How to Be a Better Manager: 4 Important Leadership Traits
4 Winning Well Leadership Traits To Understand
You want to be a better manager. But, where do you start? Which leadership traits matter most? What leadership skills lead to better influence and impact?
Start with the 6 competencies you can’t lead without. And then, work to “land in the AND” of confidence and humility, and results and relationships.
Developing each of these leadership traits independently is not enough; it’s how you leverage them together that makes you a remarkable manager.
How to Be a Better Manager: Balance Four Vital Leadership Traits
In our book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul (download a free chapter here) we talk about what happens when these important leadership traits get out of balance.
Each of these leadership traits interacts to create one of four manager types. To better understand the foundational principles of being a better manager, let’s explore the four manager types, and where they get into trouble.
Four Leadership Traits
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The User Manager
In the upper left quadrant, are managers who work to win at any cost. We call them “Users” because they tend to see people as objects they can use to get results.
User managers value confidence above humility. They prioritize results over relationships.
User managers focus on short-term results. They emphasize getting things done today and will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.
See Also: Psychological Safety in the Workplace: Why People Don’t Speak Up at Work
User managers often treat people as objects — the people are there to achieve results and that is their only value. User managers push hard for results and try to compel productivity through fear, power, and control.
At the extreme, they say things like, “If you don’t like it, leave.” And, “Why should I say thank you? It’s their job.”
They don’t offer relevant encouragement and are inconsistent with accountability. Also, they often freak out in emotional outbursts when results tank.
Their meetings are often one-way information dumps with requests for input met with silence. Meetings also end in silence, which the manager mistakes for agreement.
User managers create work environments that resemble sweatshops. They do achieve results, but at a high cost. Their employees do the least possible to avoid punishment. People leave as soon as they can afford to go. Employees don’t solve problems or take initiative; they are happy to leave those tasks to their manager.
Since they get things done through fear, power, and control, they have to spend a tremendous amount of energy policing their workers, forcing people to work, and replacing employees who leave.
They often feel out of control (since they can’t possibly control everything or everyone). Frequently these managers are frustrated, bitter, stressed, and suffer from poor physical and emotional health.
The People Pleaser Manager
In the lower right quadrant are managers who aren’t as focused on results as they are on building great relationships with their boss and colleagues. We call these People “Pleaser” managers because they spend most of their energy trying to be liked by other people.
People pleaser managers value humility above confidence, and the confidence they do have derives from how well they perceive they are liked by others. They prioritize relationships above results.
People pleaser managers have a short time horizon. They work hard to ensure that people think well of them today.
Their short-term focus on being liked drives People Pleasers to reactionary behaviors depending on who doesn’t like them today. These swings in behavior can make People Pleasers seem wildly unpredictable.
When an employee comes to a People Pleaser with problems, they will often try to fix it.
Paradoxically, in the attempt to be liked by one person, a People Pleaser manager can verbally abuse or publicly humiliate another person without realizing it.
When the humiliated employee confronts the People Pleaser manager, they will often apologize and say something like, “I don’t know what to do. I just want everyone to be happy.”
Frequently these managers are well-liked by a majority of their team while being silently despised by their high-performers, who eventually leave for a more productive and supportive environment.
Pleaser managers often feel they are out of control and overwhelmed. The constant need to manage relationships without demonstrable results exacts its own toll with stress and ultimately they may even lose their job—if they are ever held accountable.
The Gamer Manager
In the lower-left quadrant is the manager who isn’t trying to win and doesn’t build meaningful relationships. We call them “Gamers” because, without a connection to people or purpose, they spend their time playing a self-created game where status and survival are the score.
Gamer managers don’t value confidence or humility and do not prioritize business results or relationships.
Gamers have a short-term focus on survival and status.
Gamers are manipulators. They spend their days playing dirty politics, working one person against another in their ceaseless quest for status.
In their mind, winning is not related to organizational results. Their meetings and efforts at delegation usually have two layers of meaning, with political subtext just below the surface.
Gamers attract a motley cast of sycophants, other Gamers, and the otherwise screwed up. Productive employees leave as soon as they can.
In unhealthy organizations, Gamers can hang around a long time as they manipulate the people around them in a warped game of “who will be the last one voted off the island?”
Whether or not a Gamer experiences stress and discomfort depends on his or her internal values.
Living and working this way is caustic to people with any self-regard.
Leadership Traits that Help to Help You Win Well
Finally, winning well managers sit in the upper right quadrant.
These folks bring confidence and humility in equal measure and focus on both results and relationships.
Where the other three manager types focus on short-term goals, managers who win well have a longer time horizon. They build teams that will produce results today and next year.
These managers build healthy professional relationships with their employees. And, they maintain high expectations for results in a supportive environment where people can grow and take healthy risks. Managers who win well master the art of productive meetings, delegation, and problem-solving.
They are better managers because they balance steady, calm accountability with celebration.
Their employees tend to stick around (often until they get promoted), and there is a line of people wanting to work for a better manager.
They work with less overall stress than their colleagues and enjoy the benefits of productive, energized employees who take initiative and problem solve. These managers do work hard but tend to enjoy their work and have time to enjoy life outside their job.
See Also our Feature in Entrepreneur: How to Be The Leader Employees Want to See Walk Through the Door
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