A Good Manager Is Hard to Find

Only one person in 10 has the rare talent that makes a great manager, a Gallup poll says.

Few people—about 10% of people who work—have the qualities that make outstanding leaders, “and organizations have a hard time finding it,” according to a report from Gallup.

In fact, Gallup contends, most managers working in the U.S. today are unsuited to the role. The very ability that likely made people succeed in their previous, non-managerial roles is not the one that creates a great manager, according to Gallup’s “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders” report.

Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents, Gallup suggests. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.

The sought-after talent combination that characterizes great managers exists in only about one in 10 people. Another two in 10 have some of the five talents and can become successful managers with the right coaching and development.

Companies that hire managers based on talent realize a 48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in productivity, a 30% rise in employee engagement scores, a 17% jump in customer engagement scores and a 19% decrease in turnover. Gallup finds successful managers place more emphasis on employees’ strengths than their weaknesses—and that a strengths-based approach is associated with greater levels of employee engagement and well-being, and team productivity and profitability.

Gallup based its report on decades of talent research, a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries and analysis from repeatedly measuring the engagement of 27 million employees. It examines the crucial link among talent, engagement and vital business outcomes, such as profitability and productivity. 

Other findings include:

  • 18% of current managers have the talent required of their role, while 82% do not;
  • More than half (54%) of managers with high talent are engaged, compared with 39% of managers with functioning talent and 27% of managers with limited talent;
  • Female managers are more likely to be engaged than male managers (41% vs. 35%, respectively); and
  • People with a female manager are also six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who work for a male.