Thursday, September 06, 2012

Characteristics of a Good Manager

Although the title Manager continues to exist in contemporary organizations, the number of people with this title or position is declining and is rapidly being replaced by the term leader. But is the title leader merely a euphemism for manager or is there is a difference between a leader and a manager? If there are differences between these two titles then what are those differences?

If we start at the most basic point, we can state that a manager is process oriented and focused on doing things “right” or at least doing them according to the approved process. In short, the manager “goes by the book”. On the other hand, a leader can be viewed as a people person who is focused on doing what they perceive to be “the right thing”. Therefore, a leader may or may not follow the book. Managers are appointed and leaders emerge is another way of viewing this dichotomy but as we all know leadership is like sex appeal, hard to describe but easy to recognize. Managers tend to do the tasks assigned and rely on doing them by the book rather than looking at the larger picture and adjusting their actions accordingly. It isn’t that managers are uncreative or unimaginative but rather they tend to be cautious. Leaders on the other hand tend to see things from a different perspective and do what they feel needs to be done regardless of whether it was assigned or not. Therefore, leaders tend to be risk takers. The following chart provides some contrasting views of the characteristics that distinguish managers and leaders.

Process and Control Oriented
Asks How and When
Accepts Things as They Are
Focuses on Structure and System
Short Range Orientation

Relies on Trust
Asks What and Why
Challenges the Situation
Focuses on People
Long Range Perspective

Although the above table lists the characteristics of leaders and managers it more accurately describes the actions of managers and leaders. Therefore, these are a broad generalization of the differences between managers and leaders. But when these characteristics are combined with various character traits, then the differences become more distinct .



However, in the final analysis it is not the presence or absence of these traits that distinguishes the leader from the manager; rather it is how they are applied by the individual that distinguishes them because both the manager and the leader will display some of these at some time. But for the moment let’s focus on the manager and what constitutes “good” management.

Not everyone will agree on what a good manager is but there are some basic practices that distinguish good management from ordinary or poor. The first of these skills is perhaps the hardest for a manager to master and that is delegation. Most managers can perform a task better than those they supervise so the tendency is to micro-manage. The challenge is to assign the task with specific parameters and objectives and then to go do something else. This is much more difficult than it sounds because the accountability is with the manager not the individual. What distinguishes a good manager is his ability to clearly define the task and monitor progress without supervising. It is the clarity of the assignment that is crucial.

For the newly minted manager it is important to understand that the performance of the organization will not exceed that of the leader. That means that if the leader is tardy in arriving at work then so will the staff and attendance could rapidly become a problem. If the leader dresses inappropriately so will the staff and the leader’s attitude and conduct will permeate the entire organization, but this is also true for positive things as well. The most important thing for the manager to understand is that how he/she acts will dramatically influence the performance of the organization.

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