What Makes a Good Manager?

smiling manager sitting at table and meeting with team of employees and shaking hands with one
Category: Industry Insights

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Good managers know that the business world is always changing. That’s why we revisited this article from 2017 and updated it for 2021.

It’s been said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Judging by how frequently people change jobs over the course of their careers – approximately once every 4.1 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – it appears that a good manager is a rare gift.

What makes a good manager? In this article, we explore seven qualities of a good manager and leader.

1. Diplomatic

Everyone wants their leaders to be honest; however, the way in which that honesty is delivered can make the difference between a positive and negative interaction. A good manager handles situations with diplomacy and tact, demonstrating empathy, emotional intelligence, and politeness, even when delivering difficult news. Diplomatic managers also support healthy, collaborative relationships within the workplace.

This means supporting compromise, actively listening to all sides of the story, not playing favorites, and maintaining an open mind, even when you’re inclined to disagree. Being diplomatic doesn’t mean sacrificing honesty in the name of keeping the peace, but rather seeking common ground and building connections through polite and tactful communication. 

2. Compassionate

When people are asked to describe a poor manager, one trait that often comes up is a lack of compassion. Poor managers may create the impression that they don’t care about the people working for them, that they just want the work done.

Good leaders, on the other hand, actively demonstrate caring for their people by listening, focusing on the “we” instead of the “I,” and empowering and encouraging people to seek excellence and grow. They give credit where credit is due, are empathetic toward the needs of their employees, and specifically focus on maintaining morale. In short, they recognize that their subordinates are people, not robots, and they treat them as such. 

3. Motivated

One of the key responsibilities for a manager is motivating employees, but if they lack motivation themselves, it’s going to be all but impossible to spur others to care as well. Great managers are intrinsically motivated to achieve great things, and they seek to embody the mission and vision of the company.

Motivated managers lead by example, keeping a positive attitude even in the face of challenges. They take pride in their own work and encourage their employees to do the same. They don’t rest on their laurels, using their position to avoid working in the name of “supervision.” When necessary, they roll up their sleeves and work alongside their team. 

4. Trustworthy

Good managers focus on building a culture of mutual trust. They empower their teams by trusting them to know how to do their jobs and do them well, while also acting in such a manner that others trust them. They demonstrate integrity, and their actions match their words.

Trustworthiness in management can inspire innovation. When there is mutual trust between managers and employees, people can be more comfortable taking risks and trying out new ideas because they are confident that their manager has their back. Instead of sticking to the status quo, good managers cultivate innovation by developing collaborative, creative relationships built on a foundation of trust. 

5. Organized

Managers are constantly juggling priorities, projects and people. The ability to keep all of these plates spinning at once is an essential skill for any manager. You can’t afford to waste time looking for information, missing deadlines, or falling behind on tasks because you’re disorganized.

Just as important, though, is that disorganized managers often fail to inspire confidence among their people. It’s difficult to be motivated by someone who consistently drops the ball on important projects or who doesn’t have clearly identified goals and a cohesive strategic plan for meeting them. Employees may feel disheartened in a department that’s scattered, disorganized and frantic. With an organized manager, work tends to flow more smoothly, and problems are solved more quickly. 

6. Solution-Oriented

When there are problems in your organization, how do managers respond? Effective managers waste little time shifting responsibility. Instead, they focus on finding solutions, correcting problems, and creating protocols to avoid future problems.

This doesn’t mean micromanaging people, either. Good managers empower their people to solve problems using creativity and innovation, while also listening to them and helping eliminate roadblocks that keep them from achieving results. For example, an effective leader regularly checks in with employees to ensure they have the tools and support they need to do their jobs. When gaps are identified, they work to close them, demonstrating compassion while solving the problem. 

7. Articulate

Communication skills are one of the most sought-after traits in managers, and with good reason. Honest feedback, making yourself available, and keeping people in the loop are valuable communication skills in managers, but it’s also vital for managers to be articulate. We’ve all encountered people who struggle to express themselves, leading to confusion, frustration and misunderstanding. A leader who can clearly identify, express and share their thoughts and ideas is one that will most likely lead a team to success.

Good managers don’t typically use vague terms and buzzwords that circle around information or require people to ask exactly the right questions to find out what they know. Articulate managers can provide information that’s direct, to the point, and isn’t open to interpretation. They can be assertive and share bad news, but diplomatically, and they can remain calm and clear in all situations. 


If you’re interested in learning more traits of a great manager, a good place to start is by pursuing a business degree.

At Columbia Southern University, we offer online business degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels and more than 15 different degree concentrations. Visit our website to learn more.

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