University of Southern Indiana

Ask the Expert:

What are the qualities of a good manager or leader

Ask the Expert:

What are the qualities of a good manager or leader
10/17/2016 | University Communications
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In our ongoing Ask the Expert series, we pose practical questions to some of our very own faculty and staff experts. Here at USI, our tagline is “Knowledge for Life.” That’s a motto that should reach beyond our students to everyone in the USI community. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in our series, you can submit it for consideration.

Meet the expert:
Dr. Jack Smothers
Assistant Professor of Management

Here's what he had to say:

There are three levels:

  1. Understanding yourself. As a leader, understanding your personal convictions and your personal values will help you make every decision that you’ll ever have to make as a leader. Leading others is complex, so having a core set of ideals is essential to guide your decision making.
  1. Motivating others. Once a leader has established their ideals, people who identify with those ideals can come along beside them to build the coalition of support needed to accomplish a leadership vision, which is something greater than what they could do individually. Great leadership involves identifying the common thread that unites everyone within a group and aligning the vision accordingly. Great management, on the other hand, involves identifying the unique strengths of people within the group by forming personal connections with them. Therefore, people who can do both are most capable of motivating others and positioning them for success and fulfillment in their job.
  1. Leading the organization. A leader should be looking for changes in the industry environment to identify opportunities on which the organization can capitalize. As a result, the organization can offer more value to customers and generate sustainable competitive advantages.

Two primary mistakes managers make:

  1. Being too absent. There is a tendency for managers to just put out fires all the time so essentially they show up when there’s a problem. Therefore, their presence can create apprehension or even dread because it means I’m in trouble or something’s gone wrong. A key component of leading other people is understanding those people, and to understand people you have to spend time with them. You have to understand what they’re good at, what they’re motivated to do, and what they’re interested in. If managers do that effectively, they can prevent a lot of those fires.
  1. Being too present. If a leader or manager is micromanaging, what they are implicitly saying is that they don’t trust their employees. They don’t trust their competency or ability to perform the job well. Obviously, if someone is brand new to the organization, the manager probably needs a more hands-on approach to work with them and train them, but over time they should back off a little bit and give more autonomy to that person. When people have control or authority to perform a job the way they think it should be done, they have more ownership and more buy-in so they will be more effective and motivated. If a leader is doing the job of their employees for them, they are ignoring their responsibility of creating an environment for others to excel in their career.

Two motivators to retain good employees:

  1. Extrinsic (external) motivators: The first level should be very intuitive, but organizations miss the mark on it all the time. Extrinsic rewards – what are the incentives that motivate your people? It’s very important for the organization to carefully consider the incentives or the extrinsic (external motivators) because those have a tremendous impact on what their employees do. That’s just the basic level. If you only have extrinsic motivators, someone may master the job, but they’ll never go beyond that.
  1. Intrinsic (internal) motivators – This is where leadership and management come in. How do we create an environment where people are motivated to learn and be engaged with their job and to become innovative with it? If managers invest in the skills and abilities of their employees, then those employees are going to be much more interested in and motivated to master their job, but then the next step is they are going to recreate that job and add value to it by identifying new opportunities. Then the employee is not just a cog in the wheel, they’re a strategic asset to the organization. That’s what other organizations can’t copy. You cannot copy a strategic asset like an employee – you can copy a machine or a process, but you cannot copy a human. That’s why the human component is the most valuable asset an organization has. Of course you can lose them if they go to another organization, which is why you have to retain good employees.
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Dr. Jack Smothers

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