and behave differently. A good leader identifies and appreciates those differences. They’ll also know how to empower employees by helping them take advantage of their strengths and improving their weaknesses.

Perhaps one person on their team is great at organizing and leading meetings, while another person thrives behind-the-scenes by gathering data and putting together reports. A good manager would recognize these strengths and play to them. However, they’d also look for opportunities for their employees to get out of their comfort zone and work on their weaknesses.

Be honest with yourself

Remember: you don’t need to try and be all of these things at once! These are qualities that great managers share, and qualities that you can aspire to have. Be honest with yourself about your talents and your shortcomings.

Maybe you’re naturally positive and energetic, and you’re humble and always looking to improve. Perhaps you know you need to work on being more decisive and having the courage to speak for yourself and others. Whatever the case may be, understand who you are as a manager now and decide how you can become the great manager you want to be.