Are Employees Led by Managers With the Wrong Traits?

Are we promoting managers with the right personality traits, or do we need to take a closer look at who employees want to be led by?

Table of contents.

For a long time, the stereotypical traits of a manager have been strategic, confident, inspiring, problem-solving, goal-oriented, and assertive. Today, many employees seek different traits in the people leading them. But do organizations still promote people with stereotypical traits, or are they choosing what the employees want?

I recently made a LinkedIn poll to get insights about this from my network. I asked them: What is the most essential trait for a manager in 2022? The results were the following: 90% of the respondents answered either empathic or responsible, with 66% saying that being empathic is the most essential trait for a manager in 2022. Only 5% say goal-oriented is the most essential trait.

This poll is, of course, biased since it consists of respondents from my network, and not all traits are represented in the poll due to LinkedIn only letting you choose four options. So obviously, I can’t say this counts for all organizations. Nonetheless, I think the results are incredibly eye-opening.

Think about this: How many managers in organizations today do you think have empathy or responsibility as their most consistent trait? How many % of managers do even have these traits as their top 5 out of 20? Maybe this should be my next poll on LinkedIn… I hypothesize that many managers are empathic and responsible but that we are still way behind in promoting managers for their responsibility and empathic abilities. We might still be promoting stereotypical traits.

Too much of a people-person

A few months back, I had a conversation with a director in a company that needed to lay off their current CEO and was looking for a new one. The director applied for the job and felt confident because many colleagues agreed it would be an excellent fit for the CEO role. However, in the end, the board decided to go with another candidate, as the director was:

“too much of a people-person rather than a strategic and goal-oriented type...”

This is just a single case, but it worries me. Is it still the most piercing narrative that we must have managers that are goal-oriented, even though, in reality, this is not the type of people we like to be led by? Am I too biased because people voting in the LinkedIn poll thought we were talking about managers on lower levels than C-level? And that the C-level management of course need more goal-oriented people than people who are empathic and responsible? I don’t know. It seems like too easy of a solution.

If we think ten years ahead, do we expect to have more or less remote work than we had ten years ago? Probably more. I believe empathy will be more important than ever in the future. Imagine a manager who is rarely in the same physical space as their employees AND lacks empathy. Nearly 1.000.000 people in Denmark switched jobs over the past year (spring 21’ to spring 22’) ( One of the top reasons why people leave is due to bad leadership ( It’s about time we consider which type of managers we are promoting. 



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