Three ways to be a great manager and leader

If you want to improve your management and leadership skills, here is an introduction to three tried and tested management models, with suggestions for further reading.

What I like about these three models is that they can all be understood and practiced at a simple level by new managers while also having a place in the more experienced manager’s toolkit. And, they complement one another and work together well.

One – Emotional Intelligence

I’m a firm believer that if you can’t manage yourself then you can’t manage others. It also seems obvious to me that as a manager you have to be able to deal with staff as ‘whole’ people with complex behavioural and emotional lives.

Therefore, the first skill a manager needs is that of emotional intelligence. Simply put, this means that a manager should have the ability to:

  1. understand their own emotional and behavioural lives, their motivations, reactions to situations etc.
  2. manage themselves, in the sense of being able to reflect on and moderate their behaviour
  3. understand the emotional and behavioural lives of others, and be able to manage staff in a way that takes this into account.

The traits and behaviours that result from emotional intelligence are good for everyone, not just managers. Think of it this way, wouldn’t it be great to have colleagues and managers who are:

  • confident, grounded and calm
  • thoughtful and considered
  • respectful and friendly
  • capable of avoiding emotional blackmail, passive/aggressive behaviour, defensiveness, unnecessary aggression etc.
  • not prone to panic or over-reaction
  • fair, and willing to acknowledge their mistakes.

Once acknowledged as important, the skill of emotional intelligence can be built through practice, through feedback from others, and through coaching. If you want to read more, a good starting place is: Daniel Goleman, ‘Leadership That Gets Results’, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000. For a more detailed exposition, see: Daniel Golman, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Bloomsbury, 1998.

Two – Situational Leadership

When it comes to actually managing people, a straightforward and simple starting point is offered by the Situational Leadership model. What I like about Situational Leadership is that it is underpinned by some very simple and sound ideas.

Firstly, it says that every member of staff is different, with different levels of skill, knowledge and motivation – indeed, people have different levels of skill, knowledge and motivation in relation to different aspects of their work. Therefore, members of staff need to be managed as individuals, taking these differing factors into account. Managing someone with low skills and knowledge requires a management style that is very hands-on, while managing someone with a very high level of skills and knowledge requires the manager to be more hands-off and to delegate tasks and decisions etc. So, a manager uses different styles for different members of staff, but might also use a different style for the same person in relation to the different aspects of their work.

Secondly, Situational Leadership suggests that a manager has a responsibility to continue to encourage and enable the development of skills and knowledge, and to build or sustain a member of staff’s level of commitment. In other words, a manager’s job is to make staff more effective and efficient. How obvious is this? Yet it is so easily and often forgotten.

An easy introduction to Situational Leadership can be found in: Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, Drea Zigarmi, Leadership and the One Minute Manager, Harper Collins, 1986. For a more advanced read, see: Ken Blanchard, Leading at a Higher Level, FT Prentice Hall, 2007.

Three – Transformational Leadership

What I love about the Transformational Leadership model is that at its heart is the idea of the manager or leader as the inspiration for the team, the agent of change. For me, this builds on the idea of the emotionally intelligent leader and manager, and fits well with the management methods of Situational Leadership.

A Transformational Leader is aspirational and dynamic, they bring about positive change and development in both individuals and teams. They are a role model for staff because they:

  • inspire and mobilize change through personal influence
  • show thought leadership
  • are creative in their approach to challenges
  • thrive on uncertainty and paradox
  • offer stimulation and challenge, intellectually and emotionally.


In order to develop their staff, these managers employ coaching and mentoring techniques, and give personal attention to individuals. They challenge staff to be innovative and creative, while encouraging and enabling them to make decisions.

In regard to the team as a whole, a Transformational Leader ensures that the team has:


  • shared values, in particular, ones that promote respect and cooperation
  • good team spirit
  • clear direction and purpose
  • aspirational goals
  • the necessary plans to achieve these goals.


For a more detailed overview of Transformational Leadership, see: Taneisha Ingleton, College Student Leadership Development: Transformational Leadership as a Theoretical Foundation, International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, July 2013, Vol. 3, No. 7 – available here


So, if you want to be a great manager you would do well to include these models and skills in your toolkit. And, if you want help in developing them, I offer one-to-one coaching and mentoring for managers and leaders, plus:


Introduction to Managing and Developing People Workshop – which includes an introduction to Situational Leadership, giving feedback, listening and questioning.


Coaching Skills for Managers Workshop – which teaches basic coaching and mentoring skills.


Team Development Programme – which helps team members to know themselves and others, and to develop shared values and have aspirational goals.


For more information see

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