Thursday, October 3, 2013

The character traits of awesome managers

The call - Former manager of you gives you a ring. He is now in a new company and wants you to leave your current company and join him. Assuming the position, salary and most other factors are similar to the position you now hold, what personal/leadership traits of that manger will make you consider leaving your job and join the new venture?

Under normal circumstances, employees will obey you because of basic organizational hierarchy. However, relying on organizational hierarchy as the sole motivator will hurt their performance on the long run since most employees feel bound to their managers, not the organization (“people join organizations but leave their boss”) and Unbound employees are more likely leave when opportunity arises. Furthermore, motivated employees perform better and inspire others while unmotivated employees just go through the motions. So, Motivated employees = good, non motivated = not good. I'm glad we got that out of the way.

Find your Awesome
I wrote this post while trying to identify and highlight personal traits which can assist managers in being perceived as Awesome by their employees, thus connecting the employees to the manager and increasing the employees’ motivation and commitment. I started by asked myself the following questions:

·        Why do employees admire their managers?
·        What is the source of managers’ power?
·        What makes people follow?

There are many articles about character traits which mark great managers but upon reading them I felt that these character traits help managers be more successful in their work, they are not traits that will mark them as Awesome by their employees and make people want to follow them. So I compiled my own list of character traits which I believe will make employees admire their managers to the point where they'll take drastic actions such as leaving their work in order to work the that manager.

1. Visionary and going places
·        You have a clear vision and your people believe you’re going to fulfill it.
·        The vision exists and is achievable
·        The vision is shared with the employees
·        You actively strive towards the vision and make visible progress

Quote: “My manager knows where she’s going. Following her will take me far.”

2. People’s Person 
You care about your people and they know it.
·        Empowering your people and make them feel they matter
·        Generous with compliments and gives credit when credit is due
·        Promotes team spirit and atmosphere of collaboration
·        Authentic and trustworthy

Quote: “I love working for her.”

3. Source of knowledge
You are a source of knowledge for your people. Working with you is a constant learning experience.
·        Source of new professional knowledge
·        Vast professional experience
·        Deep grasp of the profession and the product
·        Professional could be Technical, Management, Political, etc.

Quote: “My manager knows more about this stuff than the rest of us together.”

4. The coach
You help people improve and inspire growth.
·        You set high standards, demand high standards and don’t compromise
·        You show the way to improvement and enjoy mentoring people
·        You share knowledge willingly and encourage others in the team to do so as well

Quote: “She is tough, but she is the best teacher I’ve ever had and she will help me grow.”

The character traits which employees admire in their managers and will make them follow those managers are the ones which bestow confidence in the employees and the first thing people look for in their managers is the confidence they project. Different people look for different things in their managers but the one character trait all employees seek in their managers is confidence in their ability to lead.

When I presented this to the managers in our company, some people asked "Where are the other traits such as Honesty, Passion, Communication, Humor, Commitment, Personal Example, Coolness under fire etc’?" My answer was that while these traits are crucial in order to be a good leader, they rarely make an employee connect with his manager based on these traits alone, i.e. the fact that a manager sets great Personal Example does not make her a leader to follow on the long run.

 Different people look for different traits in their leaders. One person will tolerate an uncaring manager if that manager sets high standards, another will not consider working with a manager who doesn't know his spouse’s name. Different leaders are awesome due to different personality traits. Find your awesome and focus on it. Remember: he who wishes to be strong on all fronts will ultimately be weak on all fronts. Focus on your strengths instead of trying to strengthen your weak points.

·        Are there more awesome leadership traits not covered?
·        What are your strong leadership traits?
·        Can leadership traits be strengthened? How?