What makes a successful manager?

The truth? What makes a successful manager?
Effective managers vs successful managers


To start off this blog I considered a bunch of ‘intros’ that would sum me up (without giving too much of my privacy away), while at the same time explain the direction of this blog… blah blah blah.

Here’s by far the most useful thing I have learnt when it comes to management and experience. This one simple lesson (that Ive often suspected, but never seen evidence for) totally changed my thought process in terms of management, and my own career. This, in itself, made my entire initial outlay on the MBA course worth it.

Being an effective manager on its own will get you little you have to understand what makes a successful manager to give yourself the best chance of promotion/getting that new job/going where you want.

We’ve probably all seen it, or even experienced it yourselves that one person; that one determined individual that works hard every day, that always produces to the high standards that they set themselves, that has the respect of others around them for the quality of their work, yet appears thwarted at every step on the way to promotion. Destined to remain at that desk, while people around them find their way up the ladder despite their work being of lower standard… why is this? Why does that happen?

Fred Luthans in 1988, analysed the frequencies of the different categories of behaviour, and tried to correlate this with success and with effectiveness.

First, he defined success he defined it in terms of speed of promotion, which, I believe we would all agree is a pretty good indicator of success. I’d perhaps want to include hitting targets and delivering to high standards but that’s where we come to effectiveness…

Luthans found ‘effectiveness’ harder to define, but did so in terms of: high levels of satisfaction, commitment by subordinates, and high quantity and quality standards of performance.

A key finding of his research, perhaps because it is counter-intuitive, was that successful managers, i.e., those who were rapidly promoted, had little in common with effective managers… so what were they doing that was different?

Luthans had earlier classified the activities of managers into 4 distinct areas:

  • Communication – exchanging information, paperwork
  • Traditional Management Planning, decision-making and controlling
  • Networking Interacting with others, socialising and politicking
  • Human resource management motivating, reinforcing, disciplining, managing conflict, managing and developing staff

(Luthans isn’t the only person to do this, nor is his list individually the epitome of lists, but it isn’t bad and it fits his later work).

What Luthans found was that effective managers usually were capable in most, if not all the these main areas of management. The only thing that successful managers had in common, was their ability to network. They weren’t necessarily good at any of the other areas, but they were all experts at interacting with others, socialising and politicking.

ID-10076182This one lesson, this one piece of academic research changed my perceptions of my own career. I’d always believed that if I knuckled down, got on with my work, consistently delivered to high standards I’d be noticed, someone would give me my chance. This one lesson, learnt in the first weeks of the MBA changed that. I went out, I made contacts, I made a resolution to make sure influential people knew me and could see what I could do.

I still want to be effective in everything that I do, I set very high standards for myself. I am determined to be good at all the main activities of management, but I now understand the importance of the one activity I wasn’t fully aware of.

One word of warning We’ve seen those people who are constantly promoted, those networking gurus who ‘play the game’… everyone is promoted to their level of incompetence eventually. So for those out there who are aiming to be successful without the hard work of effective, watch where you step to.

2 thoughts on “What makes a successful manager?

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