Do you have what it takes to become a ‘great’ manager?

‘Inborn talents do predispose certain people to becoming more successful than others, but each of the five indispensable talents of a great manager can be honed and developed.’

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If you’re reading this column, you’re already management-mature and appreciate that management isn’t a seat-of-the-pants activity. Good managers think often and deeply about the way they manage, continuously seeking to improve their performance – that’s why they read columns like this.

They understand that their personality and behaviour affect the way people respond to them. They realise that people are different, that while some, for example, need regular goal setting, feedback and guidance, others respond best when left alone to get on with the job.

Good managers know management techniques like management-by-objectives, the setting and monitoring of key performance areas, performance appraisals, job grading systems and the like. They’ve considered the merits of each technique, using each where it makes sense for improving the performance of the organisation.

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As a reader of this column then, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re a “good” manager, but do you have what it takes to be a “great” manager – one who does much more than simply maintain systems and processes?

The unending debate about whether leaders are born or made provides a fertile ground for students of human behaviour, and if you search subject literature, you’ll find as many supporters in the “born” camp as there are in the “made” camp.

The most probable answer is “mostly made”, and I’ll tell you why – David Piccione, Canadian based writer, whose topics cover business, entrepreneurship, leadership and management, convinced me. Piccione identified essential qualities that make successful leaders.


The first quality is character, which consists of honesty, integrity, sincerity and loyalty. Leaders uphold the highest standards in these areas, expecting the same from others.

Building these character traits is a journey of learning and self-discovery. Character isn’t an inborn trait, it’s the product of a person’s environment, and is influenced by the example set by those around them during their formative years.

Leaders know that character evolves over time, and they become students of leadership – constantly re-evaluating their abilities, and attempting to identify and correct their weaknesses.

The second quality is communication. Poor communication is the number one problem in management. Communication is more complex than making yourself heard – it’s a two way process with a sender and a receiver, and unless both participate, communication hasn’t taken place.

Leaders have the ability to solicit and receive feedback from others at all levels in the organisation. They not only tolerate opposing views to their own, they welcome them, and give them careful consideration. While communication skills come naturally to some, they are something that can be learnt and improved on.

Vision is not the flighty impractical dreams that many people have. Vision is the talent to think strategically, to anticipate the actions of others and to build a realistic mental picture of the future.

This is perhaps the quality that most often separates good leaders from great managers. Vision is a very difficult thing to learn, it is however, a talent that comes with experience, particularly if the person concerned works at developing it.


Management is a complex and demanding task that requires a minimum level of intelligence, which is a often a difficult quality to develop, because your IQ is your IQ. However, with training, the ability to think clearly and systematically can be developed. Being intelligent isn’t simply about knowledge or skill, it’s the continuous application of knowledge in finding solutions to problems.

This isn’t courage in a physical sense, it’s the courage to do what needs to be done. Courage means to take decisions, to question the status quo, to differ from the crowd, to apply discipline, to take risks.

The courage of Mandela to differ and challenge his colleagues who wanted to ditch the Springbok emblem is a classic example of leadership courage.

This is a quality that can’t be understated, and it may also be the hardest quality to “learn”. But it’s built on self-confidence, which we know is a characteristic that can be developed and grown.

There is no question that inborn talents predispose certain people to becoming more successful than others, but each of the five indispensable leadership qualities identified by David Piccione can be honed and developed.

So, have no fear, if you’re a reader of this column and other articles on management and leadership, then you’re well along the road to becoming a “great” manager.

Contact Peter Hughes at [email protected] or call 013 745 7303.