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People Management, Strengths

Characteristics of a good manager

This Dutch article linked below discusses the traits a good manager should have by introducing first how a lack of these show in their daily work. I can relate to the traits being described when managers or leaders lack a certain skill and I do not dispute their exhaustiveness. I can also relate to the core characteristics of a good manager, described at the bottom of the article. Should this be read by people who do not speak Dutch, this is their translation.

The four core-qualities a manager should have are:

  1. predictability: give enough feedback about what will happen and when
  2. Understanding: say why and how things will happen. Explain why measures are needed
  3. Control: maybe not about what will happen, but at least about how and when
  4. Compassion: be able to put yourself in your direct report’s shoes, shows empathy when having to give bad news

Although I understand all four and I think all four are indeed necessary for a manager to have and use, I do have one remark about the third one and a further addition of another.

“Control” discusses that a manager should be able to control the work of its direct reports and it clearly is true, but the explanation specifically states that this control is at least about how things will happen. Case being that this “how” is about putting things in context (“How did we come to this situation needing the change?”), then there clearly is no discussion point. It combines with bullet 1 as well as with bullet 2. I have the impression that this “how” is about a way to approach a job, and my strong belief is that that kind of control is something a manager should not excercise. A manager does communicate about what expected outcome he wants, but does not explain, unless sollicited, about how to implement it, since there are a 1001 different ways to address any given problem, chances are that your “how” will not be your report’s “how” and that your approach does not fit with the specific way of working of your employee. So in other words, you control indeed, but the things you control is “what” (which tasks have higher priority) and “when” (when are their deadlines) and certainly not “how”.

Secondly, these four core characteristics do not seem to be sufficient to me. Great managers also focus on the individual strengths his or her employees have and combine this pool of strengths into a good functioning team by complementing the weakness of one team member by the strength of another in that area.

Tien kenmerken en blinde vlekken van slechte leiders (Leiderschap) – ManagementSite.nl

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