In 7 Words or Less, What Makes a Great Manager?

Home Forums Human Resources In 7 Words or Less, What Makes a Great Manager?

This topic contains 31 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Hammer 7 years, 10 months ago.

  • Author
  • #180739

    Steve Ressler

    I was talking to a friend over the weekend who recently became a manager and was struggling with the new role.

    In the end, I told him – think about the best manager you’ve had and emulate. I’m curious about your thoughts.

    In 7 words or less, what do you think makes a great manager?

    Photo attribution – Flickr stevendepolo

  • #180801

    Mark Hammer

    Courage, wisdom, patience, listening, and some smarts.

  • #180799

    David B. Grinberg

    Motivation, inspiration and empowering employees through trust.

  • #180797

    Dale M. Posthumus

    Vision, empowering, supportive, mentor, flexible, encourager, forgiving.

  • #180795

    Dave Hebert

    Your job’s to serve, not be served.

    (now with 12% less terrible grammar)

  • #180793


    Similarly, I was going to say, “Your team is more important than you.”

  • #180791

    Steve Ressler

    Couple vignettes I might add:

    -creates culture of performance and accountability

    Best managers I’ve had praised me when I was good, held me accountable when I missed the mark, and inspired me to be great

  • #180789

    Tracey Wright

    Inspires, Empowers, Trusts, Listens, Collaborates, Mentors, Learns

  • #180787

    Mark Ingram Landers

    Honesty, integrity, empathy, patience, persistence,knowledge, energy

  • #180785

    Peter Sperry

    Achieves organizational goals, on time, within budget.

  • #180783

    Terrence Hill

    Humble, visionary, compassionate, empathetic, inspiring servant.

  • #180781

    Mark Hammer

    Not to pee on everyone’s lawn here, but as great as all of this sounds (and it DOES), how on earth would one assess for it in a reliable and valid manner when selecting who gets to BE a manager?

    That’s been an eternal challenge: figuring out how to measure the things we value in people in certain roles, such that we can identify those with “more” of it when selecting, and identify when it’s starting to lag in those already within those roles.

  • #180779

    Peter Sperry

    Employees who complete tasks on time, with good quality, when they only manage themselves have a fairly high probability of being able to achieve organizational goals on time and within budget.

    Employees who are conversent on all the latest happy talk managment fads from the most current guru, are much more likely to build self satisfied teams who can positively affirm the managers personnel development skills while he or she explains to senior executives that repeatedly failing to produce anything of value on time or within budget is actually a good thing. The senior executives can then congratulate themselves on selecting such an enlightened manager as they fail to win reelection.

  • #180777

    Dale M. Posthumus

    Mark, you are right that it isn’t easy, but it is also not impossible. I contend we spend too little time in assessing people we want to promote to or hire as managers. But, if you start by identifying what it is you want in a manager, then work to identify those traits. Measure candidates accordingly. And don’t just throw managers into the pit, sink or swim. They need support, too, especially if they are new to management. having people manage small numbers before moving them into full management is one approach.

  • #180775

    Steve Ressler

    Exactly. It’s hard to be a manager & we need to support new managers in getting better

  • #180773

    Mark Hammer

    Being a mere observer, and not a manager, I will concur with both Steve’s and Dale’s comments, but also note that it is often difficult for organizations to have the sorts of slots available that will provide optimal development for new managers. Not impossible, mind you, but the primary focus is always on the business lines, and not staff development. If a perfect developmental slot happens to crop up, great, but it can often be the case that people find themselves in over their heads. My own manager is fond of telling me “Mark, you were the smart one. You didn’t apply for this job.”

    Do we spend too little time assessing people for management positions? I can’t speak to your system, but I will say that assessment of managerial candidates in our own system is much more labour-intensive than assessment of people for operational/line positions. Nobody applying to be a junior analyst will sit through the day-long assessment center that a managerial candidate does, or involve as many assessors.

    But of course, spending more time and manpower at it is not necessarily the same as looking for the right things. Likewise, looking for “the right things” is also not the same as having looked for enough of the right things, or having found them in unambiguous fashion

    Then, there’s that whole social role thing. A few months ago I asked if it was possible to mentor “up” (i.e., provide guidance to those higher in the hierarchy than oneself), and noted that being in most sorts of leadership roles is antithetical to being seen as having weaknesses or insufficiencies. If it was easy for a new manager, and within the expectations for the social role, to ask staff “How am I doing with respect to X? Is there anything more I should be doing that I’m not?”, then it would be a slam dunk to assess and pick people for those jobs, because there would be a shared understanding that the person was almost ready, and with a little filing, sanding, and buffing here and there, in situ, they could become ready. But that runs contrary to how we approach such roles, societally. We expect people in leadership roles to be completely ready, and if they’re not, they cannot have that role, or we won’t accept them in that role.

    Then there is the unspoken principle that if one is selecting for a position, you sort of have to be smarter than the incumbent, such that you can adopt the bird’s eye view of where they fit into the grand scheme of things, including future needs, and tha’s a pretty rare quality. Easy to do if you’re picking someone a few notches below you who will take their marching orders fro you or one of your subordinates, but harder to do if they are essentially a peer.

    So, again, the 7-word descriptors are all admirable things to aim for, but getting a bullseye on what you’re aiming at will be tough slogging.

  • #180771

    Dale M. Posthumus

    Mark, I don’t think we disagree. Recognize that this seven-word exercise is a beginning and an input to improving the process. It is not the end-all or only thing to be done. If we don’t know for what we are looking, as evidenced by many in your examples, how will we know when we have found it? Mentoring-up is one good approach. As a manager, I seek people who are smarter than me. I relish when people who work for me go on and do better, rise higher.

  • #180769

    Paul M Raetsch

    Interesting to me that none of the suggestions mention one thing that I believe key – communicating clearly the mission, goal, objective. Listening and the other characteristics are important, but how often have we experienced a ‘manager’ or supervisor who does not understand that the employee needs to know the mission and the expectations.
    So, my seven words would be: Explains the mission (goal, objective, task, etc), gets out of way.

  • #180767

    Jo-Jo Haller

    Honest, fair, ethical, equal, positive, supportive, humor!

  • #180765

    John Verrico

    Honesty, integrity, humility, courage to empower others.

  • #180763

    Jeffrey Levy

    Credits below; takes blame; coaches, inspires awesome.

  • #180761

    Joshua Millsapps

    Focusing on the team’s needs and goal.

  • #180759

    Dave Bell

    Trusting, Honesty, Competency, Forward-looking, Curious, Courageous, Persistent

  • #180757

    Priscilla Anderson

    I think that says it all! Simple, straightforward and honest —

  • #180755

    Melinda Bunch


    I appreciated your response as it says you are a true leader not just a manager. I believe there is often a difference in the roles of managers and leaders. A leader seeks for those around them to be greater than themselves whereas many managers just want to hang on to the status quo and can be threatened by those under them who excel. There is a book entitled Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber which is a good book to read about leadership. It’s possible to be both a leader and manager. The leaders I have admired exemplified thoughtulness, caring, active encouragement, setting an example by practices, mentoring and believing in others.

  • #180753

    Mark Hammer

    A long-time friend of mine has held a number of lofty positions – university president, think-tank CEO – and when I express my reluctance to enter management, he replies with “Did you ever think that maybe you’re exactly the sort of person needed in those jobs?”.

    My retort is that, if they were 93% managing, and 7% leading, I’d be up for that, but my experience is that they tend to be 98% managing, and 2% leading. So, not enough leading to appeal to me, personally.

    I guess the great managers are the ones who try and expand that 2% in the direction of 7, and are astute at recognizing when it’s time to engage in that 2%.

  • #180751

    Eric Melton

    Inspiring, caring, confident, protective, and exudes presence.

  • #180749

    David A. Streat

    Honesty, integrity, and fairness.

  • #180747

    Brian Deming

    Eliminate roadblocks that keep people from doing great things.

  • #180745

    Janete F. Guardia

    Someone who leads by example!

  • #180743

    Raymond Clark

    I would go one further:

    Explain the vision; get out of the way

    ok, that’s 8, but who’s counting…

  • #180741

    Raymond Clark

    For me, its one word: Trust.

    If you trust your manager to know and do the right things, to treat you fairly, and be supportive of your work and of your future goals, then everything else falls into place. I’m a congressional analyst with the Air Force and a qoute by a former Senate majority leader struck me as the bottom line problem why we fail in government (at least in the Congress):

    “Because we can’t bond, we can’t trust. Because we can’t trust, we can’t cooperate. Because we can’t cooperate, we become dysfunctional”

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.