What does it take to be a good manager? How about a great manager? A day in the life of a manager may differ from one business to another, but one thing managers have in common is leading people. At the heart of being a great manager is the ability to inspire high performance and help employees succeed.
How do managers bring out the best in others? A Google search delivered more than 250 million results in response to this question. The good news is that nobody needs to comb through all of those results to find the answer.
Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can do more than provide graduates with management-level business training in areas such as accounting and marketing. At La Salle University, for example, all MBA students take a specific course on Developing Your Leadership Skills, which is complemented by the executive perspectives courses focused on strategic decision making and leadership development. Courses like these help equip graduates with the in-demand skills that support managerial excellence across wide-ranging industries.
What Are Employers Looking for in a Manager?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chief executives typically have significant managerial experience. The category of chief executives includes, for example, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers and executive directors.
General and operations managers also need to continue advancing their management skills through experience and education. This is as true for the general manager of an auto dealership as it is for the operations manager at a medical center.
What are the essential traits of strong managers in any industry? To answer this question, it helps to consider the skills that are most important to employers hiring recent MBA graduates. A 2017 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey asked employers to rank the importance of five skill set categories when hiring recent business school graduates:
It might be surprising that managerial skills, such as administrative activities, were rated as least important. One reason? Employers may assume their hires have already sharpened these skills.
Communication and teamwork took the top two spots in the GMAC survey, followed by technical and leadership skills. It is important to keep industry differences in mind when looking at the data. Communication skills are most important across many industries, including technology and healthcare. Leadership skills, however, top the list for manufacturing.
What Makes a Manager Stand Out?
In today’s world, managers typically need certain technical competencies to conduct their day-to-day work. For example, advances in business analytics and data technologies play an increasingly important role in decision-making. This likely requires that managers will be working with a range of analytical tools and database management systems. MBA programs must incorporate the learning and application in specific courses and through the program.
But one thing the GMAC survey makes clear is that technical skills are not enough to excel as a manager. The skills that employers most value are known as soft skills.
Taking the GMAC survey into consideration, the following are five traits of strong managers:
- They communicate effectively. It is very difficult to lead a team without strong communication skills. This includes oral communication, listening skills, written communication, and presentation skills. And when it comes to convincing a company or team to get behind that great idea, without the ability to present it clearly, it may be passed over.
- They facilitate teamwork. According to the GMAC survey, the ability to “work in and build strong teams” ranked as the second most important trait that employers seek in new MBA hires. GMAC identifies the following teamwork subskills as most important: adaptability, valuing others’ opinions, ability to follow a leader, and cross-cultural sensitivity.
- They are time management pros. Juggling competing priorities and ensuring timely completion of projects requires managers to manage time well. They also need to support their team in doing the same. As Maren Hogan explains in “The Seven Qualities That Make Great Managers So Effective” (Forbes), the best managers “help keep their employees’ proverbial plates just the right amount of full.”
- They excel at decision-making. Management is all about decision-making, explains author Steve Tobak in “Top 10 Traits of an Exceptional Boss.” (Inc.) It is “where the rubber meets the road.” Tobak explains that effective decision-making means asking the right people the right questions, listening to what they tell you and then trusting your instincts.
- They lead. According to the GMAC survey, employers expect MBAs to have integrity and drive. Also important is vision and the ability to help the company and their individual teams achieve their long-term goals. Other in-demand leadership skills include creativity and innovation, as well as the ability to inspire others.
In “The Seven Qualities That Make Great Managers So Effective,” author Maren Hogan makes an interesting point. In addition to being able to lead, prioritize projects, and make decisions, the best managers have “an infectious love for the organization.” They are, she points out, as invested in the company culture as they are in the company itself.
La Salle’s MBA program highlights the importance of culture. Targeted coursework on organizational and human resource management emphasizes the manager’s role in creating a culture that “attracts, rewards and retains the talent necessary to ensure business success.” Such coursework helps managers learn how to inspire others to do their best, even in the face of challenges. As Hogan points out, “Even when they don’t love their duties, they love the culture.”
Learn more about La Salle’s online MBA programs.