Four Signs of a Great Manager

Managing effectively requires more than delegating tasks and meeting deadlines.

Two business colleagues working
Jacob Lund/

Are you a good manager or a great one?

A good manager has a sense of duty to tasks being completed on time and makes sure their team is presenting work at the highest standards possible. A great manager, though, has a little something extra: leadership skills.

I've boiled the difference between good and great down to the four following points. How many of these do you or the managers at your organization have?

You have accountability measures in place, but they aren't too rigid.

Accountability matters; however, great management doesn't revolve around punishment, but reward. That's why, as important as it is to have accountability protocols in place, it's equally important not to have too rigid of a structure.

Leaders just have to accept that sometimes things happen that are beyond the control of them and their employees. Accountability measures are great for finding out where a project is stuck in the development process, but it's not always a perfect tool for finding out why.

If a hang-up is on the shoulders of one specific person, you'll need to dive deeper and find out the reason before assigning blame and questioning why something is overdue. After all, anyone who works with clients knows that they can often be the largest process impediment of all.

You recognize that job roles can be fluid.

While you may be hiring for a certain position, a great manager will quickly come to understand an employee's skillset — both where they excel and their weaknesses — and adjust accordingly.

There's usually no such thing as a bad hire, and letting someone go is not only typically severe mismanagement of money and training time, but it's the easy option. In many situations, the people you hire will have qualities that will add to your business, even if they don't turn out to be the best fit for the role you initially onboarded them for.

Understanding that and having a willingness to be flexible and fine-tune a person's role so that they can still fit within your company structure is the ultimate trait of a top-tier manager. Not to sound too cold about it, but at the end of the day, your employees are resources, and being able to use them effectively, even if that takes some maneuvering, speaks well of your leadership abilities.

Just as an example, I hired a writer who for several years was very effective at her job. But as our clients shifted, it was clear that her writing was more suited to the clients that had been with the agency when she started — but over the time she'd been with us, she had shown great potential for account management.

You reward self-starters and go-getters.

Employees with the ability to kick off and see projects through to completion without strict supervision are a rare breed, and not something that you as a manager should take for granted.

There are a lot of people who are content with doing decent work, checking off tasks from a list, clocking out at five on the dot, and really never wondering how they can go above and beyond. I know some business owners call these people "paycheck-motivated" but I disagree — in my organization, those who excel are the ones who reap financial rewards.

However, while raises or bonuses might be welcomed, your high performers are not going to be eternally content with purely monetary incentives. What will actually appeal to them and get them to stay with a company are increased rank and freedom. If you have a self-starter, promote them as often as they're able to prove themselves. Allow them the freedom to work in a way that's more convenient. Four-day work weeks are a huge perk nowadays, and if your employee can be just as effective in a reduced amount of time, then why not give it to them?

You are physically and emotionally available.

Nobody flourishes under a boss who is vague, distant, and unapproachable. Managing effectively requires more than delegating tasks and meeting deadlines — you need quality interpersonal skills that make your employees feel comfortable and confident coming to you with any problems.

When I assign management responsibilities to members of my team who I think are ready for them, I'm evaluating their empathy and listening skills as well as the performance of their day-to-day job duties. The reason why is that, in my opinion, appointing someone as a leader should ultimately save me time in my day as they take on responsibilities that I wasn't able to give my full attention to. If one of their underlings comes to me and says "Sarah is a terrible boss and she doesn't listen to any of us," then the decision to elevate Sarah to a management role was a miscalculation.

Obviously, if I hold managers on my team to this level, I must hold myself to a higher standard of availability and communication. Having cultivated a great team, I've discovered that even the best of workers sometimes need readjustments or an open ear to perform to the best of their ability. Good managers delegate and get tasks done; great managers empower their employees to communicate openly and get tasks done well.

Compassion, communication, and cooperation are key to being a manager who goes beyond completing tasks to helping employees express themselves and work at a high-quality level. As a manager, a lot of responsibility is placed on your shoulders to help those around you excel. And while deadlines and attention to detail are important, how you serve your team is ultimately what matters most.

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