What does a good manager look like?

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 14 Sep 2016

Our appearance can influence perceptions of our suitability for the role, says Maria Manzoor

A new leadership study by the University of California’s Berkeley's Haas School of Business has found that men with muscles are perceived to be better leaders.
 
While this is just one of the more outlandish, headline-making findings of the survey, it does raise the question about what perceptions employees hold about the physical and behavioural traits of good leaders.
 
“People judge us by the way we look and that includes the way we dress, especially in the workplace,” said Maria Manzoor, head of HR at engineering, design and consultancy company, Ramboll. “Our appearance strongly influences other people's perception of financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence and suitability for the role we are in."
 
“In the UAE, the workplace dress code might be slightly more relaxed than it is in other GCC countries, but overall a need to be well-groomed, suited and presentable is expected of leaders here. There are exceptions depending on which industry you are in; media or advertising employees are more accepting of individual style,” she says.
 
“If a male leader had a pony tail for example, I don’t think employees would be less comfortable taking orders from him, but perhaps their perception of that leader would be different and they might question his skills and capabilities,” said Manzoor. “It also depends on the nationality and culture of the employee; some cultures are more flexible when it comes to dress code for senior staff, while others have a stricter view.”
 
When it comes to leadership behaviour, Richard D Lewis’s LMR cultural model suggests that Middle Eastern countries typically have leaders who are people-oriented, put feelings before facts, talk most of the time and display their feelings. Specifically, UAE managers use human force and personal bonds with others as an inspirational factor, and frequently use their eloquence and persuasive skill to attain control.
 
Data from the Global Executive Leadership Inventory (GELI), developed by INSEAD professor of leadership development, Manfred Kets de Vries, found that across the globe managers diverged significantly in four areas of leadership: designing & aligning; outside orientation; emotional intelligence; and resilience to stress. Middle Eastern managers, for example, scored less than average for work-life-balance, but higher for resilience to stress.
 
Leaders work with diverse teams with a mix of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. “Employee expectations of a good leader therefore vary greatly,” says Manzoor. “But the UAE has come a long way, ahead of many of its neighbours, in terms of catching up with the latest leadership style trends. More and more UAE companies are adopting leadership styles that help minimise organisational conflict and raise organisations and individuals above their differences towards common goals and visions.”