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“Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.” – Zig Ziglar

You will find a great number of articles and images on the differences between a Manager and a Leader. A simple Google search on “How to be a great leader in the workplace” will throw up 1.25Cr results in 0.39 seconds. Clearly there is a lot of information out there on how to be a leader and not a manager.

Yet, I believe that even if you are a great leader, you are still managing people – directly or indirectly – and hence being a Manager is a subset of being a Leader. If you start with being a Great Manager, you could transition to being a Great Leader though the journey is long and arduous.

Across my 20+ years of work experience, I’ve had the good fortune of working under some good, some great and some not-so-good managers. From my managers, I’ve distilled five traits that made some of them stand out for me and from whom I’ve learned and tried to incorporate into my managerial style.


“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.” —Stephen Covey, author

Empower your employees. A manager has to have trust in her employees and empower them to do their job. You, or the organization, hired these employees with the understanding that they have the necessary skills to do the work that they are responsible for. As a manager, you have to give them ownership for their work and give them the freedom to make their own mistakes.

Empowerment gives a sense of ownership and pride in the work being done. But empowerment also stems from a sense of security and trust – secure in your knowledge and value as a manager and trust in your employees to get the job done.

An empowered employee is a happy employee because that is the employee’s way of learning – from their own mistakes and solutions.


“The great leaders are like the best conductors. They reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” —Blaine Lee, science fiction author

Give your employees a sense of direction when they are stuck. When you empower your employees, they will try and find solutions to their problems on their own. That is the key to empowerment.

But when they are stuck at a problem, they will look towards you to show them the path. They assume that you are in that position because you have much more experience or capabilities than them and the organisation saw these capabilities to give you that role.

Your job as a manager is to show them the possible paths at that time and push them in the right direction. If your employee has a problem, tell him/her to come to you with the problem AND possible solutions. Then give them the direction and guide their thinking towards what could be the right solution. Your employee has to arrive at that solution herself.

When you guiding the employee’s thought process and giving them a direction, you are helping them take ownership and be empowered.


Empathy should not be selective: it should be a daily habit. If I were to create a bumper sticker, I would say, “Empathy: Don’t Leave Home Without It!” – Bruna Martinuzzi

As a manager, empathy towards your employees is very important.

Every person goes through some bad phase in their life – whether its professional or personal. How you treat the person in their bad times determines how the person treats you as a manager.

When you empathise with your employee in their time of pain – whether it is a bad professional year or a personal issue – and help them with it, it earns you their respect and trust.

But empathy cannot and must not be faked. A fake emplathy is very easy to see through and can only have a negative effect on your relationship and on the organisation.


Humour can solve the most tense situations and help alleviate the stress in the room and the relationship. Humour can build a bridge between you and your employee.  Humour can make you human and not a “Manager”. Humour can help your employees see the silver lining of a dark cloud.

But Humour is a natural gift and cannot be forced. At the same time it is a dangerous double edged sword. You should have the ability to take a joke on yourself if you are cracking a joke about your employee.

Its not easy but if used well, Humour is a tool in your arsenal that can solve many a problems.

Take the Blame. Pass the Fame

At the end, the only tenet that I believe defines the role of a  manager is – Take the Blame. Pass the Fame.

A manager’s key role is to protect and shield the team from the wrath of the upper management while at the same time honing their skills and shining the light on them.

If the team does a good thing, it is the team’s work or the individual employee’s work. But if the team is not doing well, then its your fault as a manager because the buck stops with you.

It is your responsibility to empower them, to give them direction, to hone their skills, to guide them and to make them shine.

The shishya should surpass the guru.

These are some of the traits that I believe define and Great Manager.

I am sure you have your own thoughts and your own learnings from your managers. I assume you will also agree or disagree with some of my thoughts.

What do you think are some of the other traits that define a Great Manager? Put your opinions in the comments.

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