People often think they’re saying one thing when they’re actually saying something very different.

Sometimes the word “but” is the tipoff.

“I’m a very open-minded person, but…” is a sure sign you’re about to hear something very closed-minded.

Sometimes the tipoff isn’t a word, it’s the fact that the person is saying it all, and that’s where poor managers get themselves into trouble.

“Do I need to remind you who’s in charge?” That speaks volumes, but not in the way the speaker intended.

The first thing it says is, “I’m insecure and need to feel in charge.” Whoops.

The second thing is, “My team doesn’t think of me as a leader.” Whoops again.

And finally, “Whatever we’re talking about, I’m defending an indefensible decision or I’m a poor communicator, so I need to wave my title around in hopes you will just accept what I’m saying and quit arguing.”

The manager who needs to remind people who’s in charge would be horrified to know what they’re really saying. But jerk managers don’t have that kind of self-awareness.

Deeds Not Words

Most of the traits that make good managers and talented leaders are demonstrated, not discussed.

A good leader doesn’t need to ask people to follow. People willingly follow those they trust.

A good manager need not remind people who’s in charge. People already know, and they feel good about it.

A manager who makes good decisions and is an excellent communicator has no problem convincing others they are on the right path. Good managers are also comfortable with the fact that not everyone will agree all the time.

Good managers demonstrate skills and qualities that earn respect and establish themselves as leaders. They don’t talk about those things at all because there’s no need to.

Open and honest communication, confidence, an ego under control, always acting with integrity, putting the company first and respecting the team — these are the qualities that make good managers. Managers who have these qualities never ask to be followed or respected. People know them by their actions.

There are lots of things bad managers say that reveal their faults. Dismissing employees, suggesting they’re lucky to have jobs, treating them like they have nothing valuable to add — all of those things make managers look weak.

One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from ethnographer and speaker Simon Sinek. He said, “A boss has the title, a leader has the people.”

That sums it up nicely.


To learn more about how to be a successful manager, read Don’t Be a Jerk Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management. It’s the management training you never got, available on Kindle and in paperback from

Do you think you might be a jerk manager? Take the quiz!


Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash