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Introduction to 7 Habits of High-Retention Managers

Updated: Apr 15

Simon Sinek said, “Let us all be the leaders we wish we had.”  If you think back on leaders you’ve had over your career, chances are, that for every ten, you’d probably only want to work for two or three of them again. Why do you think there’s such a gap? Great leaders just aren’t that easy to come by.

Part of the problem is that we often promote people who are good individual contributors to management positions as this seems like the reasonable next step for them, but these individuals may not be the best fit for a leadership role. They may not even want to manage people but feel like they should do it in order to advance their careers. In addition, we often train new managers in the administrative and technical parts of the job but neglect the leadership and emotional intelligence components. Finally, they may not have had a good role model to show them what a good leader looks like.

Personally, I have reported to some doozies over my career.

Here are a few examples:

  • He would do a “talk to the hand” if you stopped by his office, and he wasn’t in the mood to talk.

  • She put my performance review in my mailbox (this was in the olden days) and went on vacation.  When she returned, we never had a meeting to discuss it.

  • In one-on-ones, she would do multiple activities (besides listening) such as flossing her teeth, stirring her yogurt, and even curling little dumbbells. Needless to say, it was rather distracting, and she didn’t seem too engaged in our conversation.

  • I was trained to be a facilitator for 360 assessments through the Center for Creative Leadership and had a 360 done myself as part of this process. The feedback this manager gave me was inconsistent with everyone else’s in a negative way. When I asked about it to seek clarification, she said, “I’m not sure. I must have been in a bad mood that day,” and couldn’t provide any supporting examples.  

  • She rescheduled one-on-ones every single time, and we mostly ended up not having them. This didn’t make you feel very important! Further, she was a terrible micromanager.

  • She said that she felt I was veering off course. When I asked her to give me direction, she said, “I don’t know what I want you to do.”  In addition, she said that she didn’t believe in corrective action because the process resulted in people having “bad attitudes”. She would just outright fire them without providing any feedback in advance about what they needed to improve.

  • She was pretty much missing in action for weeks on end. When asked if we could meet, she said, “I don’t have time,” but seemed to have time to post on social media throughout the day.

  • He bullied pretty much everyone that he came into contact with in the workplace – slamming his ring on the table and calling people out in meetings to embarrass them. And further, he was chauvinistic. I was the VP of HR but always had to take notes in meetings, arrange food, etc. Once, he was standing at the door of the conference room and summoned me over as I was leaving the building. He asked me to move some tea that was left in the conference room. He was standing right there and could have easily done it himself–and I’m confident that he wouldn’t have asked any of the male leaders to do that.

You can’t make this stuff up! And this doesn’t even include stories about managers that I worked with and didn’t report to! This reminds me how glad I am that I have my own business now.

From these experiences, I started to wonder if it was me that was the problem. But when I reflect on these examples, I don’t think so. Perhaps God was using some of these experiences to help me become a better leader and coach others in this way. On the flip side, I have had a few great leadership role models who embodied servant leadership. They were kind, supportive, provided positive and developmental feedback in a motivational way, and helped me to grow.

Management vs. Leadership

Let’s talk about the difference between a manager and a leader. Often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. Leaders inspire, motivate, and influence people. The leader’s focus is on people and tomorrow. Managers make sure that operations run smoothly and that the job is done. The manager’s focus is on tasks and today. The chart below provides additional clarification.



Copes with change

Copes with complexity

Challenges the status quo

Works with the status quo

Asks why

Asks what

Plans long term

Plans short term

Aligns people

Organizes people

Motivates and inspires

Administrates and controls

Focuses on people

Focuses on structure and systems

Communicates and delivers the vision

Follows the vision

Looks into the future

Works in the present


So, which is more important? Both managers and leaders serve important organizational purposes and must go hand in hand. Managers oversee execution and ensure efficiency while leaders influence a group toward the achievement of goals. Where possible, it’s best to move into the leader role as you are likely to get more buy-in and motivation from employees. However, there are times when working in the manager role is completely appropriate and needed. I will be using these terms a bit interchangeably in this book but wanted to share the difference.

If you think about the best leaders that you’ve had, what behaviors and traits did they exhibit? What about the worst leaders? What were their behaviors and traits? Jot some things down and compare your notes with what I share.

Worst Traits of a Leader

Poor leadership is terrible for an organization and demoralizing for the people under it. It needs to be dealt with quickly and strongly because if it’s allowed to continue, it can undermine everything.

Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Before we explore the best traits in a leader, let’s review some of the worst traits.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but here are some things that leaders should NOT do:

  • Create office politics by pitting people against one another and threatening jobs.

  • Be an extreme micromanager.

  • Lie to customers and employees.

  • Air dirty laundry at the office.

  • Criticize instead of coach.

  • Act arrogantly and show no humility.

  • Use an abrasive communication style – cursing, putting others down, etc.

  • Take away the employee’s voice and ability to be heard.


Have you ever heard, “I'm the manager, and I said so - that's why”? If you are saying things like that, stop it immediately.

Following are some more examples of what NOT to say:

  • I'm the manager, not you—and that's my decision to make, not yours.

  • You need to leave early next Thursday? That sounds like a personal problem. You need to work it out without missing work.

  • If you don't want the job, I'll find someone who does.

  • I don't want to hear any excuses—just do what you're told to do.

  • If I wanted your ideas, I would ask for them.

  • Work isn't supposed to be fun; that's why they call it work.

  • I could replace you in ten minutes, so watch your step.

  • Keep your complaints and suggestions to yourself. We all have problems.

Traits of Great Leaders

As you can imagine, there is a ton of information and research on what makes a great leader.  A Google search using “traits of great leaders” yielded almost a million results. After combing through numerous books, sources, and from personal experience and observations, I believe that there are seven habit areas that are critical to being a great leader that creates a work environment where employees will thrive and stay. These habits are in no particular order as they are all very important.

1. Ignite purpose.

2. Build trust.

3. Manage yourself.

4. Be a good coach.

5. Practice accountability.

6. Communicate well.

7. Show you care.

              In this book, you will learn more about these habit areas and discover practical tips to adopt them as part of your leadership style.

The Kindle version of my book is available on Amazon! Get it now

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