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What Makes a Good Manager?

What makes a good manager? Well, effective management does require the co-ordination of analytical, administrative and organizational skills. But perhaps it also requires something else.

Whether you’re entering a management role for the first time, moving to a new level, or simply taking time to reflect, think about this question:

Would you agree with Peter Drucker that a manager is “the dynamic life-giving element in every business”?

Is this how you’d describe yourself, or your manager? Would the majority of your workmates? Do you think your management style or ability gets the best out of your team, or attracts the best people?

Probably not, if research by Gallup is anything to go by. They’ve found that most employees say their manager is the person they would least want to spend time with. Hardly the right circumstances for displaying or inspiring dynamism!

So what makes a good manager?

Yet Peter Drucker argues that the manager’s role is crucial.

In his seminal book: The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker lists the three functions of management as:

  1. managing a business;
  2. managing managers;
  3. managing workers and work.

He is quite clear in suggesting what makes a good manager:

What makes a good manager?

“the manager is the dynamic, life-giving element in every business” and that management “is the organ of society specifically charged with making resources productive, that is, with the responsibility for organized economic advance.”

Effective management thus requires the co-ordination of analytical, administrative and organizational skills, in order to “make a productive enterprise out of human and material resources”. Acquiring and honing the practical skills of management are indeed fundamental.

However, these skills alone are not enough to make you a good manager. Even more crucial is your ability to deal with the lifeblood of any organization – its people.

“… it is also clear that the ‘resources’ capable of enlargement can only be human resources. All other resources stand under the laws of mechanics.

They can be better utilized or worse utilized, but they can never have an output greater than the sum of the inputs.”…..

“Man, alone of all the resources available to man, can grow and develop.”

“Indeed, to make the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts has since Plato’s days been the definition of the ‘Good Society’.”

Peter Drucker

What Makes a Good Manager? Ask the Employees

Read our new book:

Uncommon Leadership

Evidence suggests very clearly that managers make the critical difference in organizations. When employees are asked why they leave companies, time and again they cite their manager as the main reason. To answer the question “what makes a good manager?” perhaps we should ask: what do employees expect from, and hope for in their managers? Extensive research from Gallup suggests that good management-staff relationships rest on four foundations. Employees would like:

  • Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff;
  • To know what is expected of them;
  • A role which fits their abilities;
  • Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done.

You can read more about these four foundations in our article: The Value of a Good Manager.

Why is it important to know this? As McKinsey discovered, when people are poorly managed there is a significant negative effect.

In 2000, McKinsey published a report: “War for Talent.” This was based on a survey of 6,500 senior and mid-level managers, from 35 large, U.S. companies. 58% of these managers reported that they themselves had been poorly managed. This had a negative effect on both the individuals and their organizations:

  • 76% said their learning had been restricted;
  • 81% said an underperforming manager had hurt their career;
  • 82% felt they had been prevented from making a larger contribution to the organization’s bottom line;
  • 86% wanted to leave the company as a result of poor management.

In a second piece of extensive research, academics Sirota, Mischkind and Meltzer investigated what motivates us all at work, research that sheds more light to help answer our question “what makes a good manager”. They discovered that employees seek three things from their work:

1. Achievement – to be proud of one’s job, accomplishments, and employer.
2. Camaraderie – to have good, productive relationships with fellow employees
3. Equity – to be respected and treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits and job security.


You’ll find much more to help develop your management skills in our e-guide: Managers Make the Difference is packed with advice and tools to help you do just that.

What makes a good manager into a great manager?

What makes a good manager?

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It may be relatively easy to summarise what makes a good manager, but what makes a great manager? Perhaps the better question to ask is “what do great managers do differently”?

This thought-provoking e-guide offers you some answers, and some tools to move you from good to great. What do great managers do? They make all the difference!

This thought-provoking e-guide offers you some answers, and some tools to move you from good to great. What makes a good manager into a great managers do? Find out!

The guide will help you to:

  • Adopt a balanced approach, using head, heart and hand.
  • Create the right conditions.
  • Learn from the best, and keep learning.
  • Combine success and effectiveness.
  • Do the simple, the mundane and the obvious.
  • Ask the right questions.


  • Tool 1: How to be a balanced manager.
  • Tool 2: Assess your learning from the best.
  • Tool 3: Think about the obvious.
  • Tool 4: Great managers ask great questions.
  • Tool 5: How to be a great manager.


Where to go from here:


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