Ask ten people to name the qualities that make the perfect boss, and you're likely to get ten drastically different answers. Employees' perceptions about leadership are highly subjective, and often, it's difficult to put a finger on the attributes and characteristics that separate a good manager from a substandard one.
However, decades of organizational research have helped us get closer to defining those optimal qualities that the very best managers possess. When you subtract employees' self-interest from the equation and apply the objectivity of a formal research framework, clear patterns begin to emerge in the study of leadership.
Across the board, one of the qualities that seems to matter most is responsiveness, or the perception that concerns, problems, ideas, and input are regarded with respect and responded to in a timely manner. Employees who believe their manager is responsive are more likely to report feeling satisfied with their career—and are less likely to be looking for work elsewhere.
Are you a responsive manager? Use this checklist to figure out where you stand—and how you may be able to improve.
Do you work hard to understand and address others' needs? A responsive manager tries diligently to recognize, define, and even predict employees' concerns, issues, and problems. Unresponsive managers, on the other hand, are more likely to try to deflect problems and make themselves unavailable when a contentious issue arises.
Have you looked for ways to make your employees' jobs easier? Some traditionally-minded managers see their staff as existing solely to make their own lives easier, but the truly responsive manager understands that "easy" is a relative term and that this is a two-way street.
Do you call on an array of communication techniques to get your point across and understand others' concerns? Effective communication skills are central to responsive management. On the other hand, unresponsive managers tend to place the communicative burden squarely on the shoulders of their staff members. If you haven't already, take the time to research and become conversant in a handful of effective communication techniques.
Are collaboration, effective delegation, and compromise part of your skill set? The responsive manager sees his or her relationship to employees as a partnership, rather than a top-down dictatorship. To pull this off, managers must have a handle on the basic skills one needs to be able to partner and collaborate effectively. Good delegation skills are another important aspect of responsive management.
Do you try to see things from your employees' points of view? An empathic mindset is perhaps the key defining trait that separates responsive managers from their not-so-responsive counterparts. When you're faced with a conflict or crisis, take the time to step into your team member's shoes, so to speak, and try to see the problem from their perspective.
If asked, do you think your employees would describe you as a responsive manager? How important a leadership attribute do you think responsiveness is? Tell us your stance on this issue in the comments.