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10 Leadership Skills Every Manager Should Have

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Promoting good leadership skills is vital. One bad manager in your small business can make it difficult for many. You might have higher absenteeism, increased turnover, and a difficult time recruiting. You may have heard the expression, “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” It is true. High pay or great benefits will not retain a good worker with a bad manager. 

In a Gallup poll, they found that most U.S. workers are made a manager because of seniority and success in their current role. But neither of these indicates how well someone will do once they are promoted. 

Research also shows:

  • One in ten people possess the skills to be a great leader. 
  • Only 30% of employees are engaged at work.
  • Only 35% of managers are engaged.

A manager’s engagement level has a direct impact on their team. Workers who don’t feel engaged at work just work for their paycheck. They aren’t invested. They aren’t telling everyone how great it is to work there. In fact, they are probably telling everyone how miserable they are.

What Are Some Qualities of Bad Managers?

They are micromanagers

A bad boss doesn’t trust that workers can do their job without watching and directing everything they do. Micromanagement is defined as “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.” Most managers watch new employees at first to ensure they are doing things correctly. After the initial training period, however, a manager should let go and trust the employee. Micromanaging bosses watch everything. They focus on every detail. 

They can’t communicate

Bad managers avoid communicating with their employees as much as possible. Face-to-face conversations can be awkward. They wait until a performance review, a write-up, or even termination before speaking to employees about an issue. Then, employees are surprised. A bad communicator may also hide behind email and avoid meeting with employees. They may only communicate issues or problems through email and copy the HR representative. Then when employees ask to speak to their manager, they tell the employee to go talk to HR. 

They are narcissistic 

Narcissistic managers focus on their issues only. They don’t often see the big picture and blame their others for everything wrong. Narcissistic managers typically want a lot of praise, can be extremely selfish, micromanaging, and very controlling. They can be very charismatic to their superiors but are probably making everyone else around them miserable.

What are the Most Important Leadership Skills?

Here are some skills great leaders possess: 

They are Great Communicators

Great leaders know how to communicate with their teams, other departments, and their managers. Also, they don’t avoid issues and if they see something they need to address, they address it. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel nervous about having tough conversations, they just do it. 

They are the ones during performance reviews who ask their employees where they want to go in the company. These leaders motivate their teams when they are struggling and provide additional help. 

They are Empathetic

Leaders who have good emotional intelligence skills have the ability to understand other’s feelings and show compassion. This doesn’t mean they don’t hold people accountable. A great leader understands when people are going through something difficult in their personal lives. They still hold their teams accountable but may offer some additional training or assistance until the employee gets through the rough patch.

They Inspire and Motivate Others

One important leadership skill is to have the ability to inspire others to do great work. Furthermore, if a leader is passionate about the business or a project, it is contagious. They challenge themselves and their teams on continuous improvement. 

These leaders want to see out-of-the-box thinking and they encourage creativity. Also, their employees will see this type of attitude and get excited about it as well. 

They are Honest

Leaders who are honest with their team members create a circle of trust around them. If an employee is not performing well, they address the issue. If an employee asks a question that a manager can’t respond to because of confidentiality, the manager will state that. 

When an employee trusts in their manager, they will believe in the business more. Some managers tell their employees everything, including confidential information. That is not honest to the business and that is not a good leader. A good, honest leader earns trust throughout the company.

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They Recognize Great Workers

A great leader will recognize their employee’s achievements. They know how to find and keep good employees. A great leader will praise their team members often. They also recognize great teamwork and the importance of the people who work for them and who made it happen.

They Hold People Accountable and Don’t Micromanage

Great leaders hold their team members and themselves accountable. They ultimately accept responsibility for their teams’ successes and failures. 

These leaders believe in those they hire, and they don’t micromanage. They may watch closely at first to ensure all project steps are completed with good quality of work. If someone isn’t working out with the team or cannot do the job, great leaders don’t let bad workers stay. 

They Own Their Own Mistakes

People make mistakes and how they respond to those mistakes tells a story of character. Great leaders own their errors. They will come to you before the mistake is even found. 

They apologize even if one of their employees was at fault. A great leader will tell you how the mistake happened. They also will ensure it doesn’t happen again.

They Listen to Feedback

Great leaders listen to feedback from everyone in the business. Allowing people to give feedback ensures you are all on the same page. If someone isn’t happy with a process or job, this gives an opportunity to discuss it further. 

Also, it allows employees to add something of great value to the project. When employees feel they can speak freely, they will become more creative in their solutions to problems. 

Some managers implement consensus decision-making in their departments.

Consensus decision-making is a creative way for a group to reach decisions. Instead of voting, the group uses consensus to find solutions that everyone supports or at least can live with. This allows the leader to listen to everyone’s ideas and not be the sole decision-maker. It is a collaborative style of decision-making. It shows that a manager values input.

They Treat Employees Fairly and Equally

Leaders are going to have top performers. They recognize these top performers for their achievements. But they aren’t unfair. There is a fine line between recognizing top performers and showing favoritism. 

For example, it could be perceived as favoritism if a manager goes to lunch with one of his employees but doesn’t invite the whole team. A great leader will recognize the skill level of their team members. They will go to the expert in their area for solutions. However, they will not show favoritism to employees.

They Develop Their Employees

Great leaders want to surround themselves with great teams. They will develop those who want to become leaders and try to promote within. They are always looking for their replacement. 

If you want to promote within, then it is important to invest in a leadership training program

Investing in a Leadership Training Program

What should be included in a leadership training program?

There are multiple ways to develop a leadership training program. You should write out a process and make changes when needed.  

Here are some ideas to help you develop your program:

  1. Develop your budget. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but you need to ensure you invest in your future leaders. 
  2. Recognize workers who have some of the attributes discussed above. What needs to be more developed?
  3. Discuss with them what their long-term goals are. Ensure they are planning to continue on that career path. Also, make sure they know your expectations if they are interested in the program. 
  4. Give them more responsibility and teach them important skills they should have. Push their skill level and set clear goals that align with the business. 
  5. Invest in an online training program. Lynda has good leadership training courses online. Some libraries even offer free Lynda courses and enrollment.  But, don’t just ask them to watch videos. You should discuss what they learned and let them ask questions. 
  6. Make a checklist. As your employee goes through the training, ensure they are meeting each step you have developed. You want to know they have the skills discussed above so include that on your checklist. Listen for feedback from others too. Discuss with your trainee if any negative feedback is received. Watch for emotional intelligence. 

[Learn What are the Traits of Successful People]

Final Thoughts on Leadership

To discover if you have a bad manager, watch for high turnover, high absenteeism, and complaints. If these things are happening, you should investigate the cause. If you find one of your managers are causing issues, be prepared to move them out of your company. As a small business, you need to remove the bad apples quickly. 

Make a list of other qualities you think a great leader should have. What would you add? Ensure your leadership development program teaches the leadership traits you deem important. 

John Maxwell, a leadership speaker and author, says, “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”

Great workers don’t necessarily make great leaders. However, if someone shows potential, consider investing in them. You want leaders in your small business that you can trust to run it when you aren’t there. 

Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.


  1. I really liked the section about micromanaging. I think a lot of managers say, “I don’t like to micromanage” but they don’t really know what it means. You explain perfectly what micromanaging is. I wish I could put this on my boss’ desk.

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