How to Be a Good Manager: Guide for the 21st Century

By Dean Gualco

In the years following the end of World War II, managers were held in high regard and esteem by those in the political, economic, and social circles of our country.  Employees felt a sense of trust in their managers and managers a sense of duty to their employees. That feeling has largely dissipated.  An increasing number of books, magazine articles, and newspaper columns have been written denigrating the managerial profession and blaming the average manager for the distrust in our political institutions, the collapse of our economic system, and the stresses in our social compositions. This is not a fair assessment, and it is not accurate perception.

The field of management itself is a dynamic, exciting, and invigorating profession.  It is also time consuming, stressful, and requires a constant retooling of an individual’s knowledge and skills.  It is far from a static, pedestrian profession.  This is what makes the job of a manager so enticing, yet so intimidating.  Given how challenging the profession often seems, it may be difficult for some to appreciate that being a good manager ultimately boils down to six simple, common attributes.  Those attributes that a person should possess in order to master the art of management and to be generally viewed as a good, capable, decent, and honorable manager are:

First, like what you do.  Management is a physically and emotionally draining profession, filled with many challenges and disappointments.  The profession may not be for everyone, but if managing employees and an organization is what you like to do, it can be an exhilarating experience that allows you to have a greater role in the development and success of an employee and an organization.  Few professions are more rewarding.

Second, knowledge. Managers with the greatest breadth and depth of knowledge simply have a better opportunity to make a more reasoned and intelligent decision on a wide range of organizational issues, from the hiring of an employee to the development of the organization’s strategic plan.  This knowledge, gained through a broad education and diverse experiences, better prepares a manager to make the right decision, at the right time, and for the right reason.

Third, solid organizational skills. Today’s globally competitive environment dramatically increases the complexity of the managerial profession, requiring a relentless focus on quality and costs.  Organizations are required to produce more at a lower cost, necessitating managers perfect the art of planning, delegating, and managing time.  These are the basic building blocks of a manager’s competence; without this foundation very little in an organization can be accomplished.

Fourth, work hard. The world is replete with talented people who have done little to perfect and utilize their talent: superb painters who never market their paintings because they fear criticism, and phenomenal writers who do not publish their books because they fear failure.  That’s a shame.  Managers may have certain talents—say, for instance, the ability communicate well, or an ability to decipher complex mathematical computation—but unless they have the drive and determination to maximize and market their talents they become a cautionary tale for an unrealized promise and wasted lives.

Fifth, make work fun. I am convinced that people yearn for fun in their life, for a time and place where they feel comfortable and are welcomed regardless of their challenges and difficulties.  If that place can be where they work, where their manager instills a sense of adventure and excitement in what they do and who they do it for, I believe the repercussions for such a work environment will lead to a level of loyalty, commitment, and productivity rarely seen in an organization.

Finally, a good person. The most important attribute of this book – the one that will most likely determine your success or failure as a manager – is the ability to be a good person, one who is incredibly kind-hearted, controls her most destructive human emotions, tells the truth, does what’s right, and always looks for the good along the road of life.  As employees search for the perfect job in the perfect career, look first for a manager that is kind and generous person.  As organizations search for the most talented employees, look first for a decent and honorable manager who has only the purest and noblest intentions for the employees.  Inevitably, I believe our happiness or unhappiness in the workplace depends on finding that good person.  Never settle until you find such a person to work with; never stop until you become one yourself.

The quest for goodness in your personal and professional life is an exhilarating quest, one that is attainable to those with the drive and desire to live a good and decent life.  I sincerely hope you are, or will become, that type of manager and that type of person.

Dean Gualco is the author of The Good Manager: A Guide for the Twenty-First Century Manager He currently serves as the Human Resource Manager for the City of Lodi and has taught collegiate management and organizational development courses for over 15 years.

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