The top 10 management skills that you need to know!

There are so many different skills to learn to manage people well, that it's no wonder it can be so hard to be a great boss.

Written by James Manktelow
Published 19 July 2018
The top 10 management skills that you need to know!

At, I identified more than 1,100 individual management skills, and that's clearly a huge number. But which ones make the biggest difference, and which ones should you focus on?

That's clearly an important question, and it's one that I partnered with Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School to answer.

To do that reliably, we surveyed 15,242 business leaders worldwide to identify what they thought were the most important skills needed to be a good manager. (You can see the book, here.)

I believe that managers need to know between 90 and 120 individual skills to begin to be competent across all of the areas they need to master; and that's a lot to learn!

To help you to get started, here are the "Top 10" skills, according to the people who answered our survey:

10. Developing emotional intelligence (recommended by 72.1 percent of managers surveyed)

All managers need emotional intelligence to be effective. This means having the self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy, and social skills needed to behave in a mature, wise, empathic way.

It's a joy to work for emotionally intelligent managers, and that's why they attract and retain the best people. Fortunately, all of these great qualities can be learned, and you can develop them here.

9. Building trust within your team (73.3 percent)

Team members who don't trust one another waste a huge amount of time politicking and covering their own backs. People in trusting teams work efficiently and well, and they can deliver wonderful results.

To build trust, you need to lead by example, communicate honestly and openly, avoid blame, and discourage behaviors that breach trust. Our article: Building Trust in Your Team, helps you to do this, and you can use a tool called The Johari Window to lead great trust-building exercises.

8. Understanding and developing your relationship with your customer (73.6 percent)

The way you build good customer relationships generally depends on whether you serve consumer or business markets.

Where you're serving a B2C market, you'll get great insights into customer groups by segmenting your market and by developing customer personas that represent the different segments. You can then use approaches like Customer Journey Mapping to give your customers an exceptional experience of your organization.

Sales skills are important when you're serving a small number of highly important clients. Clearly, selling is a profession in its own right, but this article can help non-salespeople to develop core sales skills.

7. Developing new ideas through an empathic understanding of customers' problems (74.7 percent)

Almost all of us now rely heavily on customer ratings and reviews when we're buying products and services. To get top reviews, it's not enough to provide something that "does the job" adequately: you need to provide something that meets the needs of customers exceptionally well.

This is where approaches like Design Thinking and ethnographic research can help you to develop highly satisfying products. And, again, it's where customer experience mapping can help you to deliver a great "customer journey."

6. Bringing people together to solve problems (75.0 percent)

It's often tempting to try to solve problems on your own, but you'll often get better results if you bring together a team of experienced people.

Brainstorming is popular for this, but it also pays to understand structured problem solving processes, and know how to facilitate meetings. To be reliably successful, though, you'll also need to know how to manage the poor group dynamics that can sabotage a good team process.

5. Understanding the needs of stakeholders, and communicating with them appropriately (75.8 percent)

As you run bigger projects, it becomes increasingly important to manage the very many different groups of people who can support or undermine the work that you do.

This is where it's vital to develop good stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management skills. These really matter!

4. Understanding the key principles of good communication (77.7 percent)

Management is about getting things done through other people, and you can only do this if you communicate effectively.

The 7Cs of Communication can help you to get your message across more clearly. You can then develop your communication skills further with the resources listed on the Mind Tools Communication Skills page.

3. Considering factors such as opportunities, risks, reactions, and ethics in decision making (77.8 percent)

We've all seen how bad things can happen when decisions are rushed, or when financial criteria are the only ones that are used for them. You need a formal, structured process for decision making.

You can supplement this with a tool like ORAPAPA, that helps you think a problem through thoroughly, including analyzing risk and exploring ethical considerations.

2. Prioritizing tasks effectively for yourself and your team (79.5 percent)

All of us have a huge number of things that we want to do or have to do, and the demands on our teams can often seem overwhelming. So, it's essential to prioritize.

Prioritization is the second most important management skill, as ranked by the participants in our survey. (There's a particularly useful approach called The Action Priority Matrix, and it's worth understanding this.)

1. Building good working relationships with people at all levels (79.9 percent)

That brings us to the most important management skill, as ranked by our 15,242 managers worldwide: the ability to build good working relationships with people at all levels.

There's a particularly elegant approach to this which focuses on creating "high-quality connections." This is made up of respectful engagement, "task enablement", and trust building; and you can find out more about it, here.

Enjoy using these skills!

About the author

James Manktelow

James Manktelow Founder & Former CEO
James Manktelow is a tech entrepreneur, a writer with an interest in workplace psychology, and an angel investor. He founded in 1996 and led the company until March 2019. As well as founding, James has written, edited or contributed to more than 1,000 articles on management and leadership, more than 60 workbooks, and eight books and ebooks.

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