Five Underrated Qualities for Managers

Joseph Stubblebine
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Planning, organizing and coordinating are the textbook responsibilities of any manager. There is one additional skill, however, that can take a manager from routine to exceptional: the ability to lead employees. Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, once said, "Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership." The five underrated qualities that can turn a great manager into a leader are commitment, optimism, intuition, empathy and a sense of humor.

While managers tell people what to do, leaders instead inspire and lead employees to work toward a common goal. A true leader has both leadership skills and managerial skills. Leaders have an uncanny power to inspire and rally employees around a central vision. The leader's belief in the team's goal is so strong that she is willing to make a 100 percent commitment to crossing the finish line. By staying past the 5 p.m. work whistle or rolling up their own sleeves to get dirty, managers prove to their employees that the vision is worth the effort. It is easier for employees to get behind an idea if the boss does so first.

A positive attitude is also worth rallying behind. No one wants to follow a Negative Nancy into the heart of battle. When a manager leads employees with an optimistic outlook, the positive vibes trickle down to the employees. A managerial leader leads his employees by example. If a manager wants optimism in the workplace, he or she must be a shining example of positive outlook.

Unfortunately, leadership and risk often go hand-in-hand. However, the leader's vision of the goal is so strong that she is often willing to venture into uncertain waters. Intuition keeps a great leader afloat. Where a manager circumvents risk, a leader tackles it head on in pursuit of the goal, relying on gut instinct and past experiences to make the right call.

It is important for a manager to remember that the employees are just as important as the team goal. Without the employees, the goal would not be obtainable. To lead employees, a manager must be empathetic. He or she should listen to and understand each person. Employees are not machines; they are unique individuals. The more a manager knows about a person, the more in tune she is to utilizing that person's key strengths. When a manager connects with the employees, she builds trust, gains respect and better understands the dynamics of the team.

Last, but not least, a manager has to be able to laugh. With a sense of humor intact, a leader can ease stressful situations and eliminate any managerial intimidation factors that may exist. Also, if the team or organization hits a bump in the road, a sense of humor can help lighten the blow and keep moral levels from bottoming out. It is important, however, to find the right balance between being a friend and being the boss. A manager should seem approachable, but the boundaries should be clear.

Managers simply manage. They plan, they organize, they coordinate – all in a systematic, by-the-book manner. Leaders, on the other hand, step beyond these managerial responsibilities to lead employees toward the team goal. By tapping into these five underrated managerial qualities, a manager can become a leader that employees will rally behind.

"Modern business: Team work" by Kevin Dooley licensed by CC BY 2.0.


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