There are many, and I mean many opinions on what makes a good manager, with no shortage of information on the subject easily available through numerous resources. Go ahead, scroll through your LinkedIn news feed and see for yourself how many of your connections have recently posted something about managing, leadership, competencies of a strong manager, etc. I just did this exercise myself and must say the posting that depicts a “boss” using an employee like a golf club next to the image of a “Leader “holding a watering can over a smiling team member who is half buried in the ground, really cleared things up for me! Sarcasm aside, my point is that while many people seem to have an opinion on the subject of what makes a good manager, I am not sure the answer is as simple as it may seem.
Think about it for a moment…and then ask yourself this If a team under-performs or fail to reach what is perceived as their true potential, is their Manager to blame each and every time? Conversely, if a team of individuals achieve success over a period of time, should we assume their manager or leader was largely responsible? I cannot say that I have done extensive research on the subject to the extent I can offer a firm conclusion either way, however I would suggest that we need look no further than the world of professional sports as a means to appreciate the complexity of the issue.
Exhibit A, The New England Patriots of the National Football League. . In the past 15 years this team has achieved more successes than I have time to list, but the short version is they have made 6 appearances in the Super bowl with 4 victories and have not had a single losing season in that span. Now considering NFL teams routinely overhaul upwards of 25% of their roster every year, (and sometimes more) this is indeed a remarkable achievement when you realise just how many different players are on the field each season. There have however been two positions on the Patriots that have not changed through this incredible run of success, and most football fans will tell you these are the most important with regards to leadership on any team…. their head coach and their quarterback. In the Year 2000 the Patriots traded for their current head coach, Bill Belichick and that same year drafted a somewhat unheralded Quarterback
named Tom Brady. Since then these two individuals have provided the leadership on and off the field that have made the New England Patriots one of the most successful teams in all of sport. What can we learn from this example? That point may be up for debate, (especially for those that are not a fan of the team), but I think one thing everyone would agree is that Belichick and Brady know how to get the best out of their people.
Exhibit B, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League. Not only has it been 50 years since one of the NHL’s oldest franchises has won a championship, but they have not even made it to the finals in that same period. 50 years! In that span the Leafs have had 23 head coaches, many coming to the team with an impressive resume full of previous successes if not championships. But despite that they all, every single one of them, failed to achieve the ultimate goal. Now there have been volumes of books written about the Leafs that detail their struggles and offer reasons as to why the team has failed so I will end my analysis there. With that said I think it fair to say that whatever the issue is, it goes beyond poor leadership from their coach.
It goes without saying that to be a good manager you need good people, but beyond that the formula for team success is not always as simple as reaping the rewards of good recruiting.
Looking at this from my own perspective I could easily draw a parallel to both of the above examples. By that I mean I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some truly outstanding teams and on the other side, have been faced with managing teams that for a number of reasons were not as successful. Understanding that I have always done my best to be supportive, understanding and engaged, through these experiences I have come to realise that being a good manager means something different to everyone. For some people being a good manager means almost constant support and guidance while others prefer their manager to stay in the background only offering help when asked. My guess is that most employees fall somewhere in the middle and finding that winning formula for success will take more than the sage advice offered by a motivational poster….and hopefully less than 50 years to achieve.