Advertising
Advertising

10 Must-Have Life Skills For Great Managers

10 Must-Have Life Skills For Great Managers

Horrible bosses are everywhere on TV and in the movies. If they’re not tyrants who insult, harass, or hurl packages at their staff, they’re cold-hearted cynics who steal ideas and take the credit. Or, they’re bumbling louts forced to buy themselves a “World’s Best Boss” mug.

Sure, these portrayals are farfetched (well, most of them), but they also sprout from grains of truth. We’ve all known managers who drove us to quit our jobs or wish that we could.

But here’s what’s interesting: It’s rarely the experience, education, or technical skills of these bosses we gripe about. We’re far more concerned with their “life skills”.

Take the self-reflection quiz at the end of each section to rate yourself on these 10 must-have life skills for managers. For improvement ideas, download the full workbook.

1. Empower Other People To Lead

Among the most common job complaints is this: I don’t get enough opportunities for development. Ambitious employees embrace the chance to be challenged and become energized at the prospect of demonstrating their versatility and potential. Offering leadership opportunities is a surefire way to develop and keep your best employees. A great manager is always teaching and empowering employees with opportunities to make decisions and develop new skills.

Are you an empowering manager? Take the quiz.

Advertising

Empower Other People to Lead

    2. Demonstrate Humility

    Nothing breeds an “us vs. them” mentality faster than a manager who makes employees feel beneath them. When you display humility as a manager, you signal to your team that it’s OK to show weakness and that failure is simply a bump on the path to success. Your employees will in turn feel emboldened to take risks and be resilient in the face of setbacks. A great manager knows that it’s possible to demonstrate confidence and maintain a leadership position without arrogance, ego, entitlement, or pride. They’re able to admit weakness, show a willingness to learn, take responsibility for failure, and credit others for success.

    Are you a humble manager? Take the quiz.

    Demonstrate Humility

      3. Write With Clarity

      Whether you’re leading a small team, large department, or your own company, clear written communication is a must-have skill. Ironically, communication is often dismissed as a “soft skill,” yet employees regularly point to unclear communication as a trait they dislike about upper management. Great managers invest time and thought when crafting written communication to their teams. They write concisely and clearly, keeping their employees’ perspectives in mind, and take care to avoid jargon, complicated words, and long sentences.

      Do you write with clarity? Take the quiz.

      Write With Clarity

        4. Use Positive Body Language

        Our body language communicates much more than the words we speak. As a manager you can inadvertently quash creativity and morale with subtle facial expressions and shifts in body position that convey annoyance or resistance. Negative body language also can make you less likeable. And if your employees don’t like you, they won’t listen to you, trust you, or feel motivated to exceed your expectations. Great managers keep their body language and spoken words in sync and balance a confident physical presence with gestures, smiling, and eye contact to convey empathy and warmth.

        Advertising

        How positive is your body language? Take the quiz.

        Use Positive Body Language

          5. Be Generous With Praise

          Have you ever worked for a “no news is good news” boss? You know, the type who only calls you into her office if she has bad news or criticism to offer? Don’t be that kind of manager! If your employees don’t feel appreciated, they’ll stop caring about their job. Wouldn’t you rather have employees who love showing you their work, sharing creative ideas, and including you in problem-solving discussions? Being generous with authentic praise is a core trait of a great manager. They recognize effort and achievement privately and publicly, and lay the groundwork for praise by setting both achievable and stretch goals.

          Are you generous with praise? Take the quiz.

          Be Generous With Praise

            6. Be Thoughtful With Criticism

            No one enjoys receiving criticism, but when delivered effectively, critical feedback is essential for developing skills and overcoming weaknesses. Unfortunately, most managers aren’t great at giving feedback; either they’re too harsh and direct or too soft and unclear. The good news: giving effective feedback is a skill that can be learned and practiced. Great managers always keep their emotions in check and their facts straight when delivering criticism, and keep the recipient’s growth and development at heart.

            Do you give criticism thoughtfully? Take the quiz.

            Advertising

            Be Thoughtful With Criticism

              7. Respect Other People’s Time

              If you’re managing a team, a department, or an entire company, you’re busy — everyone gets it. But being chronically late to meetings, appointments, and events isn’t a symptom of being busy or important; it’s a sign of disrespect for others and a lack of discipline for yourself. When you no-show, cancel at the last minute, or arrive late, you disrupt the productivity of your team and send the message: I am more important than you, and my time is more valuable.  Great managers communicate integrity and earn respect and trust by being punctual, attentive, and ending meetings on time.

              Are you respectful of other people’s time? Take the quiz.

              Respect Other People's Time

                8. Like and Be Liked

                Research shows we like people who like us — who ask us questions and pay us compliments, who possess similar interests, backgrounds, and attitudes. As a manager, you can use this fact to your advantage: By being more likable, in an authentic way, you can increase employee loyalty and engagement. Most important, your employees will open up to you in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. For instance, compared to employees who feel neutral about your personality, those who adore you might be more willing to trust you with their creative ideas, share their concerns, or pull a longer shift when you most need their help.

                Are you a likable manager? Take the quiz.

                Advertising

                Like and Be Liked

                  9. Show Up To Be Nowhere Else

                  You know the feeling: You’re talking to someone with great enthusiasm, but you’re not getting their full attention. You can hear a keyboard clacking or papers rustling, or you notice them stealing glances at their phone. You feel deflated. Why bother talking to someone whose mind is elsewhere? And if that person is your manager — whose respect you covet — it can feel even worse. Great managers “show up to be nowhere else”; they use active listening skills, stay engaged in the conversation, and are attentive to details.

                  Are you a present, engaged manager? Take the quiz.

                  Show Up To Be Nowhere Else

                    10. Communicate High Expectations

                    We’re all affected by what our mentors, teachers, and managers expect of us. When they convey higher expectations of us than we have for ourselves, we tend to believe we can succeed — and therefore often do. As a manager, you can put this concept to good use. Communicate high expectations to your employees via verbal and nonverbal cues and you’ll boost their self-esteem and performance, setting the stage for a more engaged, productive workforce. It’s easy to do with employees who already exceed expectations; the greater challenge is conveying high expectations to everyone else. Great managers encourage all their employees, not just those who consistently outperform.

                    Do you communicate high expectations? Take the quiz.

                    Communicate High Expectations

                      10 Must-Have Life Skills for Great Managers

                        More by this author

                        Sharen Ross

                        Marketing Strategy Consultant

                        36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching 8 Ways to Overcome Impulsive Spending Tracking your spending can improve your life in dramatic ways. 5 Surprising Benefits of Tracking Your Spending How To Master The Multigenerational Workforce 9 Tips For Getting Along With Coworkers From Different Generations 9 Tips For Getting Along With Coworkers From Different Generations

                        Trending in Career Advice

                        1 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career 2 10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year 3 10 Job Search Tools Every Jobseekers Need To Know About 4 10 Websites To Learn Something New In 30 Minutes A Day 5 If You Have This Key Behavior, You’ll Be More Successful Than 90% Of People

                        Read Next

                        Advertising
                        Advertising
                        Advertising

                        Last Updated on June 18, 2019

                        5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

                        5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

                        It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

                        The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

                        With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

                        5 Types of Leadership Styles

                        I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

                        The Democratic Style

                        The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

                        The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

                          The Autocratic Style

                          The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

                          Advertising

                          The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

                          While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

                            The Transformational Style

                            Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

                            Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

                            Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

                              The Transactional Style

                              Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

                              Advertising

                              The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

                              The Laissez-Faire Style

                              The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

                              In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

                              Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

                              You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

                              Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

                              The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

                              Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

                              I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

                              Advertising

                              In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

                              What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

                              Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

                              1. Context Matters

                              Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

                              2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

                              When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

                              As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

                              “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

                              The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

                              Advertising

                              As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

                              When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

                              The Way Forward

                              To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

                              As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

                              “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

                              The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

                              If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

                              Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

                              Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

                              More About Leadership

                              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                              Read Next