4 Attributes of a Successful Manager and How to Acquire Them

Dr. Dirk Holtbrügge is Program Director Business at the Bucerius Master of Law and Business (MLB) and an expert on International Management. He knows why programs like the MLB are a great preparation for anyone with management ambitions.

The demands placed on executives by the modern working world are enormous. A manager is not only required to be a technical specialist and a  manager simultaneously but additionally he or she has to have  specialized expertise as well as the necessary soft skills. Day-to-day business is conducted under an increasingly complex  legal framework. Business management skills alone are just not enough anymore.

In a globalized world, how does one prepare for such a challenge?

 "Through programs like the Bucerius Master of Law and Business," says Dr. Dirk Holtbrügge. 

1. A good manager appreciates differences

"What often distinguishes successful managers is their ability to communicate with colleagues from other disciplines or cultures," explains Holtbrügge. "They understand that different talents and perspectives are not obstacles, but rather assets for a team that can use these differences to its advantage."

Unfortunately, most of us are not born with these skills. The good news is that flexibility and openness can be learned - but not from books.

Holtbrügge: "In the MLB program we observe students developing these skills thanks to the interdisciplinary approach and international character of the program. Working together with people from different academic disciplines and cultural backgrounds offers a fertile learning environment for the transfer of knowledge and encourages productive discussions. In doing so, the program fosters the exchange of perspectives between disciplines and cultures, which will benefit students later in their professional life.”

2. A good manager builds a network

"The pleasure of getting to know and work with people is an important characteristic of a good manager," stresses Holtbrügge. "Openness and tolerance come into play once again. Good managers know that there’s always someone who knows better than they do. They use their network to access this expertise. Building up a strong and international network as early as possible can pay off in spades in the future. This is something many students still underestimate."

Setting up an international network at work is often easier said than done as it is also about respect and understanding of cultural differences, says the expert.

"Managers all over the world depend on networks, but the way they network is often very different. In some cultures, contacts can be made quickly and directly, whereas in others, it takes an intermediary or just a lot more time. An international degree program like the Master of Law and Business can be an ideal environment to get comfortable with these differences."

3. A good manager can set priorities

Managers today are often under great time pressure. You have to make the best possible use of your limited time and master the balancing act between work and private life in addition to juggling meetings, business trips and numerous phone calls. "The ability to identify and keep track of priorities can often make the difference between a successful or an overburdened manager," says Holtbrügge.

It is possible to attain this skill over the course of one’s studies, according to the Holtbrügge.

"Students inevitably learn to divide their time and distinguish between what is important and what’s not, especially in intensive programs like the Master of Law and Business. They can’t neglect their workload or miss exams – they’re non-negotiable. When work takes the form of a project, as is often the case in practice-oriented degree programs, students learn to prioritize and delegate. It's an ideal opportunity to improve their time management in an environment where they can leverage the expertise and experience of professors, faculty and fellow students."

4. A good manager never stops learning

"One of the most important attributes of a good manager is curiosity and the will to continue to grow and develop,” Holtbrügge says. “Young people who choose to pursue postgraduate studies demonstrate that they already have this important quality. Any good employer should recognize this."

Managers never stop learning and those who believe that they already have all of the necessary skills at the beginning of their careers are wrong.

“It’s often the case that people only notice when they start working that they didn’t learn the necessary practical skills during their studies,” says Holtbrügge. “So often it’s not about expertise – that’s easy to brush up on – but about core competencies that one only attains through practical experience. I strongly recommend that all young people who are interested in reaching leadership positions or becoming better managers consider enrolling in postgraduate programs such as the Master of Law and Business.

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