Two Essential Qualities of a Manager


Apparently a great way to increase one’s blog post popularity is to place a number in the title, as in ’10 Easy Tips to Achieve Ultimate Happiness’ or ‘5 Guaranteed Ways to Have a Great Date’. However, it’s not the only reason I used this headline. I actually believe there are two main, simple to understand qualities that you have to develop in order to achieve great results as a manager (although ‘simple’ does not equal ‘easy’ in this context). In my opinion, all the other traits are built on the foundation of the two below.

Ability to Execute

Let’s say your team has an assigned project, task, duty of some sort – and your task is to drive them to the finish line. You will face obstacles, have schedule or resource challenges, unexpected technical issues, and so on – but most of the time, your team will deliver. You will keep the team focused and motivated, help them get through difficult moments, negotiate with your customers when necessary, and do anything else that is required to achieve the final result. And you will do that without getting your employees or peers to hate their jobs… and yourself.

Sometimes the obstacles can be very tough, and caused by external factors. If someone analyzes them after your failure, they will clearly see that it wasn’t your fault. But guess what, it doesn’t matter. You’re no longer an engineer, you’re a manager – and you’re expected to get things done; excuses (even legitimate) don’t work anymore. Only the end result will be noticed – sad, but true. I guess that’s why so many software developers revert to a technical role after their first leadership experiences.

How to get there is an entirely different story with many books written on the topic. The bottom line is, you want to be the person that people describe as ‘making things happen’, rather than ‘whoa, that poor chap has a really tough project, sucks to be him’. The latter won’t get you anywhere.

Continuous Improvement

Let’s assume you are already good at execution– you deliver the results on time, creatively eliminate obstacles that show up, and so on. Does that make you a good manager?

I believe this is enough to be called an administrator of the team, but if you want to be a full-blown manager, you need to do one more thing: continuously improve your team’s performance. Enhance the development process, tools, knowledge, procedures – everything that can give a long-term benefit for the team and the company.

There are many possible approaches to do that effectively, and I will touch on that in future articles. The same with carving out time for long-term activities of this kind, as it is often difficult. For now, I want you to at least understand the importance of improvements.

What are the consequences of ignoring this aspect and only focusing on good execution of your day-to-day tasks? In the short-term it probably won’t get noticed, but after months or years, here’s what may happen:

  • Fires will tend to occur more often, as you usually focus on dealing with the immediate effects, rather than focusing on root causes.
  • Recurring problems will make your customers feel that they will never be resolved, which can damage their trust in your team.
  • Your employees will notice that they are not growing, which will make them worried, disengaged, and eventually seeking job change.
  • You will lower your chances to distinguish yourself among others in this position.
  • Your managers could see you as burnt out, and may stop considering you for the most interesting projects.
  • You yourself will feel stuck and bored, your work will be draining your energy instead of motivating you.

Of course, in order to have good results in improving your team’s work, you first need to have a vision and prepare a strategy, but also apply the changes in practice. That’s why I have described the execution skill as the first one to master.

So these are the two most important qualities of a manager, as seen by me. Of course in this area there are many different ways to achieve the same result – I wonder what is on your list? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.


2 thoughts on “Two Essential Qualities of a Manager

  1. Mark Clarke says:

    Hi Rafal,

    I really enjoyed the “Two Essential Qualities of a Manager” article. I agree with your distinction between being and “Administrator” vs “Manager”. Very important for the long term. Very challenging to be the good manager and continue to improve the team, their skill sets and keep them interested in their work while balancing the “Admin” demands from external parties. I will book mark your blog and keep current on your blogs. Good Stuff!

    • Rafal Barszczewski says:

      Thank you, Mark – glad you liked the article! I hope I will be able to maintain your interest. Any topic suggestions are also welcome.

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