“I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly you kill it, but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” -Tommy Lasorda
There is an art to managing well. I’ll be the first to admit I am still learning. As I have been given positions of leadership, one of the things I’ve tried to do is look back on leaders I admire for traits to emulate. Below is a short list of the qualities I have valued most in team leaders. It’s by no means comprehensive, but it’s not a bad place to start.
1) Intelligence - You’re the boss. Employees expect you to know more than they do about the company, your job and their jobs. If you’re senioring an engagement in public accounting, staff are going to ask questions and they expect you to have the answers. I know. I was one of those staff that asked a lot of questions. The mark of a great manager is not just having the answers, but the skills to pass that knowledge on to others.
2) Availability - Nobody likes the boss who gives short answers, vague requests, and brushes off direct reports as lesser beings. Nobody. Fortunately, in my career so far, I have been blessed to work for managers who make time for questions, even when they are balancing competing priorities. The best managers listen well and are approachable. There are times to close the door, but that should be the exception not the rule.
3) Staying Calm - News flash, accounting is a hard job. If anyone told you otherwise, they were lying. Numbers don’t tie, systems break down, the auditors won’t leave you alone, the client won’t give me what I need, we aren’t making budget. The list goes on. One of the marks of a great manager is the ability to stay cool under pressure. If your employees see you freak out, you’ll instantly lose about 100 respect points, and those points are hard to earn back. I have a habit that has served me well in this area: I take a walk. This may seem silly, but whenever I feel overwhelmed, stepping away for just a moment is often the best thing you can do. I come back, turn on some music, and get to work. I make no pretense to have even this small list mastered. There have been many times when I have failed at all of these things, but these are the three I always come back to. What’s on your list of good leadership traits?