Find a manager who embodies these key skills and characteristics and you’ve hit the employee jackpot.

By Maggie Seaver
November 08, 2019
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Your boss’s personality and skill set can absolutely make or break your work experience. That’s why the career advice “choose your boss, not your job” rings so true for so many people. Good leaders set the tone for a positive work culture, and in order for employees to feel both motivated and appreciated, their direct manager needs to possess a very certain set of professional and interpersonal skills.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the best boss—but according to some illuminating LinkedIn Learning data, we have a glimpse into the top five skills professionals want most from a manager.

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1. Problem Solving: This particular managerial skill is by far the most important to employees. According to LinkedIn Learning stats, 68 percent of professionals want a boss who’s all about finding smart solutions to problems large and small. It makes sense: The better a problem-solver they are, the less likely they'll be to foist said problems onto their direct reports.

2. Time Management: Forty-four percent named time management the second most crucial characteristic managers need to run a team effectively. A good boss will know how to manage their own time in such a way that positively impacts direct reports thanks to strategic delegating and leading by example.

3. Decisiveness: One of the best skills to have as a leader in the office is the ability to make thoughtful and intelligent decisions—without overthinking everything and without overlooking important details. It’s a delicate dance, but 40 percent of professionals want to work for someone who has it nailed to a science.

4. Empathy: Thirty-eight percent of survey-takers say an empathetic boss—a strong marker of high emotional intelligence—is ideal. A leader who can naturally see problems from all sides, step into their team members’ (and other teams’) shoes, be a diplomat, and find moments to get out of their own heads is a rare and valuable person.

5. Compassion: Empathy and compassion go hand in hand, so it makes sense that 36 percent of employees appreciate a compassionate manager too. They’re sensitive to their colleague’s strengths and pain points, understanding in the face of mistakes, and know how to handle tricky or nuanced work situations with grace.

Other less significant skills mentioned include ones such as “strategic vision, collaboration, adaptability, and mindfulness.”

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These attributes aren’t just important—for a lot of job candidates or employees considering a job switch they’re absolutely essential. As in, they dictate people’s decision to join, stay, or leave a particular position. LinkedIn Learning reports that 76 percent of working professionals say that liking the boss they’d be answering to was “essential” when considering accepting an offer. Sixty-six percent admitted they’d turn down a job offer if they didn’t think they could respect their new boss. And just under half (42 percent) have quit their job specifically because they either didn’t respect or didn’t gel with their manager.

Sadly, you can’t know the idiosyncrasies of your prospective boss’ managerial style without actually working with them, but it’s important to try to find out before accepting a position. Interviewing with your potential future boss? Go ahead and ask them in your interview (tactfully) how they’d describe their leadership style, what kind of person they work best with, or what their ideal direct report would be like. You could also ask one of their current or former colleagues to coffee and ask them for the inside scoop on their management style.

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