Winning Popularity Contests Doesn’t Make a Great Manager

A great manager isn’t out to win any popularity contests. They want to win your trust and respect – and this is how they do it.

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip satirising office life, has observed that people frequently tell him how their manager is exactly like the incompetent Pointy Haired Boss. But no one ever sees any similarity to themselves.

Good leadership is a hard, and rock-strewn, path to take. It’s clichéd to state that management is not a popularity contest. Yet too many are more concerned with being liked by their staff within the present moment. And by failing to take and keep to tough decisions, they fail to win the respect and trust of their teams over time.

What Makes A Great Manager?

A great manager inspires our support and commitment, while not backing away from hard choices and difficult conversations. They are fair and consistent so their staff know they will be treated equally. They recognise achievement and celebrate individual improvement.

A great leader cares about each individual’s personal development and invests in it. Financially, perhaps, but far more importantly, invests their time, knowing that the return in greater productivity, in the time handed back as team members increase their capability, is invaluable.

Teams will back a manager who listens to them. They don’t expect the answer to every suggestion or request to be ‘yes’, but they – we – need to know that we’ll be heard, and paid the respect of a clear explanation of whatever path is chosen.

Empowerment is not abdication. It’s not dumping your problems on someone else’s plate. Empowerment is structured delegation, being clear on what you expect, keeping close to progress and being available to support through the difficulties which are encountered in any worthwhile endeavour.

It’s Not About How Much You Know

To be the leader of a team does not require you to have greater knowledge or skills than the members of that team – were that the case, it would be a pretty severe limitation on promotion.

What CEO knows more about finance than their CFO, more about HR than the HR Director and more about procurement than the CPO? Leadership requires comfort that each member of your team may – will, if you’re lucky – be better at their job than you.

And your job is to help them to perform to their very best.

Leadership is about inspiration. A leader must have a clear vision of where they’re going, whether it’s a small team, a department or a whole company they need to take with them. They must believe that vision.

They must articulate it clearly in a manner which is authentic to them, whether that is quietly one by one or loudly from the conference stage.

Do this, and your team will believe and engage with your vision, as you embark on a common journey together.

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