5 Principles of Great Managers

excelling as supervisor

According to Steve Jobs (n.d.), ”Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” By understanding and learning to apply these universal principles, you are more likely to excel as a manager in any organization.

Principle No. 1: The Functions of Management

While managers often view their work as task or supervisory in orientation, this view is an illusion. “At the most fundamental level management is a discipline that consists of a set of five general functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. These five functions are part of a body of practices and theories on how to be a successful manager” (Reilly, Minnick and Baack, 2012, p.17). Understanding the functions will help managers focus efforts on activities that gain results.

Summarizing the five functions (ICPM Management Content):

  1. Planning: When you think of planning in a management role, think about it as the process of choosing appropriate goals and actions to pursue and then determining what strategies to use, what actions to take, and deciding what resources are needed to achieve the goals.
  2. Organizing: This process of establishing worker relationships allows workers to work together to achieve their organizational goals.
  3. Leading: This function involves articulating a vision, energizing employees, inspiring and motivating people using vision, influence, persuasion, and effective communication skills.
  4. Staffing: Recruiting and selecting employees for positions within the company (within teams and departments).
  5. Controlling: Evaluate how well you are achieving your goals, improving performance, taking actions. Put processes in place to help you establish standards, so you can measure, compare, and make decisions.

Principle No. 2: The Types and Roles of Managers within the Organization

Organizational structure is important in driving the business forward and every organization has a structure. No matter the organizationally specific title, organizations contain front-line, middle, and top managers. Above the top management team are CEO and a Board of Director levels. To see this structure even more clearly, visualize a pyramid model. The more you move toward the top of the pyramid, the fewer managers you have. All of these managerial roles have specific tasks and duties. According to Jones and George (2007), “A managerial role is the set of specific tasks that a manager is expected to perform because of the position he or she holds in an organization” (p.19).

All managers play important roles in this model. One important thing to remember is from Henry Mintzberg, a management scholar who researched and reduced thousands of tasks performed by managers to 10 roles (ICPM). His model points out that there are three main types of roles all managers play; they are decisional, interpersonal, and informational. In the decisional role managers can perform in an entrepreneurial manner, as a disturbance handler, resource allocator or negotiator. In an interpersonal role managers may be figureheads, leaders, and liaisons. In the informational role, they monitor, are disseminators or spokespersons, and they share information (as cited in Jones and George 2007).

Principle No. 3: Effective Management of Organizational Resources

An essential component of operationalizing the organization’s strategic plan is allocating resources where they will make the most impact. Dr. Ray Powers (2015), Associate Dean in the Forbes School of Business recently stated about resource allocation, “In reality resource allocation is the most important thing we do. I define resources as people, time, money, and assets — and of course the basic definition of a project is to have a goal and a start and end date — for pretty much any activity we do.” Managers participate in operational planning and budget planning processes and, in doing so, actively determine what should be done, in what order is it to be done, and determine what resources are appropriate to be successful in achieving the plan. Keep in mind that this is not a personality contest. The strategic plan and its specific objectives determine what is important and what may not be as important.

Principle No. 4: Understanding and Applying the Four Dimensions of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in Maximizing Human Potential

Effective managers understand the context and culture in leadership situations. What helps these managers succeed? It is simple; they understand EQ (the competencies in each dimension of emotional intelligence). Those four dimensions are having a high self-awareness, social awareness, being self-managed, and having good social skills. All of these competencies are important, and they lead to great connections with people. They lead to stronger and more effective managerial performance. EQ is a very important component for excelling as a supervisor. Dr. Diane Hamilton, Program Chair in the Forbes School of Business, recently stated about a candidate who was running for a faculty senate position in the Forbes School of Business, “He demonstrates emotional intelligence and exemplifies the high caliber of candidate I would like to represent the FSB.” Dr. Hamilton is a highly skilled professional and knowledgeable and skilled in the area of Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. She clearly recognized the importance of emotional intelligence. The job of the manager is to find a way to turn a team member’s skill and talent into a higher level of performance. This idea doesn’t suggest manipulation at all. Instead, it is is about maximizing human potential one team member at a time. It is as much art as it is science.

Principle No. 5: Know the Business

A common axiom in management is that a qualified manager can manage any business. This point is only partially true. It is true that most managers are generalists rather than specialists; however, many very successful managers began their careers in specialist roles. What most successful managers bring to their work in leading crews, departments, divisions, and companies is both a solid knowledge of the business (they are very experienced) and a solid knowledge of the principles of management. Manager aspirants must first learn the characteristics of the business by doing, working in the trenches, discovering how the various pieces of the organization work together to become a universal whole because very good managers discover what is universal in the business and capitalize on it to advance the business and improve performance.


Remember, as a manager, for greater job satisfaction and career success you should align to your organization’s vision, mission, strategies, leadership, systems, structure, and cultures. In all you do, treat people fairly and honestly and do your best to follow and embrace your organization’s ethics and core values as well as your own. Talk the walk and walk the talk, and remember, people are watching and seeing how you walk it. Give your very best to your teams, organizations, and customers. Be an effective manager to get the performance results for your organization and build trust and positive relationship with your people.


Written by

Bill Davis, MA, CM
Core Faculty - Instructor, Forbes School of Business at Ashford University

Dr. Michael Reilly, PhD
Professor, Forbes School of Business at Ashford University



Davis, B. & Swanson, D. (2016). Planning and alignment can increase your career success. ICPM Management Briefs. Retrieved from http://blog.icpm.biz/planning-and-alignment-can-advance-your-career-success.

Hamilton, D. (2016). Forbes Senate Election Testimonial. Ashford University:
San Diego, CA.

Hartmann, M. (2004). Learning styles workshop and training, Davenport, IA:
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ICPM - Institute of Certified Managers. (2007). CM Training Course Materials.
Moline, Illinois: Blackhawk College.

Jobs, S. (n.d.). Quote Retrieved from:

Jones, G. & George, J. (2007). Essentials of contemporary management, 2nd edition.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irvin

Powers, R. (2015). Personal Conversation. Ashford University: San Diego, CA.

Reilly, M., Minnick, C., & Baack, D. (2012). The five functions of effective management.
San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

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