I recently read a book called Good To Great by Jim Collins in which he discussed the concept of level 5 leaders. Level 5 leaders are managers who excel and make their companies great by creating an environment that is focused on a goal and never influenced by personal gain. These level 5 leaders are not afraid to face the truth – even when the truth means that they (the managers) are wrong.
The unfortunate thing is – there aren’t many level 5 leaders in the world. But, I think it is possible to become one. So today, I wanted to talk about what makes a good manager – or perhaps better, a great manager. Even after 15 years working, I am constantly shocked that these simple management principles are not common practice.
Obviously things like intelligence, business savvy, education, etc. are important, but these few character traits are equally important for a great manager.
Focus: A great manager has their eyes on a single goal. A good manager works toward that goal and never wavers no matter how rough the road may be. A good manager is not scattered or divided, but rather singly focused on one object.
Drive: A successful manager wants success so badly he/she is willing to work for it. This is not as obvious as one may think. Many, many people are very glad to let ‘success’ come to them. Few have the personal passion and drive to go after their goals full force. Few are willing to inconvenience themselves to learn more, push harder, work faster while never losing site of a focused goal and the bigger picture.
Humbleness: No matter how smart a person is, no matter how talented, no matter how good the instincts are, an excellent manager knows he/she knows very little. A good manager is willing to face the truth that others, even subordinates might know more. A great manager can accept that he/she may be wrong. He/She will correct any errors and accept responsibility while paying due acknowledgment to those who are right. A great manager appreciates the talents of others and encourages others to shine even if the other person’s light outshines that of the manager.
Giving: Contrary to what one might assume – I am not talking about money, stock options, perks, etc. The best managers are glad to give staff the best of themselves - their experience, knowledge, and creativity. Excellent managers freely share this without being threatened when another person excels. Great managers know that this is not only for the benefit of the recipient, but also for the benefit of the company when it can realize its maximum potential by having a staff full of experience, knowledge, and creativity.
Communication skills: Interestingly, communication is only partly about talking. In truth, a good communicator listens more than he/she speaks. It is amazing what happens – what you can learn, how much you can grow – by simply shutting your mouth and opening your ears and eyes. Every person is different. Unless you listen, you cannot benefit from that diversity. A good communicator reads to learn what is happening in the world while benefitting from other people’s diverse ideas and experiences.
While, I thoroughly believe that listening is far more important, a good communicator can also clearly express their own ideas and willingly does so. A good manager uses his/her communication skills to inspire staff toward shared goals – goals that are clearly communicated. As a humble person (mentioned above) the good communicator is willing to accept feedback and revise their opinions for the greater good of the business.
Not everyone has these abilities, but I do believe anyone can learn them and it all starts with listening. When a person listens to others, it is amazing how fast he/she finds that they know very little and learn a lot. As we listen and learn, we are inspired to drive toward achieving our goal.
It is important, however, to actually listen – not just hear. Hearing is nothing more than vibration in the ear. Listening requires absorbing ideas and considering them. Even if someone says something that doesn't seem to have merit – consider how much you are learning about how other people think and process information. There is so much to be learned by listening and only a good listener can be a great manager.
If you are looking for something good to read, I recommend Good to Great. There is a lot to be learned from the research Jim Collins and his team did and published in this book.