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The importance of leadership and people management skills

Posted on: July 13, 2021

As adults, we can often remember our favourite teachers from school. We can also remember our least favourites. In our working lives, the same can be said for remembering great managers and not-so-great managers we’ve had throughout our careers.

The contrast between a great leader and a poor one can be stark, and people management skills can make all the difference. Just being able to perform the core tasks the role of a manager holds isn’t enough. Though people management is classed as a ‘soft skill’, having an effective manager can make a huge difference to how a person feels about their job and what they’ll put into it.

What is the difference between leadership and management?

Though they sound like the same thing and may be employed for the same role, there is a big difference between being a leader and being a manager.

A good leader is someone who inspires a positive work environment and encourages teamwork by creating an exciting vision for employees, who innovates and embraces change, and who takes risks and thinks long-term. They build interpersonal relationships and focus on the people in their team, learning about their strengths and weaknesses, praising when it’s due and supporting when necessary.

On the other hand, managers lack the competencies that engage employees, and lack the ability to see the big picture. They control risks rather than taking them and seeing them as exciting challenges to overcome, they direct their teams by assigning tasks and showing how to do them rather than letting people figure out their own ways of working for the same outcomes, and they rely on their existing skill set, rather than learning and growing. 

In many instances within a professional environment, people will do as they see, not as they are told. If they see a leader who puts in hard work, has a positive attitude to new challenges, and is constantly learning new skills, chances are team members will follow that lead. The same is true of a team seeing a manager who is stuck in their ways and has no drive to create a bigger and brighter future for the team.

Effective leadership skills

Having the technical skills to get the job done isn’t enough to be an effective leader. When a manager lacks the important people management skills, a team may suffer low morale and a lack of motivation.

Managing a team is more than performance reviews and being people managers. For the best results, essential skills in leadership and people management are required.

Decision-making abilities

If you’ve ever worked under a disorganised and indecisive manager, you’ll understand that chaos at the top feeds into the working days of everyone below.

Having strong decision-making abilities and being able to impart good judgement on those choices makes the goals of the team clear and allows people to plan their days to work more productively and effectively. When using good judgement, the team is also more likely to willingly follow that lead, knowing that the right decision for all parties has been made.

Problem solving skills

A key part of being in leadership roles is problem solving, from managing the turnover of human resource, negotiating with external factors like clients and other teams in the organisation, and improving existing processes.

By being proactive and having strong problem solving skills, a good leader encourages other members of the team to rest assured that any small issues won’t become a big deal. They’ll have faith that challenges are just bumps to overcome, rather than a difficulty that could throw their whole week off-course.

Communication skills

Effective communication skills are essential for being a successful manager, especially during times of change. Reducing uncertainty within a team is important for increasing employee happiness and productivity levels.

When a leader has good communication with their staff, it also ensures all members of a team know what their goals and objectives are and gives clarity on what everyone is working towards. 

Trust in the team

Chances are, you know someone who has a bad manager. It’s likely that one of their main pain points with their boss is the micromanagement they have to endure in their day-to-day working life. Being managed in this way makes a team member feel as though their manager has no trust in them, and it can be a big frustration.

By allowing team members to figure out their own ways of working and giving them the freedom and flexibility to produce results in their own way, the trust they’ve been given will go a long way in terms of outputs.

Delegating work to a team member also shows trust. It shows that you trust an employee to do a job to your own standard whilst getting trust back in return as a manager who is actively encouraging a team to develop and learn.

Empathy and compassion

When a good leader gets to know their team and forms interpersonal relationships with them, it allows them to notice when something is wrong. When an employee is going through something in their personal or professional life, extending empathy and compassion to them by ensuring their workload is eased or helping them to stay focused, it shows that they are valued.

Having empathy and compassion as a manager improves wellbeing amongst the team, as they’ll know that any outside stress isn’t going to result in backlash or punishment at work if their productivity suffers. By treating an employee in this way, their respect and loyalty to you as a manager and also to the team and business will thrive.

What employees want from a manager

In honour of National Boss’s Day, in 2019 LinkedIn Learning surveyed over 2,000 professionals to find out the qualities employees want most in a manager

Above all, employees stated that they want a manager who will help to solve the problems they face. Problem solving came out on top as the most desired trait with 68%, followed by a manager with good time management with 44%, possessing the ability to be decisive with 41%, and having empathy at 38%.

Furthermore, data suggested that lacking these qualities both affects the current team members and also the ability to hire top talent.

Learn the leadership and people management skills that enable a team to succeed

Under a great leader, a team will be productive, motivated and happy. Successful managers are the key to driving a business forward by encouraging existing and new employees to be driven, and by retaining and finding great talent.

The online MBA at the University of Wolverhampton has one simple goal: to develop capable senior leaders for all sectors who can lead modern organisations effectively and ethically. 

Whether you’re already a team manager or you’re looking to enhance your career prospects into a leadership role, the skills that you’ll learn on the online MBA or the MBA Finance are invaluable. As well as leadership and people management skills, you’ll gain a well-rounded knowledge base on digital transformation, organisational strategy, financial management, and much more.

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