Some people are born leaders, but that doesn’t mean they want to step into management roles at work. Just one-third of employees believe becoming a manager will advance their career, according to a survey by staffing consultants Addison Group. And while millennials have a slightly more positive view of professional leadership roles, just one in five say they would consider leaving a company that didn’t provide an opportunity to be a manager.
So how can companies encourage more employees to climb the leadership ladder? “It’s important that organizations highlight the value of leadership and collaboration not just for the advancement of the company, but as a key trait of personal and professional development,” says Addison Group CEO Thomas B. Moran. “One that will deepen workers’ career success.”
While moving into a management role might be a good career move, it needs to be a good fit for you. Here are six signs that you might be management material:
“You cannot be a leader unless people are willing to follow you,” says Laura M. Graves, professor of management at Clark University. “To have followers, you need to be skilled at developing and maintaining relationships.”
That means getting along and working well with people from diverse backgrounds, adds John Addison, author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose.
“In the digital world we live in today, it is extremely easy for everyone to live in their own bubble where their only connection to people is through a screen,” he says. “It’s important, therefore, to get involved in social networking activities and events, but also in real life; to actually physically be around and interact with others.”
Employees of approachable bosses are less likely to quit and more likely to engage in “above-and-beyond” behavior at work, says Phillip Wilson, president of the Labor Relations Institute. Approachable bosses listen to and respect their employees, acknowledge the contributions of others, and create an open-door policy.
“If you’re approachable you’ll be a successful leader. If you’re unapproachable over the long run you will fail,” he says.
The lens through which you view your work is important to being a good manager. “Do you see everything from the narrow perspective of your job or are you able to take a broader perspective on things?” asks Graves. “To manage, you need to be able to see the big picture; how the pieces of the organization fit together, and how a change in one area will affect another.”
Ultimately, managers are in a position to develop and implement strategy, and if you have not managed before, you may have limited experience with strategic thinking, says Graves.
“You should understand the environment inside and outside of the organization,” she says. “You must also have problem-solving and decision-making skills. You need skills in problem identification and analysis, and must be able to generate and evaluate solutions.”
Leaders often think that they have to know it all, but in reality, the people you manage often know more about their jobs than the leader does. “Listening for true understanding is important; it will save you a lot of trouble,” says Katina Sawyer, assistant professor of psychology and graduate programs in human resource development at Villanova University.
A manager’s focus should be on what’s best for the company. “Truly great managers recognize that the team’s success is also their success,” she says. “Focusing on leaving behind a better team than you found is important, but the leader needs to be comfortable with letting other people shine for this to work.”
To be a good manager, you need to have demonstrated a specialist skill set or expertise in a given area, says Mindy Mackenzie, author of The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team.
“You should put in discretionary effort at your own expense at times to get the job done, and have a desire to make a bigger difference in the organization,” she says. “When credibility, competence, and aspiration are all evident, the odds of the person successfully transitioning from an individual contributor into a management role are greatly increased.”