Executives and CEOs agree that excellent management can be a key differentiator in a company’s overall performance. Effective management leads to engaged employees, productive teams, and satisfied customers. With the amount of responsibility and variety of skills the position requires, being a manager is arguably one of the toughest jobs in any industry. Managers are critical to day-to-day operations running at optimal levels, which is why executives spend a considerable amount of time identifying the top management skills that are necessary to lead employees.
What are management skills?
Management skills are what separate great leaders from less effective ones. These skills affect how managers lead teams, steward projects, monitor deadlines and budgets, and encourage employees.
Not all managers are created equal, and not all management roles require the same expertise. Sales managers, for example, require a strong background in sales to coach their employees to cultivate, develop, and convert more prospects. Managers of a social media company need experience in digital communications, marketing, and analytics.
While a company’s industry does dictate certain required experience and expertise, many management skills are universal, and learning them early in your career can lead to opportunities for senior roles.
What are some different types of management skills?
This management skills list will help you identify what CEOs and executives look for when hiring future leaders.
To make sure their teams are performing effectively, managers must monitor scheduling, ensure tasks are allocated to employees, and verify that work is being completed on a day-to-day basis. Because companies are made up of so many moving parts, organization is a crucial management skill. Without strong organizational skills and attention to detail at the top, mistakes can occur and the system can break down. Organized managers excel in their positions because they know exactly what their teams are doing, which resources are available to them, and the answers to possible questions executives may have about performance metrics.
Effective planning means that managers can work proactively rather than reactively — preparing for potential outcomes and roadblocks instead of scrambling to counter unexpected developments. A manager’s plan serves as the roadmap for their teams to follow. It gives every member a sense of purpose and ensures they are working toward a common goal.
Planning can result in anything from hitting a certain daily sales goal to achieving 100% customer satisfaction. Of course, not everything goes to plan all the time; but developing a plan that is in line with your company’s goals makes the path to success far clearer.
Leadership is what truly defines a great manager. After all, developing a plan by itself accomplishes very little if a manager isn’t there to lead the team through it step by step. When managers demonstrate effective leadership, they are able to unify their team and motivate them to accomplish a common objective. Leadership, however, isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are several different styles, and good managers know which style to apply to any given situation.
In this strict leadership style, managers lay out their commands and expect their teams to follow with little to no pushback. Authoritarian leadership works well when circumstances require quick, decisive action. However, with employees who prefer to play a role in the decision-making process, or who have a tendency to question authority, authoritarian leadership may not be the best fit.
Delegative leadership — also known as laissez-faire leadership — is a style of leadership that focuses on delegating responsibility to key team members who have demonstrated managerial or leadership qualities. Delegative leadership takes pressure off managers in running day-to-day operations, which allows them to focus on other critical tasks. One potential drawback of delegative leadership is that it can make the chain of command unclear. Some employees don’t respond well to being directed by fellow employees who are not their direct superiors.
Participative leadership is the opposite of authoritarian leadership, and employs principles such as inclusivity and groupthink to arrive at decisions. It is the most democratic of all the leadership styles, and generally makes employees feel their opinions are valued and their votes count. This can lead to innovation and outside-the-box thinking that other management styles might not encourage. However, participative leadership can slow down the decision-making process, which can be counterproductive when quick decisions must be made.
Transactional leadership relies on a system of reward and punishment to motivate workers. Managers lay out explicit goals and objectives. When employees succeed, they receive praise or other positive reinforcement. When they fail, they receive reprimands or other negative reinforcement. In transactional leadership, employee expectations are clear and concise, which can minimize potential confusion. However, it can stifle creativity and innovation, and requires close monitoring of employees.
Transformational leadership requires managers to serve as sources of inspiration who can effectively rally the troops. Positivity and enthusiasm are key when it comes to transformational leadership. These types of managers have an infectious energy that raises overall morale, which often translates to lower employee turnover rates. One disadvantage of transformational leadership is that if employees don’t believe in a company’s vision, they won’t be motivated by a manager, no matter how energetic they may be.
One key mistake of ineffective managers is trying to do everything themselves; handling essential responsibilities such as scheduling, day-to-day operational duties, budgeting, reporting, and more on their own. This can lead to long hours, burnout, and poor results. Effective delegation is an important tool to add to your management skills list. Good delegators consider their team members as valuable and capable resources, and identify who best fits a certain task. This both frees up a manager’s time for other tasks, and provides employees with valuable on-the-job managerial experience.
5. Industry knowledge
Managers need to be well versed in their field, and experts in the products and services their companies provide. They should also know how to perform the jobs of their team members, so they can step in to support them when needed. A key element is to continue learning. Modern industries transform quickly, driven by technological innovations and evolving standards. Knowledge is a resource that must be continually broadened.
6. Goal orientation
CEOs and executives often set far-reaching goals for their managers. Skilled managers break those goals down into more digestible, achievable ones for their teams while keeping an eye on the big picture. Keeping employees on track to meet ongoing objectives is crucial to effective management.
Communication is one of the top management skills. Managers need to plan, to be experts in their field, and to set and execute goals; but without strong communication skills, their plans and goals may not be realized.
Communication should be clear, concise, and delivered in a way that employees can understand. Managers must work to identify which communication styles work best for different employees. Some workers may prefer to have information delivered verbally, while others may prefer emails for later reference. Furthermore, managers need to be active listeners. Communication is a two-way action, and it’s important for managers to listen to their team members and respect their opinions.
Managers are in a unique position; communicating both with team members and executives, presenting company-wide policies to line workers, and reporting back to leadership. It’s crucial that managers know their audience and adjust their communication style accordingly.
8. Problem solving
Good managers always have a plan, but when that plan goes off the rails, it can be a headache. That’s why problem solving is one of the top management skills that executives look for when identifying managerial candidates. Murphy’s Law is always in effect, which means disaster is likely to strike at the most inopportune times. A piece of equipment could suddenly malfunction, an employee may call in sick, or a shipment may be delayed.
These are all examples of typical problems that a manager may encounter on any given day. Good managers can react, but great managers are proactive and have a back-up plan in place in the event something goes wrong.
Every employee enters a company with a lot to learn and needs to be mentored to fully develop their potential. To do that, a manager will positively reinforce their employees when they do well and work with them to reduce their mistakes.
Much like goal-orientation, the idea is for an employee to get a little bit better each day until they are able to work autonomously. This may be accomplished by providing opportunities to learn new tasks and acquire skills that can lead to advancement. With enough coaching, employees will become so proficient at their jobs that they can take on delegated tasks from management.
10. Conflict resolution
Employees have different backgrounds, personality types, and work styles. Conflict is inevitable when managing a large, diverse workforce. That’s why conflict resolution is such an important management skill. When employees are at odds, managers must be able to mediate in a calm, fair, objective, and unbiased manner. They also need to act quickly, as unresolved conflicts can fester into something far worse. Conflict can lead to a toxic work environment, which leads to decreased job performance, low morale, and employee turnover.
11. Cultural awareness
In modern business, effective leadership means managing a diverse workforce, with employees of different backgrounds, cultures, and schools of thought. A diverse talent pool contains more perspectives, which leads to innovation.
A culturally diverse workforce also broaden’s a company’s ability to communicate, which can lead to new opportunities. Large corporations are increasingly hiring people of more diverse backgrounds because international business rewards a workforce that can bridge cultural gaps. For instance, when an American company reaches out to a Chinese manufacturer, it stands to reason they’d want someone who is fluent in Chinese languages and culture on staff to minimize miscommunication.
Leadership has a responsibility to be conscious of their employees’ cultural differences, particularly in how they communicate. For example, a casual leadership style may be seen as disrespectful or unprofessional in other cultures.
Cultural awareness facilitates clear, respectful communication. Managers must be students of the world, willing to accept instruction from their employees who bring different points of view. By welcoming all cultures and celebrating their distinct worldviews, companies can create inclusive workplaces and affirm their organization’s commitment to equity.
12. Ethical practice and civic mindedness
Ethical leadership is one of the most crucial skills a manager can develop. Employees are more apt to follow leaders who adhere to a set of values they share. Some important values that managers should promote include honesty, integrity, loyalty, respect, professionalism, teamwork, fairness, and responsibility. A manager who embodies these qualities and cultivates them in their employees can create a culture that is distinguished by high employee morale and low turnover. Conversely, managers who allow unethical conduct in the workplace put themselves and their companies at risk.
Leadership that is based on ethical principles, equity, and respecting the rights and dignity of others can lead to a positive company culture, a strong brand image, and improved emotional well-being among employees. Most important, ethical leadership is right for its own sake, but it also happens to be good business.
Take the first step toward becoming a manager
Considering the wide range of management skills, you may be wondering if you have what it takes to become a manager yourself. It may help to remember this: Great managers aren’t born, they’re made. Management skills are the result of years of education, on-the-job training, and experience.
If you’re interested in becoming a manager, the first step is to look into degree programs that can cultivate those skills, from bachelor’s to MBAs. To assist you in learning more about a career in business, we offer the opportunity to compare programs so you can find the path that’s right for you.