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  • Writer's pictureCarole Stizza

Why Great Managers Are Rare: The Business Case for Disruption

Updated: May 31, 2021

Hiking in the mountains of Colorado, I always marvel when I get to spot a beautiful fox, moose, or member of wildlife uncommon to suburbia. Their mystique reminds me of how rare it is to get close to them and how fortunate I am to witness their grace, survival, and place in our ecosystem.

Although it may be odd to say it, the same mystique applies to experiencing a great manager. According to Gallup, only 18% of current managers (1 in 5) possess the natural strengths to be an exceptional manager. This means that 82% of the time, organizations fail to choose the right talent and instead spend millions training the wrong talent. Sighting a great manager is rare in today’s landscape of work success because of the way that the majority of businesses select their managers.

THE IMPACT OF BAD MANAGEMENT Bad managers have a real-world impact. A company’s greatest asset is its employees. When employees are mismanaged, the company suffers inefficiencies that result in lost economic potential. In a study of over 27 million employees, within 2.5 million work units, over 2 decades, Gallup estimates that bad managers cost the U.S. economy $319-$398 billion on an annual basis. Regardless of industry, the common pain points for executives remains the diverse success between workgroups.


Organizations are still implementing outdated methods of choosing managers. When surveyed, most managers reveal that they became a manager for 1 of 2 reasons:

  1. I was promoted because I was successful in a previous non-managerial role, or

  2. I was promoted because of my tenure in my profession.

Neither of these have anything to do with the talent to manage. Gallup defines “manager” as someone responsible for leading a team toward a common objective. While experience, learned skills, and company loyalty are important, people’s natural talents (the naturally recurring patterns in the way they think, feel, and behave) are the largest predictors of where they will perform at their best.

Gallup’s study results indicate that we need to disrupt the current method of hiring and promoting managers. We must evaluate manager talent differently to succeed, or we will continue to source bad managers and decrease our economic potential.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT MANAGER? It is estimated that throughout organizations, there is one manager for every ten employees. That means that on every team of ten, there is probably one team member naturally designed to be a great leader. From what Gallup tells us, though, that person best suited to lead is most likely not the current manager.

The talent to manage consists of these top 5 strengths:

  1. They motivate every single employee to act and engage in their work with a compelling mission and vision.

  2. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

  3. They create a culture of clear accountability.

  4. They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes, and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.

  5. They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.

There are also outward traits of those with natural management potential. Gallup has found that team members who are great brand ambassadors, who are more engaged, and who value and support others in using their strengths to do their best work are more naturally inclined to be great leaders. People with these skills are able to encourage their team members to perform to higher levels of success, and are great managers waiting to be promoted.

DO YOU HAVE THE TALENT TO BE A GREAT MANAGER? Do you tend to naturally notice your team members’ strengths, and encourage them to use them to be more productive? Are you fully engaged and invested in your work, striving to overcome obstacles that are in your way? If so, you may be an undiscovered great manager. Let’s get you discovered!

Gallup has partnered with Don Clifton’s research to produce an assessment that reveals which strengths each of us possess. Over ½ a century of research has produced the Clifton’s Strength Finders Assessment. Now interpreted in 20 different languages within 100 different countries, this assessment continues to help people maximize their potential. We use this tool to help you learn about you own strengths, and teach you how to use them to maximize your potential for greater success in your career. Learn more about our Strength Strategy coaching service here!

Become a Better Manager with Strength Strategy!

The best managers get to know themselves and their team. You lead a team to success by understanding your team’s capabilities, and by people in positions that play to their strengths while partnering them with people who will overcome their weaknesses. Discover your strengths, and the strengths or your team, with our Strength Strategy course!

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