The profile of an effective manager

We should ask our self the question: Are there people who have more managerial skills than others, because they are

The profile of an effective manager



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  1. The manager



Managers work in an organization. Therefore, before we can identify who managers are, it is important to clarify the term organization. Robbins S.P. (1991) defines an organization as: “a systematic arrangement of people to accomplish some specific purpose”. We can divide organizational members into two categories: operatives or managers. Managers differ from operatives, by the fact that they direct the activities of others.


There are two big classifications of managers: the horizontal classification only looks at the responsibilities. We can distinguish the functional manager and the general manager. The functional manager is responsible for a whole of similar activities, for example, financial director, commercial director… While the general manager is responsible for different functional areas, he is often concentrated on one business activity and acts as a product manager or a division manager. In the vertical classification, we need to differentiate first-line managers, middle managers, and top managers. The difference between these three groups is based on the statute of subordinates.


Furthermore, we should pay attention to the difference between a successful and an effective manager. As Luthans F. (1988) proved, a successful manager is not necessary an effective manager. The former is a manager, who has been promoted relatively quickly, while the latter has satisfied, committed subordinates and high performing units. In general, we could say that an effective manager is one who attains the organizational goals.


  1. Managers job



It was Henry Fayol, in the early part of this century, who was the first to give a global view about the job of manager. He observed that managers performed 5 management functions: they plan, organize, command, coordinate and control. In the mid-1950s, these management functions were reduced to the basic four known as the management process.

Figure 1 shows that the tasks of a manager consists of planning, organizing, leading and controlling.


Figure 1: Management Functions

Source: Management, By: Robbins, S.P., 1991, , Prentice-Hall, Inc, p. 4


The planning component encompasses defining the goals, establishing appropriate strategies, and developing different plans to coordinate the activities. Furthermore, managers are responsible for designing an organizations structure, which clarifies what must be done and by whom. As the job of manager implies directing activities of others, the leading function is very important. It consists of motivating subordinates, resolving conflicts and selecting effective communication channels. Eventually, a manager has a controlling function. He has to ensure that the assumed goals will be achieved. Therefore the manager has to monitor the different activities. Also keep in mind that an effective manager must be able to perform all four activities simultaneously.


Only recently has this classical view of managers been challenged based on the observations of five CEOs. Mintzberg H. (1971) concluded that the managers job consisted of many brief and disjointed episodes with people inside and outside the organization. In addition to these insights, Mintzberg provided a categorization scheme for defining what managers do based on actual managers on the job. Mintzberg shows that managers play different but highly interrelated roles.


Formal authority gives rise to the three interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader, and liaison), which in turn gives rise to the three informational roles (monitor, disseminator, spokesman). These two sets of roles enable the manager to play the four decisional roles. We should also mention that the importance of managerial roles varies depending on the managers level in the organization.

Another best known modern view of managerial work is provided by John Kotter which is based on his observatory of 15 successful general managers. Kotter stated that managers spend most of their time interacting with others and concluded that managers spent considerable time in meetings getting and giving information. By obtaining relevant and needed information from his network, the effective manager is able to implement his or her agenda.


  1. Critical skills related to managerial competence



In the 70s, researcher Robert Katz tried to find an answer to the question: What are the critical skills that are related to managerial competence? He discovered that managers should possess 4 critical management skills. Those skills can be categorized in two big groups: general skills and specific skills. There seems to be overall agreement that effective managers must be proficient in four general skills areas:

  • Conceptual skills: the ability to analyse complex situations and to provide the necessary knowledge to facilitate the decision-making.
  • Interpersonal skill: as a manager you should be able to direct others, so motivation, communication and delegation skills are absolutely needed.
  • Technical skills: the ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise
  • Political skills: the ability to build the right relationships with the right persons. Those connections result in higher chances of getting additional resources and power.


The proportions in which those skills are necessary vary with the managers level in the organization. Conceptual skills become more and more important as we grow in the hierarchy of the organization, while technical skills become less important. Interpersonal skills are necessary on every level, because a manager always works with people.


Research has also identified six sets of specific skills that explain 50% of manager effectiveness:

  • Controlling the organizations environment and its resources
  • Organizing and coordinating
  • Handling information
  • Providing for growth and development
  • Motivating employees and handling conflicts
  • Strategic problem solving


In The General Managers” (1983), John Kotter, concluded that effective managers have strong specialised interest, skills, knowledge and relationships. These specialised personal assets allow them to behave in ways that fit the demands of their specific situations. Such specialization seems to have been central to their ability to cope with the often huge demands placed upon them by their jobs.


The many personal characteristics that helped contribute to good performance were developed over the entire period of the managers life. In terms of basic personality we can observe:

  • Needs/motives: like power, need for achievement, very ambitious
  • Temperament: emotionally stable and even, optimistic
  • Cognitive orientation: above average intelligence, moderately strong analytically, strong intuitively
  • Interpersonal orientation: personable and good at developing relationships with people, unusual set of interest that allows them to relate easily to a broad set of business specialist.
  • Information: very good knowledge about the business and organization
  • Relationships: cooperative relationships with a large number of people in the organization


Kotter concluded that in the stipulation for being an effective manager, there should be a match between the demands of the job and the individual characteristics. So for organizations it is a challenge to put the right man on the right place. Depending on the role a manager has to play in an organization, we need an individual with other characteristics. For example, Kotter found that in jobs where the relationships were more demanding and accomplishing things more difficult, the general manager was someone with a strong personable style, skill at developing relationships, a liking of power, an emotionally even temperament, an ability to relate to a diverse group of business specialist, and extensive relationships in their organization and industry.


  1. The main characteristics of the effective manager

In the following part we will discuss some of the main managers characteristics based on the theories which were discussed in the first part of our paper. We have summarized different visions and found out that all theories named the following important characteristics:

  • Decision making skills
  • Conflict Management skills
  • Flexibility and creativity
  • Developing of managerial knowledge and managers teaching role
  • Motivation of employees
  • Communication skills
  • Developing trust inside the organization

We will give a description of each characteristic including some important theories.


  1. Decision Making Skills

Mangers are at the same time the decisions makers. It is easy to make decisions, but making the right one is difficult. What criteria should an effective manager have upon the decision-making aspect? Lets start with a simple review of the decision making process.

Decision-making is formally defined as the process of identifying and solving problems. The process containing 2 major stages: problem identification and problem solution. According to the rational approach, there are 8 steps for each stage:




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