So You Think You’re Ready For Management? Think Again.

So a great management position has just come your way and you’d love that new title — not to mention the salary bump. But, before you rush to submit your application think long and hard about whether you have not only the right skills, but also the right personality for the job — especially if the managerial position you’re interested in includes supervising others.

No matter how good that pay increase may sound or how impressive the title may be, understand that not everyone is cut out for management. Sure, you may have been with at the company for several years now and you may have mastered the skill set required for your current position. But that still doesn’t necessarily qualify you for management. Being an effective manager requires a set of interpersonal skills and personality traits that may not be required for your current position.

Let’s take Carl’s* situation as an example:

A senior graphic designer with several years of professional experience, Carl had longed for the day when he would be able to advance to the level of creative director, a position that requires strong people supervision and leadership skills. Carl was creative and very proficient on the last design software. The position would require him to manage a team of designers, present ideas and be responsible for directing the creative department’s projects. So when a position opened up at his company, Carl jumped at the opportunity to apply. However, soon after his promotion, it became quickly apparent that he had overestimated his preparedness for the position. Despite being newly-promoted, he was often late or absent as he tended to ongoing personal issues, leaving his staff to work around his frequent absences and take on additional responsibilities because he wasn’t available.

Additionally, as a result of his frequent absences, his time management suffered and his projects were often late. On top of that, Carl had low self esteem issues that caused him to feel insecure when leading meetings, making decisions, providing employee feedback, establishing a direction for his team and selling others on his ideas. Soon, his staff lost faith in his ability to lead them. As such, some followed his poor example and began to also slack on their own work commitments, while others began job-hunting, rather than continuing to work on his team. Carl’s boss was forced to give him an ultimatum: Improve your performance or lose your job. Unfortunately for him, Carl’s performance never substantially improved. In the end, he lacked the key personality traits and skills that his management position required – as well as the ability to adapt his behavior enough to correct the problems.

So, before you apply for that next management opening, be sure to ask yourself these 7 important questions (and be brutally honest with yourself when you answer them):

1. Do I have self-confidence?

As a manager, enforcing procedures, establishing a solid direction for your team, providing constructive feedback, and getting buy-in on your ideas requires confidence and conviction. If you have a tendency to crumble when presented with negative feedback or you back down easily when faced with opposition, management may not be a good personality fit for you. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, your team won’t have confidence in you either.

2. Do I have strong planning skills?

Successfully leading a team or implementing a project demands that you not only know what the end-result should be, but that you also have the ability to identify the key steps necessary to make it happen. To do that, you need to be able to create a clearly-defined project plan that will help you and your team stay on track by establishing goals, individual roles, and action items. If this level of detail is just not your thing, you’re likely to have a difficult time keeping your team moving in the right direction and effectively executing your vision.

3. Am I good at quickly making sound decisions?

When members of your staff bring to your attention operational issues (i.e., equipment purchases, departmental processes, etc.) which require you to make a decision, they will expect you make sound judgment call in a timely manner. If you tend to labor over the pros and cons of even the most basic decisions or you routinely delay decision-making in hopes that someone else will make the decision for you, you’re probably more of a follower, than a leader. If you can’t make a good decision, you won’t make a good manager.

4. Do I know how to motivate others?

Getting a team pumped up and keeping their morale high is critical to the success of any team. One of the easiest ways to motivate your team is to be appreciative of the work they do. Simply giving praise for a job well done can be a huge motivator. If team members know that their contributions are genuinely appreciated, they’re much more likely to go that extra mile when it’s needed. But, if giving someone a compliment makes you feel uncomfortable or you believe that the only a pat on the back employees deserve is their paychecks, you’ll likely have a very hard time keeping your team motivated and eager to go above and beyond on the job.

5. Am I good at following through on what I say I‘m going to do?

Nobody likes empty promises. Likewise, your staff will feel the same way. They will count on you to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If you have a bad habit of repeatedly missing deadlines, dropping the ball on key tasks or not following up on issues, that will quickly erode a team’s ability to trust you to meet your managerial obligations. Once that trust is gone, so is your reputation as a manager.

6. Am I a good communicator?

One of the easiest ways to get the reputation as a ‘bad manager’ is by being a poor communicator. If you like the idea relying on occasional emails and meeting infrequently in person to touch base your team, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. Effective managers are expected to meet with their teams routinely to provide them with direction, project updates, constructive feedback, or solutions to operational roadblocks.

7. Would I be able to set a good example for my team?

Becoming a manager doesn’t mean that you no longer have to follow the laws of the land. If you have a tendency to show up late for work, you frequently call in sick or often allow your personal life to impact your work time, you will set a poor example for your team. Do as I say, not as I do may work for children. But, that decree isn’t very effective in the workplace.

If you answered ‘NO’ to three or more of these questions…

Chances are that you’re not ready for management. However, if you feel that you still want to pursue a management position, start taking the steps necessary to improve your weak areas. This may include:

  • Enrolling in management training.
  • Volunteering to lead a complex team project that requires project planning, task assignment, and interpersonal skills.
  • Joining a public speaking group like, Toastmasters, to sharpen your presentation skills.
  • Getting potential personal distractions in order (ie., reliable child care arrangements, relationship problems, health issues, etc.)
  • Asking a manager whose style you admire to serve as your mentor.

While these highlighted tasks can lead to management skill improvement, it’s also important to understand that other key personality traits (ie, a passive demeanor, a poor self image, low stress tolerance, etc.) may not be as easy to overcome. If you’re currently dealing with some of these personality-related roadblocks , you should seriously reconsider if management is a good fit for you.

The Bottom Line: Before you apply for that next open management position, be very honest with yourself about not only your skill set, but also your personality type and your personal habits. It’s true that the world is full of managers who wouldn’t be able to pass the above test, but we have a name for those people: “BAD MANAGERS.” Don’t become yet another member of that infamous club. Instead, if you believe you have potential to be a manager, set your sights on becoming the most effective leader you can be. Do that by getting your personal issues in check and developing the proper leadership skills prior to throwing your hat into the management ring.

*The name Carl is a pseudonym.

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Matilda is a hard-working art director with a flair for marketing communications, promotion design, branding, and social media. You couldn't find cooler creative chick on the planet. And she also just happens to believe that no matter what you do for a living, you should ALWAYS WorkAwesome.


  1. Carl Natale on the 22nd April

    Great piece on management. I would like to add something that a former supervisor told me. He said management is about making mistakes and learning from them.

    No one is a perfect supervisor. Thus they all make mistakes. The key is to get the mistake over with, correct them and not make them again.

    When he hired managers, he looked to see what they learned. When cultivating workers to be managers, he gave them opportunities to handle responsibilities and learn from it. That included making mistakes.

    Again, good round up. Thank you.

    BTW, I’m not this Carl.

    • Matilda Jackson on the 23rd April

      Your former manager was absolutely right, Carl. No supervisor is perfect. But you do have to ready, willing and able to address your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      — p.s. I can vouch for the fact that you’re not the same Carl referenced here ; )

    • The Simple Machine on the 24th April

      6. Am I a good communicator?

      I think Matilda I like the take of this post on being socially responsible in taking on a responsibility of management. But I do not agree that a person should hamper themselves from opportunities available to them simply based on a list that they need to fit.

      I would prefer to fail at trying something challenging and rewarding when the opportunity presents itself! We grow the most when there is an immediate need for it. The courses will serve better when there is a need to acquire a certain skill set. E.g. You plan to write GMATs sometime in the next 6 months, but since you have not committed to a specific date for the exam you are not effective at absorbing the material. However, as soon as you set a fix deadline and it start encroaching, you start to study and absorb the material. Unfortunately, with jumping in careers you cannot set a date specific goal, so the strategy would be to take on the role and tackle problems as they arise.

      And realistically the only factor than can be improved through a course would be communicating skills, the rest of the factors are developed on the job as you grow in your career. I feel I am ready to be in management based on these factors as I meet majority of them. However, I am judged on “work experience” regardless of how qualified I am to take such an opportunity.
      realistically that is the only

    • Matilda Jackson on the 24th April

      @ The Simple Machine

      I agree that not all of these points can be resolved by taking courses. BUT I disagree that those remaining issues can only be resolved as the result of on-the-job training.

      There will always skills you can learn as you go in whatever position you take on. But, I also believe the key to being a good manager is knowing your major personality and workstyle limitations and addressing them BEFORE stepping into a management role — and making direct reports suffer your learning curve.

      Most, if not all jobs, require you to meet a list a basic requirements in order for you to qualify for the position. So my primary point here is to look deeeper than the job description and make sure that you have the right mindset and operational style required to effectively take on the added responsibilities of a management position.

      Trust me, I’ve seen repeatedly the negative fall out that can result when a person doesn’t look before they leap into management.

  2. Ricky on the 23rd April

    Learning so much from your article about management. i am just starting my management career one years ago,i think i would ask myself frequently about 7 questions mentioned in your article and get promotion of management skills.


    • Matilda Jackson on the 23rd April

      I’m glad you found the information helpful, Ricky.

  3. Julius on the 23rd April

    I agree that not all of us were born with qualities fit for management, but spending much time in developing the skills you mentioned can increase our chance of becoming good managers. We simply don’t have to rush in whenever these opportunities come.

  4. Matilda Jackson on the 23rd April

    So true, Julius! It’s always a good idea to go into the situation prepared — even if it takes a little extra time to get there.

  5. Tahsin on the 25th May

    When i started my job as manager, my boss said one beautiful line. he said, “In management job if you dont want to work…you really have nothing to do and if you really want to work then you have unlimited work” i applied this line in my job and enjoying it.

  6. Jason Ball on the 1st July

    Great piece. Sorry it took so long to find it.

    I’d add a couple of things.

    While I agree with the skills outlined in the article, there is no one right way to be a manager. When you get the promotion, there is a danger of trying to become something you are not (which never works in the long run). People respect authenticity. They like to know who you are and what’s important to you. Be yourself first and ‘a manager’ second.

    The key, for me, to being a manager comes down to the willingness to make decisions and stand by them (for good or bad). I haven’t always made the right calls (far from it at times) but I’ve always taken responsibility for the decisions I’ve made.

    The one word of warning I’d give – be careful that you do not get promoted away from what you love doing. While you’ll get to steer things your way, you will also find that you spend more and more time in meetings and dealing with ‘stuff’. If you’re ok with this, great. But go into it with your eyes open.

  7. Claire on the 7th May

    Being a manager is like being a mum trying to lead the children on right path.No matter which lever the staff are , the manager needs to consistently offer direction , encouragement and to build up right atmosphere, step by step.This process may take a short period of time , or it may take a long time to achieve the goal. A weak and insecure pesonality definately will make the management job difficult .

  8. wczasy w egipcie on the 16th May

    There are some interesting points in time on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I’ll take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  9. Andy on the 20th July

    It’s one thing to suggest that people ask themselves these questions before applying for a management position. I completely agree that to be a GOOD manager all of these things should be true. But it’s quite another thing to suggest that any of these are REQUIRED to be a manager, or even commonly found.

    I have worked under a dozen or so managers, from low-level project managers all the way up to directly reporting to the CEO, over four different companies, and there are definitely some common traits among them. For one thing, none of them had any of the technical skills needed for the areas they were managing. The manager in charge of the technical design team for our product, for example, wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between a database and a trackball, but was put in charge of people designing databases. For another, none of them could believably motivate their teams. One manager thought that the best way to motivate us was for her to yell at individual team members in front of the whole team, openly questioning “why we pay [team member] so much for this crap” (that’s a literal quote). For a third trait that managers have in common, none of them are open, transparent, or communicative. Decisions which the engineers should have some input into are made behind closed doors. The opinions and expertise of people who actually make the product are unilaterally ignored, even if they’re allowed to be presented in the first place. I’ve had managers outright lie to my face about the company’s operations on several occasions.

    These aren’t traits that you only find at a handful of lousy and failing places. These are traits I’ve found across the board, at a major global consulting firm where I worked, at a smaller consulting firm after that, in a major global hardware/software manufacturer for a couple years, and at my current job in a small software company. All of which are financially successful and growing.

    So this article provides a great list of traits, and in a reasonable world, managers would have them. But in the real world, managers aren’t picked by whether they have these traits of competency. They’re picked by whether they can impress their current boss. If you are the sort of person who can convince your superiors to love you while spinning metric tons of B.S. to the employees you supervise, that is what will make you a desirable candidate to the hiring manager. Empirically speaking, lying about your incompetence is much more likely to earn you an executive salary than actually being competent. That woman who I worked under, who publicly humiliated her workers? She was earning over $300k. Think about that: she was being paid to chew people out, not because the product was successful (it wasn’t) or because it made any profit for the company (it didn’t, they lost over $500k on that project). What you need to understand is that for her to run that project into the ground was worth $300k to someone. Somebody decided she should be paid (and paid better than anyone else in the department) to tear down the effort of competent people and belittle them publicly. They clearly didn’t hire her to manage competently. Those of us who were actually competent at our jobs were not allowed to participate in decision-making. And this is the way of the modern company.

    In short, if competence were ACTUALLY required for management positions, we wouldn’t be in this recession. Nice pipe dream, though.

    • Pooja Lohana on the 22nd July

      Great insights Andy. It’s good to see readers like yourself commenting from personal opinion. Thank you for that. Keep them coming!


  10. Milton on the 26th November

    Thanks for the post, Matilda. This self-assessment really helped me in ultimately making the decision to not apply for a management position here at my company. I want to pursue some management training to improve and get better for when that next opportunity comes along. Do you have any suggestions? Do you recommend, for example, taking a few management courses from a local university? Thanks again!

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