11 Valuable Qualities of Highest Performing People Managers

What is the most valuable quality of your highest performing people managers?

To help HR professionals nurture their leadership skills, we asked HR professionals and business leaders this question for their best advice. From cultivating emotional intelligence to paying close attention to detail, there are several qualities that may help you become a high-performing people manager as you build your career. 

Here are 11 characteristics of high-performing people managers: 

  • Have confidence in your leadership ability
  • Cultivate high emotional intelligence
  • Develop communication skills and reliability
  • Show empathy to build solid relationships
  • Learn to be flexible
  • Focus on active listening and authenticity
  • Combine business wisdom with human compassion
  • Make transparency a priority
  • Promote radical candor
  • Lead by example
  • Pay close attention to detail

Have Confidence in Your Leadership Ability

It takes an inherently confident person to seek out the most qualified person for a job, hire them and then empower them to move the needle. To have this confidence, a leader needs to truly embrace the fact that high performers do not need micromanagement and can be, oftentimes better than the leader at the frontline doing tasks needing to be done.

Micromanagement can often stem from insecurity from the manager and takes time away from what the leader should be doing, plotting the course ahead. 

Managers are no longer on the frontline for a reason. Instead of being a helicopter boss, focus on your ability to build your team up and move them forward rather than micromanaging them all the way to another employer.
Steven Brown, DP Electric Inc

Cultivate High Emotional Intelligence

At our wellness firm and dietetic internship, we have found that the most successful managers have high emotional intelligence. We realize that each person comes with their own unique experiences, background, and expectations. 
We work hard to get to know each employee and intern and communicate with them in the way that works for them. We also work hard to communicate our expectations to our team so that everything is as transparent as possible.
Beryl Krinsky, B.Komplete

Develop Communication Skills and Reliability

Where the management of people is concerned, many of the most valuable skills are interpersonal.  Soft skills are critical for effective leadership and performance management. 
Amongst these skills, perhaps the most important is communication skills. Whether this is through transparency or listening, it is imperative that people leaders have expertise in communications. 
Additionally, having the attributes of being trustworthy or even consistent and reliable is crucial for someone who is managing others. People do their best work when they trust their leaders, as they do when they have clear communications.

Tyler Butler, 11Eleven Consulting

Show Empathy to Build Solid Relationships

While our most effective and highest performing people managers have a wide range of diverse skills, experience, and qualities, I have found that those that perform at the highest levels share one critical quality: empathy.

The importance of empathy cannot be overstated. When an individual, particularly someone managing others, has the ability and desire to understand, sense, and share the feelings of others, this can create a solid and trusting work relationship.

Individuals want to feel welcomed, appreciated, and heard. When a leader demonstrates genuine empathy, it results in an open and caring environment and increases productivity. Engagement, retention, and workplace satisfaction typically will follow.

As many organizations are keenly focused on return on investment (ROI), the investment of understanding and compassion through the display and practice of empathy will provide organizations with long-lasting and positive outcomes.

Jeffery Palkowski, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Learn to Be Flexible

Leaders need to develop the ability to be flexible and adapt their processes as the organization changes. Holding people accountable and being goal-focused will help the overall organization. 
High-performing managers speak to their teams early and often about the work they’re doing and how it fits into the big picture. It’s important to build teams that value teamwork, respect, and employee recognition that fits with your culture.

Jaime Frankos, Ferretly International, LLC

Focus on Active Listening and Authenticity
Active listening and authenticity are the most valuable qualities for leaders.  Employees are motivated when they feel valued and heard.  They understand that not every decision can go their way.  
There is trust in their managers to be firm yet fair. These managers tap into their employee’s skills and abilities to multiply engagement levels for best performance.

Lori Goldsmith, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, Heart of HR Shared Services

Combine Business Wisdom With Human Compassion

My colleagues and I have conducted new research revealing that outstanding leaders do the hard things in leadership in a human way. They take care of difficult actions such as managing crises, pivots, layoffs, and hard conversations — while also expressing care, authenticity, and connection with others. 
Leaders who balance business wisdom with human compassion enjoy exponential success compared to leaders who demonstrate only one or neither quality. Their employees demonstrate higher job performance, engagement, satisfaction, and organizational commitment, as well as lower burnout. Fortunately, leadership is not hardwired, and this style of leadership can be developed by training the mind. 

Marissa Afton, Potential Project

Make Transparency a Priority
The most valuable quality of our highest-performing people managers is transparency. Being transparent with themselves, the team, and the office is critical to earning the trust and respect of the team. This buy-in from the team builds confidence and trust and allows everyone to do their best work. This creates a team that individually performs well but also knows how to work together as a team to get things done. Transparency is the leading contributor to this and builds the foundation for the team.

John Wu, Gryphon Connect

Promote Radical Candor
The ability to communicate effectively with people is the key to success in all aspects of one’s life.  As a manager, honesty, integrity, and compassion for others help you and your teams work more effectively, head off issues before they happen, and keep your talent working together towards common goals.  
Don’t let those who can’t communicate or meet obligations get away with managing others. Your relationships with your key stakeholders — all of them — are your most critical asset.

Erin Lubien, Empoweru Consulting Group

Lead by Example
In my experience, the people managers that have the most motivated staff are those that lead by example. They roll up their sleeves, help out, meet their own deadlines, and teach by actually doing the work they expect their direct reports to do.
Heather Smith, Flimp Communications

Pay Close Attention to Detail
The best leaders of people are the best simply for the fact they see all the stuff that most others don’t. This close attention to detail sets them apart. They see when performance is slipping and can make fast corrections to help someone get back on track. They can see when someone on their team is emotional and make adjustments to make them more comfortable. They see the little things before they become big things.

Tim Sackett, HRU Tech


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