4 min read

What Makes a Successful Manager?

What Makes a Successful Manager?

For better or worse, managers have a far-reaching impact.

In a landmark study where Gallup studied the engagement of 27 million employees over the last two decades found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Simply put, managers have the most significant influence, either positive or negative, on the engagement of their employees, which impacts almost every business metric - customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity, quality, turnover, absenteeism, shrinkage, and safety incidents.

Given the influence managers have on their employees and, in turn, the organization they work for, it is critically important to understand what makes a successful manager so you can focus, develop, and hone these leadership skills.

In this article, we address what makes a successful manager and the top three characteristics successful managers have and demonstrate to their team members.


Jump To:

  1. What makes a successful manager?
  2. Top 3 characteristics of a successful manager
  3. How to become a successful manager


Are you a first-time supervisor or manager? If so, you need to read this  comprehensive guide.



What Makes a Successful Manager?

Being a successful manager is about more than just holding a title; it requires a combination of skills and characteristics that inspire and lead a team to greatness. When you first move into a management role, your tasks change from the one doing the tasks to one motivating others to get the job done, which requires a whole new set of skills to do effectively.

While managers need to tap into their technical skills to solve problems and coach those around them, soft skills, or what some refer to as human skills, are what set managers apart. Successful managers clearly communicate, regulate their emotions, build relationships, create a positive work environment, collaborate, motivate, and inspire those around them. There has been much research on what makes a good manager, and here are just a few of the insights they’ve uncovered.


What Makes A Successful Manager According to Research

  • According to employees, a great manager is someone who is honest, has a positive attitude, is trustworthy, supportive, and makes sound decisions. - Zety

5 Things That Make a Great Manager in 2023 Statistic

  • A 2022 report from The Conference Board in partnership with Udemy and Ross School of Business uncovered the skills needed to be an effective manager:
    • Ability to communicate with empathy and compassion, build trust, and create a team culture of psychological safety
    • Hosting regular 1 on 1 meetings with employees that specifically address employee’s challenges and offer timely feedback
    • Support flexible and inclusive practices
    • Adopt and utilize technology to engage, connect, and collaborate with employees
  • 77% of employees said a great manager is one who focuses on utilizing each individual’s strengths within their team. - Zety
  • 85% of management success comes from having well-developed soft skills, while only 15% is due to technical skills and knowledge - Harvard
  • The top skill employees feel their manager needs to improve is their communication and diplomacy skills - Robert Half 
  • When managers feel heard and believe their manager listens to them, they are 4.6x more likely to feel engaged and empowered to do their best work. - Salesforce
  • Employees are 4x less likely to quit their job if their manager has high emotional intelligence - Gallup
  • Employees who report to a manager that is an effective coach and develops their skills are 40% more engaged, display 38% more discretionary effort, and are 20% more likely to remain at their current employer. - Gartner

Employees who have a manager that is an effective Coach (1)

  • Employees who report to a highly empathetic manager, 47% report being innovative, and 67% report being engaged in their role - Catalyst
  • Employees are 5.3x more likely to trust their manager if they display vulnerability, and if they acknowledge their weaknesses, these managers are 7.5x more likely to maintain trust over managers who do not display these qualities. - DDI


What Are the Top 3 Characteristics Of a Successful Manager?

When you distill down the research, three common themes come to light. Here are the top three characteristics of a successful manager that you’ll want to develop


Top 3 Characteristics Of a Successful Manager

  • Strong Communicator
  • Emotionally Intelligent and Self-Aware
  • Invested in their Team’s Success


Strong Communicator

Communication is the cornerstone of successful management. A manager's ability to communicate clearly and effectively with their team members and other stakeholders can significantly impact the team's performance and overall success. 

Strong communicators do these things:

  • Listen to understand, not just to respond
  • Actively encourage two-way dialogue, ask questions, and seek feedback and input
  • Paints a picture through clear and inspirational communication of the vision and mission of their team and how it contributes to the organization


Emotionally Intelligent and Self-Aware

Emotionally intelligent and self-aware managers demonstrate high levels of empathy and understanding and can connect with team members on a personal level. 

Emotionally intelligent and self-aware managers do these things:

  • Show empathy and understanding to the team members they lead
  • Build strong relationships by taking an interest in the whole person
  • Demonstrate trust
  • Lead by example
  • Regulate and manage emotions in challenging situations
  • Maintain a positive attitude despite setbacks and uncertainty
  • Aware of shortcomings and are willing to be vulnerable in sharing them


Invested in their Team’s Success

A successful manager is not just a boss; they a leader who guides and supports their team to achieve individual and collective goals. By being genuinely invested in the success of those around them, managers can create a positive and productive work environment, fostering growth and success for both their team and the organization.

Managers who are invested in their team’s success do these things:

  • Provide frequent coaching where they pass on their knowledge, strengths, and share what they’ve learned from experience
  • Give help, constructive feedback to help an individual learn and grow
  • Freely delegate tasks and trust their employee's ability to complete them
  • Intentionally create the right team environment and culture where individuals feel comfortable sharing their ideas, challenging others, and seeking feedback



How To Become a Successful Manager 

Leadership training is your ticket to becoming a successful manager. As Brian Tracey famously proclaimed, “Leaders are made, not born. You learn to become a leader by doing what other excellent leaders have done before you.” Attending leadership training for managers like Niagara Institute’s Leadership Fundamentals takes the guesswork out of effective leadership and fast-tracks your way to being a successful manager. The content is carefully designed, so you’ll learn what successful managers do, gain new leadership skills, and leave with practical tips and tools to amplify your abilities.


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