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Managing and managing people
Managing and managing people

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6.1 Characteristics of an effective manager

Which special characteristics, if any, do effective managers possess? What makes a manager effective in one organisation, one situation, at one time, can be ineffective in another organisation, situation or time. There are few universals in management. But some researchers do claim to have identified a range of characteristics that are common to the more successful managers. Eugene Jennings (1952) studied 2,700 supervisors selected as most effective by senior managers in their organisations and by the people who worked under them. These supervisors also met effectiveness criteria in terms of department productivity, absentee rate and employee turnover. The identified traits and behaviours are set out in Box 2 in order of priority.

Box 2 Traits and behaviours

Gives clear work instructions: communicates well in general, keeps others informed.

Praises others when they deserve it: understands importance of recognition; looks for opportunities to build the esteem of others.

Willing to take time to listen: aware of value of listening both for building cooperative relationships and avoiding tension and grievances.

Cool and calm most of the time: maintains self-control, doesn’t lose her/his temper; can be counted on to behave maturely and appropriately.

Confident and self-assured.

Appropriate technical knowledge of the work being supervised: uses it to coach, teach and evaluate rather than getting involved in doing the work itself.

Understands the groups problems: as demonstrated by attentive listening and trying to understand the group’s situation.

Gains the groups respect, through personal honesty: doesn’t try to appear more knowledgeable than is true; not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I made a mistake’.

Fair to everyone: in work assignments, consistent enforcement of policies and procedures; avoids favouritism.

Demands good work from everyone: maintains consistent standards of performance; doesn’t expect group to do the work of a low-performing worker; enforces work discipline.

Gains peoples trust: willing to represent the group to higher management, regardless of agreement or disagreement with them.

Takes a leadership role: works for the best and fair interests of the work group; loyalty to both higher management and the work group.

Humble, not stuck up: remembers that s/he is simply a person with a different job to do from the workers s/he supervises.

Easy to talk to: demonstrates a desire to understand without shutting off feedback through scolding, judging or moralising.

You are the best person to assess whether your capabilities match the requirements of your management job, as each managerial role will differ according to a variety of factors. It is not easy to make such an assessment, but it may help you if you consider the way in which you are line managed. However, managers tend to use their own line manager as a role model regardless of whether what is being modelled is appropriate and effective. Thus, it is wise to consider how, ideally, you would like to be managed and to take note of the way in which other managers manage their staff. Then you will be in a better position to assess your own capabilities. The advantage will be that you will have examples to follow – and ones to avoid!