What is the art of a good manager? – Are you good, truthful and useful?

This article discusses the traits what makes a good manager based on the author’s personal experiences.

The author discusses his evolved management style and approach and ponders the business manager to consider 3 essential questions on his or her roles as a business manager of people.

As people are the biggest asset of any business, it would behoove upon any small business owner to take his her responsibility as a “manager of people” very seriously.

I have often been asked by my colleagues, friends and occasional interviewers to describe my “management style”.

Before I attempt to answer that I should state that it has been an evolutionary and transformational process for me. I had observed and learnt to imitate from some great managers on how best to get the best from their teams, as well as some not so great managers on how not to manage.

There were early periods in my career wherein when  ONLY results mattered and that the “means justified the end” approach to my approach on management. There were also times in my career where I have often depicted the full frailties and bane of humankind to the teams that I managed. Anger, impatience, suspicion, insecurity, threats and other sins of mere mortals were some of the characteristics that I have displayed often. Of course, I still get angry and impatient, though infrequently and I still am a mere mortal J

So what is the official definition of management?

“Management” (from Old French ménagement “the art of conducting, directing”, from Latin manu agere “to lead by the hand”) characterizes the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible). …

This definition was definitely written a very long time ago. In this fast moving world of ours, the suggestion of leading someone by the hand especially a team of bright, educated and obviously intelligent folks will not get you anywhere. It fact I would suggest that this notion of leading by hand will be counterproductive to attaining the desired goals and results

Grand assumption

Today, my grand assumption is that everyone in my team is smarter than me! (I have been occasionally proven wrongJ). However, I will also assume that I have the requisite knowledge and experience until proven otherwise. So I set myself as a coach and facilitator rather than a manager for my team. I see it as my responsibility to enable my team’s success.

So what is my approach?


I believe that we have to be very honest to our teams. We should openly praise and recognize the team or individuals for their achievements. I believe a manager should openly credit his or her team for recognition of any success that the team has achieved. I believe now that a manager should never take credit for the work done by their team. He or she should give full praise and credit to the team. Of course the manager will have to take the blame when things go wrong. Yes, that’s the irony of life.

At the same time, a good coach and facilitator should be honest even when things are not going well or when improvement is required of someone. They should provide open and frank feedback, guidance and mentoring. They should also be ready to raise the stakes to the extent of openly chiding the employee so as to send a message to everyone that a certain behavior is and will not be acceptable. Therefore, being honest is a key element that I try to practice every day. Flattery and false praises will be seen through by smart people!

Understanding and respecting different points of reference

All men and women are equal. We are not created equal. If you work with an international team it is obvious that we all come from very different cultural, religious and social backgrounds, beliefs and values. Recognizing that in a team there might be different functional specialties, different education, interests and backgrounds is crucial to your success as a manager.

Trying to understand and respect the unique characteristics of each of your team member is important so that you can appreciate the unique and occasional or frequent different perspectives that someone has.


Before we are employees or managers or workers, we are first and foremost human beings. Therefore it is important to connect with people on a personal basis. Showing genuine interest and concern in the team members’ family, education, hobbies and other personal interests will be appreciated by any one. Showing understanding and genuine concern when something is personally affecting the employee will never be forgotten by any one. Share the joys and miseries of everyday living with your team folks. They will appreciate this very much.

Results do matter!

Finally, results do matter. We are all employees in a for profit corporation to generate results that will generate profits. We have a divine obligation to the company and its shareholders to deliver results. As a manager you will be judged by your management on your results. It is your team’s efforts that generate the results that you are measured and paid on. An acute awareness of this helps. A lack of understanding of this critical element will be fatal to your career!

The test of goodness, truthfulness and usefulness

So do you pass the test of goodness, truthfulness and usefulness? (This is a quote borrowed from a CEO that I admire a lot, and said in a different context in a recent meeting).

As a manager, you will have to pass all the three elements of this test.

Goodness – Do you have empathy for your team? Do you connect to people? In other words, are you human? Do you appreciate and recognize the different points of reference that each of us have?

Truthfulness – Are you truthful to your team? Are you honest to yourself?

Usefulness – We are all corporate warriors for a purpose. We have to be useful and deliver results.

In summary, you really need to pass all the 3 tests to be a good coach and facilitator. Also, know and remember that you cannot add value for your shareholders without adding value to your employees first.

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115 Responses to What is the art of a good manager? – Are you good, truthful and useful?

  1. kumar A.S says:

    Wonderful note john. I certainly liked it as the note is written from your heart and most importantly , its from follower /subordinates perspective. If one get leader like this, i am sure the team can be highly productive and team sprit would be highest.

  2. jatin says:

    I think you truly paa the test with flying colours. I am so happy and priviledged to be part of your team.
    Keep up the good work and spirits

  3. Manoj says:

    would be interesting to see what the current successful captains of the industry practice? from steve jobs in a fast paced technology industry to indra nooyi in a fmcg industry to timothy gartner in a govt set up to even the very popular mark zuckerberg for fb…..

    just want to see whether goodness, truthfulness and usefulness stand to test in all this different environments….we might have to invent few more :) even just in the human domain – things like inculcating ownership of purpose, empowerment, supporting creative liberty, profit sharing, strict and fair recruitment standards etc would have to be included

    Also there are other personality traits like ‘lead by example’, ‘thought leadership’ etc that need to be woven into

    ultimately there needs to be a dotted line relationship between the management style of the leader with the company ethos, mission and vision statements….otherwise it is too much of a risk for the team to follow the leader in question, only to be caught off guard when he/she is sacked :)

  4. Padmakumar says:

    Hi John,
    Well written, though I don’t agree with you completely. In my 9 years of professional career I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great leaders and not so great mangers as well. I feel that what you’ve mentioned here is the initial steps in building a team. All these aspects will definitely help in building a well knit team. But is that enough to perform well after the initial energy? I’ve seen teams which are well connected, but they never stretch themselves beyond the call of their duty. They work as a great team and always make sure that their existence is proved beyond doubt!!
    Best managers I’ve seen were exceptional in few aspects mentioned below, and they made sure that the team believed in their abilities and made the team work for the common goal. The best part is the sense of ownership and stretching themselves beyond the call of their duty!!

    Effective Delegation without interfering in decision making process
    Solutions that are out of the box, when the team hits the wall
    Standing by the team at the time of crisis, and owning their mistakes
    Giving credit to the team at the time of glory and disowning the success
    Having a transparent appraisal policy within the team!!
    Lead by example like a coach.
    Bringing in the change!

    But I must say it’s great to work with leaders like you with loads of experience and with such strong views on leadership!

    • John Lincoln says:

      Padma, thanks and I agree with your views. As you had correctly noted, my comments are not mutually exclusive nor are they completely exhaustive. Everything what you wrote is correct! If you read between the lines they are all encompassed in my post :-)

  5. Prince says:

    but does a great manager necessarily make for a great leader?

  6. Bindhu says:

    Its wonderful to be part of your team where we actually see all this in action !! Thanks a lot for the privilege.

  7. Johnny says:


    I think you missed your vocation of a…and here i will coin a new term ” Corporation Evangelist” :)

    I love what you write and I do know you practice it as well.

    and oh by the way…Marketing does in fact come from the word market as you say which in french is Marche…which is the place you sell !

    keep ‘em coming John.


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