This is one of the questions I had to answer while interviewing for the role I’m currently in.
While we can tacitly acknowledge a good manager whenever we interact with one, I think we rarely take the time to analyze and pin down those skills and qualities that make a good manager. I thought it would be an useful exercise to try to recall and share below my answer, more or less in the same way I had articulated it during the job interview. This is only one way to answer the question, and it comes from my own experiences of having worked across 2 industries and having interacted and reported to managers from different backgrounds and of different nationalities.
There are so many times when things can go awry in a team, that it takes a calm and thoughtful character to listen, understand and propose a line of action, instead of spreading panic and finger-pointing. Also, being in a managerial position, I think one always has to fight the tendency to have his/her saying before anyone else, particularly in times of hardship when managers are made accountable and results get questioned. I believe it takes patience to listen carefully, weigh the problem at hand and reach a conclusion.
business acumen and strategic thinking
Having spent enough time in a company and industry, a good manager should have a good sense of the market trends, understand how consumer behavior is shaping in the future, and to a certain extent what is the general direction of the industry as a whole. This of course may vary, as some industries are more disruptive than others. In FMCG, where I have spent most of my time, the rhythm of growth is still rather stable and fewer innovations are reaching the market comparatively to other industries.
not seeing work and fun as a contradiction
This is actually one of the AIESEC values, organization in which I had learned tremendously during my university years and where I met many of the friends I have today.
Meeting the deadlines requires sometimes clocking in hard hours of effort and handling large amounts of work. A good manager should not only keep the team wired and committed to reach the finish line, but he/she should also be able to display a smart sense of humor and be able to maintain an easy going atmosphere around the group. So far I was lucky enough to work with some great managers that didn’t see anything wrong in dropping a joke here and there, and having together a good laugh even in the most difficult times for the team.
Photo Credit Randy P. Martin on Flickr