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Leadership Skills List: Skills of a Good Manager

Updated on September 19, 2012
Hopefully, these managers followed these tips from their employees.
Hopefully, these managers followed these tips from their employees. | Source

Although I’m very lucky at my current workplace to be shielded from a great deal of nonsense, I’ve also worked at some companies that were real doozies (some no longer even in existence). And what I’ve found and heard from years of working in various capacities, types of workplaces, and across different industries is that managers are out of touch with their employees. I disagree, and I caution readers to take that with a grain of salt, of course – often, people just like to complain. But some of the criticism I’ve heard is valid, and I’ve cobbled them together into a list that I believe all managers should read. So…

The following is a list of managerial and leadership skills and abilities that all effective managers should have, from the point of view of a non-decision maker. These are skills that can be learned, so there’s no excuse why a leader should not have these down pat.

Hey, Managers! Please do not discount these skills as unimportant; the lowest employees on the totem pole have been known to teach the director a thing or two!

Which of the following is the most important skill a manager can have?

See results

Be Consistent

One of the biggest pet peeves that I have heard from non-managers across multiple lines of employment is about their managers’ consistency... or shalI say, lack of it. A leader who runs hot and cold makes it difficult for himself or herself to be trusted. Why make your work life more difficult for yourself? Alienating a group of associates is unlikely to ever work in your favor.

As a leader, treat people within different departments or with different skill sets from yours consistently, and well. Not only is it a good skill, it’s good manners.

“I don’t care who y’are… that’s funny, right there.”

- Larry the Cable Guy

Have a Sense of Humor

The best leaders have a good sense of humor and aren't afraid to show it. That doesn't necessarily mean that you should attempt to crack jokes with each and every person in your department. That could be considered overly friendly.

But if there’s an appropriate opportunity to make someone smile, take it! If you know of a well-suited joke, share it. If something is funny, laugh along with the rest of us. Don’t be a robot or a big shot. We all know you put your pants on just like we do!

Be Compassionate

A very valuable quality all managers should have is compassion. If an employee is going through a rough time, show them some humanity! No need to embrace them physically as if they were a long-lost relative, but well-chosen words and the right tone of voice can work wonders for a working relationship.

Remember, people might forget the exact words used, but they will always remember the way you made them feel.

Baby Talk? Not In the Office!

Charming or funny as it may be on a television show or in memes, inventing words or using language incorrectly is not cute at a place of business.

If you expect your employees to know what on earth you are talking about, please use proper descriptions and grammar so we don’t have to redo our work.

Use Language Properly

  • Don't make up words. That includes bundling names together (i.e. Brangelina, or worse, two employees’ names) and using nouns as verbs (Remember those Dilbert cartoons from the 90s? There's a reason why they are still funny.)
  • Use proper grammar
  • Enunciate
  • Don't let your words trail off

Keep Your Arguments Compelling

Charisma may be important, but it’s typically not learned. If you weren’t lucky enough to be born with charisma, at least learn how to present a compelling argument. Personal style will come into play here, and hard data can sway even the most hard-headed skeptic.

So ask a friend, take a course, or read up on presentation skills. It will definitely come in handy during your time as a manager.


Someone has to say this, so it might as well be me. We know when you’re not listening. And it’s inappropriate, to say the least. Please don’t simply clasp your hands together and think about something else while maintaining eye contact with us. If you don’t have time for us right now, man up and say so. We're grown-ups -- we can handle it!

When you do have the time for us, open your ears. If we’ve been doing our jobs well and we have a good idea, it really could help the department or entire company.

In other words… let us talk, and hear us. You never know what good ideas we might have.

Don't Use "The Royal We"

Everyone has a "honey-do" list, right? You know, the list that you've set up for your significant other? And to friends and coworkers, you may refer to it as "things we have to do". But you don't really mean "we". You mean your significant other!

When managers use the "royal we", they are not only using a term that is too familiar, they are insulting their direct reports as well. If as a manager you mean to assign me a project or just a task, simply do it. Explain what is involved and the ultimate goal, and what I need to do. Leave the "we" out of it.

Be Realistic

Ok, so you have a great idea that you plan to implement, that you are sure will please your customers (or clients, patrons, or regulars). Yes! And your team is behind you all the way. Yahoo! You’ve broken down what your vendors need to know and shared it with them. Hooray! But a week later, it seems nothing has changed for the customers. So much for your great idea. Do you kick your trash can and snap at your employees? Not if you are a reasonable manager!

Do not expect miracles to happen. Be rational. In your heart, you know that change can take time, and that big changes can take more time. So be realistic and help the idea along. Nurture it and feed it as you would a plant. Talk to it if you must! Impress upon your direct reports how important this change could be for the company and them, and be positive. Because you have implemented all the skills above, your idea has a very good chance of being successful.

And if it isn't? Well, Rome wasn't built in a day, was it? Try again.


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    • profile image

      Warren 4 years ago

      You know what, I'm very much inecnild to agree.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great point, Maralexa! That is such an important thing to remember. It's so disconcerting to find out after the fact that a coworker has left the company (for whatever reason). That always makes me feel somewhat nervous, like, why did they not tell us? :(

      Thank so much Maralexa for the thoughtful comments and the follow. :)

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      excellent article, theclevercat! the points you raise are extremely important -- especially listening. "If you don't have time for us - man up!" -then make time and really listen. I agree with ambrking above, that this is one of the most important skills a manager can have.

      May I suggest one more management skill? Communicating to staff what is going on in the company that they might not know but could affect them. For example: if team members interact with members of another department and changes happen in that other department (someone is promoted and is moving on), let your people know (when appropriate of course). Don't let them find out after the person has gone.

      Voted up and awesome. Thanks.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, stoneyy! :^)

      Thanks for coming back. I read the hub earlier today and there was a lot there! What I especially like about this comment is the part about the newer supervisors making (hopefully) different mistakes than the ones they were taught about. "Mistake" is not a dirty word, and the more one pays attention about ones that have already been made, it is true that they should not have to go through the same thing themselves. Of course it doesn't always work that way, but wouldn't it be nice? Think of all the time that could be saved. :^)

    • profile image

      stoneyy 5 years ago from USA Pacific Northwest

      The hub 'Taking Officers to Task' I think has points and concepts which translate and adapt well. Yes, military and (individual) corporate and small business structures are all different. Then there's banking and legal. Different methods, goals, criteria, and the like all come into play. In short, things 'depend' on myriad factors. Many things are different, but I think breaking things down to the basics-the goals results, and cultural sociological factors and historical are common. I've taken college (university) classes in management, sociological history and work history. Military history, ranks, and culture is taught at various depths. A basic overall view is taught in boot camp, for instance. After that the emphasis is on expanding on career field proficiency with touches on management. As career proficiency is demonstrated management training begins to increase. Trainees are flat told to observe and be patient. They can see mistakes their supervisors make as well as what works well. In time, they will be in a supervisor slot making, hopefully, different mistakes. :)

      In the last day, or so, a person published a hub on 'Why I Can No Longer Work For McDonalds". I thought their analysis and final decision was well thought out and the right decision. Such isn't hinting I'm any type of 'authority'.

      I think the military system is superior as it is standardized and each person gets the same training at the same points in their career. They know how the system works. An advantage, in my case, was being initially in the USN where officers and enlisted are in the same boat (no pun intended) and not in the 'Ivory Tower' type concept of the USAF.

      One learns how to officially address problems. What official/unofficial channels exist to get assistance. How things can get done wholly outside the system. What political avenues exist and when, and not, to use them as well as the ramifications and possible repercussions.

      What can be done when an office won't do their job.

      Oddities, hijinks, and stuff. Real life stuff.

      The ramifications and repercussions, inadvertent and otherwise of official policy/policies. Inadvertent and the strange occasions when stereotypes come to life.

      Amusing and not so amusing events. Successes and screw-ups. Age/maturity issues and results/repercussions when things accidentally go bad. Motivation.

      One class I took was in workplace history circa 1925 when sociologists went into a garment factory and their investigation uncovered results the opposite of what they expected. It took them awhile to determine why this was. Interesting results.

      I mentioned the military system was superior, and why. This does not mean all military supervisors are effective. The flip side is civilian executives/supervisors aren't necessarily ineffective. It all 'depends'. :)

      Writing all this would take many hubs and would be nowhere near complete. It would also bore people to tears!

      I'm willing to respond in hub(s) to item(s)/incident(s) you're curious about or try to answer question(s). Of course, you're free to accept, reject, or point out I've totally screwed something up, where, and why.

      I'm more than willing to read and listen to what you have to say, as long as you keep in mind I've been medically retired from this for twenty years.

      The 'ball', as it were is in your court.


    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Stoneyy, have you considered writing a hub on this topic? ;-) I would definitely read it!

      That said, I have no military experience, which I understand from coworkers has a different structure than, say, a corporate setting. So I can't speak to that. But you make a lot of really good points. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • profile image

      stoneyy 5 years ago from USA Pacific Northwest

      A few other general points.

      Remember your subordinates will be watching you like a hawk! If they learn they can trust you they'll relax and be more productive.

      'Got to bat' for your people. I had problems with one individual and went to bat for him with an officer. When I got back I told him what I did and that if he screwed up again he'd have to deal with the officer.

      There was another who had really been worked over in a prior area and was sent to us as a 'punishment'. He had let the squadron know his feelings in writing beforehand and they kept it in his personnel file. Once he saw how we operated the attitude vanished and he was very productive. When it was time for me to recommend him for re-enlistment he told me about the letter in his file. There wasn't anything I could do about it other than to write my recommendation-which he deserved and to suggest following it up the chain of command. He got to one person and asked if he could have the letter pulled from his file. It was. When a higher ranking person (who knew about the letter) went to deny him re-enlistment he went to get the letter as justification; it wasn't there.

      I had to escort another person who worked for me off base when he was thrown out of the military.

      Another person who worked for me reached his stated goal of becoming an officer. I found that out a couple of years later-and I was happy for him. I told my people I didn't write their Annual Performance Report-they did-based on their performance. Show me, I'd tell them.

      If you play politics, look out. Subordinates may feel they've got to watch their backs.

      Do your best to shield them from all the political crap.

      Open two-way communication is crucial and can save lots of time and money.

      Put your people first!

      Praise in public and counsel in private.

      When you screw up, admit it. If the screw-up happened in public, admit it in public. The instance which comes to mind (military) is I was accused, in public, of screwing up and my supervisor was told to write me up. I was able to demonstrate I had followed directives and some unknown person falsified log entries. The upper level supervisor acknowledged he was mistaken in front of the folks that heard the charge and he told them he should have dealt with it in private. (Now that's leading by example and a good demonstration of integrity).

      If nothing else, a supervisor can be a prime example of what not to do.

      On the job and off the job can be two different things. On the job the supervisor may be doing his/her best without having any training. Example; a supervisor in another department wasn't exactly pleasant. I was in their department for a purpose and one of the subordinates said the super had invited him to go golfing and the person didn't know how to respond and asked for advise. I told the person I couldn't advise, but to consider the possibility that 'on the job' and 'off the job' could be two different things. The person decided to go and found the person was quite personable off the job. I had pointed out the person may not have had any management training and was doing the best they could-without a clue.

      In going through military management training at one point you will be the 'counsellor' and the one being counselled via a 'draw a scenario out of a hat'.

      I read the scenario and I guess my eyes gleamed at the difficult challenge. The lady 'counsellor' saw it and said; "You'd better not make me cry".

      It was a 'no-win' situation and I had to play the directed role. It was a very difficult scenario, and she was 'teary-eyed' at the end. I lost points as I was soft-voiced, but that was how I had to do things to make it all believable. I was somewhat hard to hear for some folks.

      Be flexible and don't play favourites.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      ambrking, I agree completely. Thanks for stopping by and following. :)

    • ambrking profile image

      ambrking 5 years ago from Encino, California

      Listening is one of the most important however neglected skill of a leader. This should be constantly practiced. Only when we listen do we understand what our customer and prospects want. Also through listening do we understand that we can improve.