Qualities that Good Managers and Leaders Possess


It’s easy to think that there is not much difference between a good manager and a good leader. However, there is a difference! In short, managers concentrate more on doing things right, while leaders focus more on doing the right things.

Team leader discussing project

At the end of the day, both good management and good leadership skills are indispensable to an organization’s bottom line. Although some still insist that leadership skills are inborn, studies increasingly show that leadership is 30% genetics and 70% experiences learned through daily living. In other words, even those that do not have the 30% genetic make-up to become a good leader can still become good leaders by focusing on the 70%.

As for good management skills, there is less controversy. Most people would agree that good management is by far a factor of good academic management training.

Below are some of the qualities that good managers and leaders possess, including how you can discover whether you are a good leader or manager. But first, let us understand how managers and leaders realize successful projects.

How managers and leaders lead to a successful project

As mentioned above, managers are more about doing things right. By definition, management is a discipline that focusses on four critical functions including planning, organizing, direction and controlling individuals around achieving organizational goals. Management applies these functions to harness resources like information, finances, physical resources, and human resources, for the benefit of the organization.

When it comes to projects, managers bring about successful projects by following methods and processes to get things done efficiently and effectively by conforming to set standards, accomplishing tasks, and maintaining the status quo. As such, management is quite useful when dealing with situations that need to be resolved urgently.

Contrarily, leadership is a more difficult concept to define. Leadership can mean different things to different people. That said, leaders are generally considered to be visionaries, people-oriented and focus more on doing the right things but want to achieve more than the status quo. They are followed for their excellent example, they listen and show empathy, have an innate ability to connect with people, and have capabilities that build a conducive environment for the team’s success.

Leaders must gain insight into who they are as a person and what motivates them. Through this insight and understanding, they will be better able to give a vision and motivate others. As such, leadership is more than a job position or title; its more about a calling and a process towards constant introspection, observation, and development. Leadership extends beyond business or project and permeates all facets of a person’s life.

What managers and leaders contend with toward project success

Managers are most useful when the budget, scope, schedule, and quality have already been determined and methodical execution is all that remains for project success. Leaders want to listen, understand, and provide their vision that will motivate others to do more than the status quo currently presents.

From a project perspective, here are the key differences in what managers and leaders must contend with towards project success:

  • Managers:
    • Accept resources and structures as provided,
    • Focus on project management deliverables, and
    • Support team delivery of a business outcome.
  • Leaders, on the other hand,
    • Constantly review resources and structures required for project success
    • Focus on the delivery of business outcomes regardless of the source of issues or solutions
    • Collaborate to achieve business outcomes

To better understand the qualities that make a leader and a manager successful, below are some of the qualities that each should possess.

Effective leadership

Important qualities of a leader

  1. Passion: Showing sincere enthusiasm for a vision, mission, business, product or the need to simply do better, is critical for a leader because it is contagious.
  2. Integrity: Doing the right thing, even if it isn’t the best thing for the bottom line of the business or the current project with a defined scope, budget, or schedule.
  3. Excellent communication: Poor communication can lead to poor outcomes. Great communication allows for clear instruction and stronger motivation. Listening is integral to good communication
  4. Loyalty: Good leaders inspire trust and effectiveness in people by being loyal to the people. Leaders make loyalty tangible by ensuring team members have all that they need to get the job done and stand up for their team in times of conflict and crisis even when the issues are not directly related to the business.
  5. Decisiveness: Leaders can take risks without having to wait for consensus and yet remain accountable to the team and to the overall vision that they have inspired in others.
  6. Managerial competence: Besides being able to inspire and motivate, leaders must also have competence and understanding of tools, procedures, processes, and business goals.
  7. Empowerment: Leaders empower individuals to do more and act autonomously by imparting necessary skills and by motivating them to work in the best interest of the common good of the organization. Trust in allowing individuals to operate off-script is an essential ingredient of empowerment.
  8. Charisma: People tend to follow individuals that are likable, friendly, well-spoken, and that show genuine care.

Important qualities of a manager

  1. Results-oriented: The ability to be the best by surpassing standards, breaking records, and having ambition.
  2. Assertiveness and fearlessness: a manager must be able to overcome resistance and get ahead of adversity in order to drive employee success.
  3. Delegation: A manager must have the ability to contribute to the business in an inclusive manner which means delegating day-to-day tasks to team members that can accomplish the tasks efficiently and effectively.
  4. Rational and analytical: A manager can rationally scrutinize details to come up with solutions to meet challenges or to make operations efficient and effective.
  5. Excellent communication: A good manager communicates directly and candidly while being sensitive to different perspectives

How to recognize if you are a good leader or a manager

Managers discussing work

Although there may be differences between leaders and managers, you may have noticed that some traits of leaders and managers are intertwined. Nevertheless, if you want to recognize the qualities that will make you a predominantly strong leader or a predominantly strong manager, here are some of the key traits that you should observe:

The requirements of a good manager

Several qualities make for a good manager. However, since management is mostly task-oriented, here are the four essential attributes that you should primarily observe to determine whether you are a good manager.

  • Rational: If you can perceive things from a rational and logical point of view without much effort when it comes to solving challenges and setting goals, then you are likely a good manager. Rational thinking is useful when it comes to allocating resources and setting team objectives from a realistic or factual point of view.
  • Analytical: An analytical mind means that one can scrutinize details and find connections that can boost effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Problem-solving: Having a cool head, quick thinking, and the right skill intellect to solve problems is useful for a good manager since teams will always encounter challenges.
  • Perseverance: A manager must withstand the pressure that comes from managing individuals and teams, along with their specific needs and challenges.

The requirements of a good leader

A leader must have an abundance of emotional intelligence necessary to manage and meet people-oriented responsibilities and duties. Primarily, to become a good leader, the three-legged stool of readiness, willingness and ability are essential. That is, you must be ready to learn about being a leader, you must then be willing to learn the skills to practice leadership and finally, you must have the ability and motivation to be a leader.

The core characteristics that you should identify in yourself as a good leader are as follows:

  • Charisma: A great leader doesn’t force or intimidate people to do the required task. Instead, they create a positive environment and inspire others to want to do the required tasks.
  • Innovative: Since a leader tends towards breaking the mold of the status quo into a better reality, they must be innovative enough to think outside the box. Innovation is also useful for finding different ways of solving existing challenges.
  • Vision: A leader should have the imagination and wisdom to inspire or motivate individuals and teams towards a future that is aspirational and good for everyone.
  • Flexible: individuals can be complex because they have personal lives and professional lives along with several motivations for doing the things that they do. As a leader, one should be flexible to meet these individual nuances as opposed to just seeking to accomplish tasks.


Busy business manager

Although you may have noticed that some businesses or organizations have project leaders, while others have project managers, ultimately, you need both managers and leaders for project success. If you want to ensure project success, building high-performance teams and nurturing great customer relationships that deliver customer needs is crucial. Such project success cannot be defined merely by logical means. Instead, an infusion of empathy, motivation, creativity, vision, risk-taking and personal connections with people can make all the difference.


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