People Management
10 min.

The Makings of a Good Manager: 8 Key Qualities

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
Last updated on 22 Dec. 2023
Published on 23 Feb. 2022
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Mains qui tiennent un paquet de cartes composé de quatre as

What is a good manager? This question continues to be hotly debated at a time when many managers are struggling to build their teams’ loyalty.

Table of contents

You’ve probably heard it said before that employees don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. I’ve written about this in several posts, and for good reason. Management practices need to be improved in order to fight both absenteeism and turnover.

So what qualities make a good manager?

  1. Emotional intelligence
  2. Effective communication
  3. Being able to juggle between different leadership types
  4. Introspection
  5. Stress management
  6. Open-mindedness
  7. Being able to set boundaries
  8. Organizational skills

This post explores these 8 essential qualities of a good manager before offering a few thoughts and ways to develop them.

1. Emotional Intelligence

It is said that two thirds of a company’s performance comes down to the emotional skills of its managers. Indeed, all decision-making is largely influenced by emotions. This is why emotional intelligence is one of the essential qualities of a good manager.

This form of intelligence allows the manager to be empathetic towards the members of their team, to put themselves in their shoes, and to take them into account them when making decisions and interacting with them.

To develop emotional intelligence, a manager must gradually build five component skills of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness: the ability to become aware of what is going on within;
  • Self-control: the ability to manage one’s own emotions and adapt them to different situations;
  • Motivation: includes the emotional skills that make it possible to achieve goals, such as effort, perseverance and initiative;
  • Empathy: the ability to grasp, understand and be sensitive to others’ emotions;
  • Mastery of human relationships: the ability to use the necessary resources to maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships.

💡 To develop your emotional intelligence, tune in to your emotions and practice expressing them to the people concerned. Listen actively when your employees speak to you, and as you do so, try to see beyond your judgments.

Here’s a post that goes into greater depth and teaches you 9 habits to develop your emotional intelligence.

2. Effective Communication

Effective communication is one of the key qualities of a good manager as it is instrumental to smooth and satisfying relationships in any work team. Fundamentally, it involves expressing yourself in an efficient, authentic and caring way.

First and foremost, effective communication means keeping in mind the goal of the conversation and making sure that you have been properly understood. When communicating in an authentic way, managers are able to be in touch with what they are feeling, find the right words to express it to others, and take the critical distance they need to avoid being overwhelmed with emotion. Finally, in keeping with nonviolent communication, managers can recognize, name and express their emotions and needs, and hear out others’ in a spirit of respect and empathy. Emotional intelligence is inextricably linked to the ability to communicate.

💡 To communicate better at work, choose the right place and time, and above all, prepare for the conversation. Also, assign as much importance to listening to the other person as you do to what you have to say. It is often said that good communicators are as good at listening as they are at expressing themselves. This is especially true for managers in their relationships with employees. Finally, make empathy a cornerstone of your conversations—after all, you never know quite what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes.

Read a post featuring 10 tips for more effective communicating at work.

3. Being Able to Juggle Between Different Leadership Types

Leadership is looked upon as the Holy Grail of management. There is some truth to this. But while leadership is a powerful quality, only by learning to leverage the strengths of each leadership type—aka management style—can a manager be optimally effective in all circumstances.

Managers who are able to be a visionary leader when presenting a new project to their employees, and to shift to being a coach leader during an individual performance evaluation, truly have an edge. They will have an easier time uniting their teams, guiding their employees, and fostering a strong sense of belonging. Adaptation is key.

Here are the six main leadership styles to adopt as a manager:

  • Visionary leadership: the vision and mission come first and give meaning to actions;
  • Affiliative leadership: the focus is on egalitarian relationships between the manager and the employees;
  • Democratic leadership: emphasizes collective strength and teamwork;
  • Coach leadership: concentrates on developing the full potential of each individual, from a personal as well as professional standpoint;
  • Pacesetting leadership: actions are geared toward efficiency and task completion;
  • Commanding leadership: orders are dictated and requests are not justified.

💡 To learn how to shift between different management styles, the first step is to become aware of your dominant style—the one that comes most naturally to you. At the same time, it’s helpful to educate yourself on the strengths and weaknesses of all the styles so that you can consciously choose the most appropriate one according to the context at hand.

4. Introspection

Introspection is an essential quality of a good manager as it is fundamental to learning and self-development.

Introspection is the act of asking questions in order to understand the motivations and reasons behind one’s own actions.

This reflective act includes the ability to pinpoint personal strengths and weaknesses, put words to our emotions, and look at our mistakes from an analytical perspective.

A study was conducted by Harvard researchers on the role of introspection in individual learning. In the study, employees who took 15 minutes each night to step back from their day and reflect on what lessons they might learn performed at a nearly 25% higher level than their peers after 10 days.

💡 To develop your capacity for introspection, set aside a time each day to look back on your day with a critical eye. It can be very useful to grab a notebook to record your learning from the day. Your notes will show you how your reflections have evolved and what you’ve learned.

5. Stress Management

When poorly managed, stress is a major obstacle to managing employees. Studies even show that stress decreases performance by 20%, impairs decision-making, and transfers over to the people with whom we interact.

I was once on a team where the manager did not know how to manage his stress. When he was overwhelmed, he made impulsive decisions and got angry with his employees… and lost all credibility as a result. Not only was his team gradually losing trust in him, but his employees were also mistrustful and feared his outbursts.

Knowing how to cope with your stress allows you to stay in control and inspire trust in spite of the challenges at hand. Good stress management also enables managers to reassure their employees in the circumstances.

💡 In terms of knowing how to cope with stress at work, everyone develops their own strategies. However, one general tip does emerge from all the research: lifestyle habits play a huge role. The factors that strongly influence the ability to adequately manage stress at work include sufficient sleep, moderate caffeine intake, physical exercise, and time spent outdoors every day.

6. Open-Mindedness

Open-mindedness is essential to a manager’s ability to question their own management practices—and therefore their ability to evolve. It also allows you to embrace change and inspire others to do the same (and to trust that they will do so).

Being open-minded fosters innovation, learning, better understanding of your employees, and better management of difficult situations, as well as a broader outlook on things.

💡 To develop your open-mindedness, start by cultivating your curiosity. One thing you can do is stay informed of news in your field and listen to what others have to say. You will quickly discover that your employees and collaborators have a lot to teach you.

7. Being Able to Set Boundaries

Personal, professional, and organizational boundaries are powerful yet underestimated. Unfortunately, they get a bad rap: people tend to think that setting boundaries means being harsh or rigid. This is understandable. After all, nobody likes to be told “no”!

Yet a manager must learn to set boundaries at work, for two main reasons: to avoid burnout and to show employees that respecting their own boundaries is perfectly acceptable and even expected at work. A manager or employee who says yes to everything, all the time, is headed for disaster.

People who set boundaries inspire trust and strength because they are showing that they know how to respect their own needs and assert themselves.

A few examples of boundaries:

  • Personal boundaries: Don’t answer emails on evenings and weekends, don’t communicate with your team (about work) on Facebook, and completely unplug when you’re on vacation. For example, our employee management app Agendrix includes a messaging tool that lets you control communications within the work team so they won’t take place via social media or texting.
  • Time limits: In meetings or during shifts, be alert to wasting time and be able to remind everyone of the time constraints.
  • Role-related boundaries: Be able to clarify the responsibilities inherent in each role and to name and distinguish between the expectations of the manager or employees.
  • Organizational boundaries: Clearly identify the rules of conduct and verify that they are properly understood and respected by all concerned.

💡 The first step to learning to set your boundaries more easily is to learn to recognize them. Next, do a self-reflection exercise to help you understand why these limits are important to you. How do you feel when some of them are overstepped? Keep this emotion in mind and practice naming your boundaries when the situation arises. For a more elaborate process, read our post about boundaries at work and how to set them.

8. Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are an essential quality of a manager and help optimize teamwork and employee performance.

Organizational skills include the many skills involved in planning, meeting deadlines, managing time and prioritizing, all of which are essential to a management position.

Organizational skills are also an asset for any employee, and the manager has the power to share this knowledge with the rest of their team.

💡To develop your organizational skills, you will first need to master two things: managing your time and prioritizing. Managing your time well requires a variety of skills, including identifying priorities and emergencies. The best trick I know is the Eisenhower matrix, which divides tasks into four quadrants according to their importance and urgency. We also offer you 8 tips for better time management at work,  starting with lists and distraction management.

Good Managers Are Person-Focused

This post could have gone into more detail on 20 valuable qualities of a manager. But as you’ll notice, I only selected 8 essential qualities—and most of them could be described as person-focused.

I am convinced that this is how the managers of the future will set themselves apart.

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