What’s Your Best Management Advice? 13 Top Leaders Reply

Management advice is everywhere. But how do you know which guidance to trust? To find truly useful answers, we asked business executives to answer this question:

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice for how to become a better manager, what would you say?

In response, we received excellent management advice from 13 experienced leaders — including company CEOs, founders, and C-level executives. And I’m sure you’ll agree, the collective wisdom they shared reads like a playbook for any aspiring manager who wants to level up:

  • Prioritize Leadership Skills and Embrace Vulnerability
  • Conduct Regular Check-ins and Learn from Errors
  • Practice Active Listening
  • Master the Art of Delegation
  • Respect Individual Ambitions
  • Create a Psychologically Safe Team Space
  • Seek Team Feedback
  • Plan for Contingencies and Create Transparency
  • Foster Open Communication and Employee Understanding
  • Uplift Others and Practice Humility
  • Listen More and Trust Your Team
  • Develop Strong Relationships and Set Clear Expectations
  • Understand Your Management Style

To dive deeper into these responses, read on…

13 Senior Leaders Share Their Best Management Advice 

1. Prioritize Leadership Skills and Embrace Vulnerability

Reflecting on my own professional journey, I would tell my younger self to prioritize the development of leadership skills over technical expertise. Through the years, as I ascended to the C-suite, I realized my role was less about nitty-gritty details and more about guiding the team toward our shared vision.

For instance, when I was a manager, I was deeply involved in the technical aspects of our projects. I prided myself on my ability to solve complex problems. However, as I moved up the ladder, I found that, although my technical skills remained important, they took a backseat to my leadership abilities. It’s essential to inspire my team, manage people through change, and build a strong, inclusive culture.

My unique advice to aspiring leaders is to embrace vulnerability. It might seem counterintuitive, but showing your human side can actually strengthen your leadership. When I started sharing my own challenges and failures with my team, I noticed a significant increase in their engagement and trust.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO,

2. Conduct Regular Check-ins and Learn from Errors

I would advise my younger self to become a better manager by checking in with my team. Humans commit mistakes. Smart humans learn from those errors.

I’ve learned that checking in regularly with each employee makes a difference in our business. Talking with people about their short-term and long-term plans and how to achieve them helps employees feel valued. It improves retention, for sure.

Regular conversations give you a chance to gauge employee satisfaction when it comes to workload. Then you can make adjustments if needed. Early on I failed to do that, which caused us to lose people with strong potential. However, I’ve learned from experience, and am doing better now.

Eli Pasternak, CEO, Liberty House Buying Group

3. Practice Active Listening

If I could go back in time, I would practice active listening. Initially, I focused on sharing my ideas more than understanding my team. Now I recognize the value of listening. It’s important to seek feedback and create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Regular one-on-one meetings and open forums encourage dialogue and collaboration. These practices improve engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.

That’s why I urge mid-level managers to prioritize communication and active listening. Encourage people to engage in meaningful conversations and open dialogue. This unlocks team potential and opens the door to innovation and overall success.

Josh Amishav, Founder and CEO, Breachsense

4. Master the Art of Delegation

I would tell my younger self to accept the fact that I can’t do everything myself. Delegation is a critical skill both for maturing as a team leader and growing a business.

When I was just starting to get the company off the ground, I had an intuitive desire to handle every process myself. Finance, marketing, client management — I spent half of my working time trying to touch areas where I lacked expertise.

Eventually, I saw how unproductive and ineffective that approach was, so I began handing off small tasks. But team members couldn’t see the big picture, so small-scale delegation didn’t help either.

Finally, I realized how important it was to trust my team and rely on their expertise without trying to interfere with their work. Today, I’m lucky to have a team of professionals by my side who let me focus on activities that will yield the highest returns and grow the company.

Tatsiana Kirimava, Co-Founder and CEO, Orangesoft

5. Respect Individual Ambitions

As a driven leader, I used to project my ambition onto my team, expecting everyone to have the same level of commitment and desire to progress professionally. But over time, I realized not everyone aspires to be a C-suite executive — and that’s okay.

It’s crucial to respect the unique ambitions of each team member instead of imposing your own aspirations on them. When I made this mental shift, I saw improved team dynamics and productivity. Moreover, it alleviated unnecessary frustration, allowing me to find greater satisfaction in my work.

Remember, demanding too much from your team can lead to dissonance. Ask people about their goals and ambitions, and you’ll unlock a more harmonious, effective working environment.

Rafael Sarim Öezdemir, Founder and CEO, Zendog Labs

6. Create a Psychologically Safe Team Space

If I could turn back time, I’d tell myself to create a safe space for the team. I never aimed for psychological safety, but it happened. Team members have confided they feel safer than at previous jobs.

Once, a member of our marketing team spotted a software issue. She spoke up without fear, and we fixed it together. Another time, a new guy from the UX team suggested that we add an automation process. Despite being new, he didn’t hesitate to share.

It’s hard to calculate the financial impact of this but I’m sure that psychological safety makes a difference between failure and a team that prospers.

Vladislav Podolyako, Founder and CEO, Folderly

7. Seek Team Feedback

If I could go back in time, I would actively seek more feedback from my team. I used to be close-minded. I believed I had all the answers. However, I soon realized that true growth and improvement come from embracing diverse perspectives and valuing input from others.

By creating an open, safe environment where my team feels comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns, I’ve been able to foster more collaboration and innovation. Also, I’ve gained valuable insights that help me make better decisions and ultimately become a more effective leader.

Chris Muller, Vice President, Money Under 30

8. Plan for Contingencies and Create Transparency

I would encourage myself to make contingency plans a priority. Although planning for success is obviously critical, having backup strategies in place can help address unexpected obstacles that arise.

Effective contingency plans help decision-makers recognize that their leader has fully evaluated the situation and taken appropriate measures to adjust and move forward.

By nature, I am an organized person, so I tend to anticipate potential obstacles and map out other options. But earlier in my career, I wasn’t always transparent about this.

Failing to communicate about contingencies sometimes made my staff uneasy, so I missed opportunities to gain their trust. However, over time, I learned to take proactive steps to support staff through change and reassure them that a Plan B was available.

Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack

9. Foster Open Communication and Employee Understanding

In the past, I’ve seen many problems come from miscommunication and thoughts left unsaid. I know top talent left the company when they felt unheard and underappreciated because their opinions did not receive enough attention. This is why my management advice would be to foster more open communication and listen more closely to employees.

For example, it’s important to conduct satisfaction surveys so you can understand staff concerns and take action to make the work environment better. This reduces employee turnover, as well as the cost of training new hires. It also builds a positive company culture that attracts great people and keeps them on board.

Jeff Moore, CEO, Everyday Power

10. Uplift Others and Practice Humility

“Talent doesn’t give you license to be an a**hole.”

I was both blessed and cursed with many natural gifts and talents. I was creative, charismatic, a born salesman, and a spotlight hog.  When I got the chance to be “the boss,” I assumed I had a responsibility to share my awesomeness with everyone and prove that I could do their job as well or better than they could.

What a jerk I was!

Through the words and actions of various true leaders, I’ve come to realize that great leadership requires humility, patience, and the ability to lift others up to levels they never thought possible. I’m so grateful to those who were patient enough to give me the latitude to figure it out on my own. Today, as a sales and leadership trainer, I’m “paying it forward” by helping others avoid the mistakes I made.

Bill Guertin, Chief Learning Officer, ISBI 360, LLC

11. Listen More and Trust Your Team

When I think back, I remember times when stress was high. People on my team were feeling disconnected and lost trust in me because I communicated much more than I listened.

But leadership is not about being in the front of the team, always speaking or telling people to execute tasks and ideas. Effective leaders do just the opposite.

By practicing saying less and listening more, I stopped believing I needed to carry everything on my shoulders. I learned that people want to feel like they are heard and their contributions matter.

Listen first and believe that your team can add value and succeed. Nurture them so they feel you trust their decisions. Right or wrong, we can learn from our mistakes and create better solutions.

So speak less, inspire those you lead, and trust that your direct reports will rise and deliver great results.

Michele Delgado, CEO, Hartmetrics

12. Develop Strong Relationships and Set Clear Expectations

One piece of advice I would share with myself is to have the courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the time to develop strong relationships with my team.

Strong relationships are key to being a successful leader. Before taking any action, it’s important to understand the motivations and viewpoints of each team member, so you can make informed decisions based on their unique needs. So encourage people to express themselves openly. And when they share ideas, listen actively.

Also, make sure expectations are as clear as possible. Setting expectations up front makes it easier to develop an environment conducive to collaboration and innovation.

Leadership is about inspiring and encouraging your team to do great work. Ensure you acknowledge their efforts, offer guidance, and provide constructive feedback to help them grow. By providing reinforcement and support, you can foster a culture of respect, trust, and appreciation.

Nataliia Tomchyshyn, Marketing Manager, Relokia

13. Understand Your Management Style

Early in my career, I didn’t recognize my management style. Although this is not a necessity, it helps to know your style and how it works in a real-world environment.

For instance, if your approach is more participative, take time to understand the steps involved and their implications. For example, talk with managers who’ve used this approach and learn about its impact. This discovery process doesn’t need to be lengthy, but it can be revealing.

I planned to manage my team based on my predecessor’s advice. Although this helped, it took a long time to develop and test my approach. Fortunately, everything eventually worked out. But the sooner you can get a grasp of your style, the better.

Marco Andolfatto, Chief Underwriting Officer, Apollo Cover


In Management, Nothing Is Fabulous

Peter Drucker, and many others, have often used symphony orchestra conductors as a metaphor for the role of a CEO/leader in the corporate world.

That said, in all the many daily lists, blogs, and tweets regarding “what great leaders do every day” and the many “attributes of a great leader” articles, there is one management skill of great conductors that never gets mentioned, metaphorically or otherwise, and that is . . . their doing of nothing.

Henry Mancini was perhaps the best example of this. You never saw a guy do so much nothing in your life. Very sweet, very pleasant, very charming, but . . . he never really said anything, and he never really waved a white stick around either. And you never heard an orchestra sound so good in your life. Insert sound of head-scratching here.

This brings us to an element of management technique and theory that doesn’t get anywhere near enough ink or attention: simply stated, nothing . . . is fabulous.

When you are in power and you are in the room, everyone has to take time and energy to allow for that. If you are in power and you open your mouth, everyone has to stop working to listen to you, react to whatever you said, and treat it as an important statement. After a certain point, the more managing you do, the less work actually gets done.

Unfortunately, our industrial culture places much more emphasis on what you do than on what you don’t do. Hard to get paid for doing nothing, yet it is one of the most important skills a manager can have.

Henry Mancini understood how to manage: Just write a good arrangement, i.e., just make it clear what you want other people to do, and get the hell out of the way.

For a manager, the biggest problem in using “The Mancini Method” is coping with the boredom and sense of loneliness it creates. Most of us want to be “part of the team.” And what’s point of having power if you can’t have the fun of exploiting it now and again?

When it comes to choosing between the positive and negative polarities of management, there is always a dark-side temptation that must be overcome: The ego — and the desire to justify one’s managerial existence and higher pay rate — relentlessly draws us to “do stuff,” and to see one’s “managees” as passive inert entities that must be constantly inspired, instructed, monitored, and acted upon. Eighty-five percent of all the conductors I played for embraced this negative polarity, and so the players had to scale back endlessly on their energy output to allow for the insertion of this surplus managerial energy.

Doing nothing requires the positive energies of trust and faith. Maintaining that calm state in the presence of all the fear-mongering that justifies the negative management polarity is hard. It’s a real test of one’s character.

Henry Mancini, and for that matter, all the top conductors, were masters of doing nothing. They did nothing, and in response, we filled that vacuum with our everything.

About the Author: @JustinLocke is a former Boston Pops bass player turned author and management philosopher. He is a regular contributor to Visit his website at

photo credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra via photopin cc

Does Management Advice Actually Work?

So I was getting a root canal last week and I asked the doctor if they were going to use a checklist. “After all,” I said, “as everyone knows, Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto showed that the use of checklists dramatically reduces the chances of medical error, like maybe root-canaling the wrong tooth.”

She replied, “Atul who? Open wide.” ZuhhWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Once the Novocain wore I off I went to over to Whole Foods for something to eat. I noticed that the checkout lines were all backed up, and I asked the manager, “Tell me, have you ever considered taking a Toyota Lean approach to revamping your checkout stations? There seems to be a considerable amount of muda here getting in the way of delivering the value of time savings to your customers.”

He looked at me and said, “Toyota what?”

When I got home, I watched this report on CBS about how corporate/company meetings are a big waste of time and money — 37 billion dollars a year by one estimate. I thought this was awfully important. I was going to share it with one of my clients, but unfortunately we could never get together to discuss this new idea, as we were both tied up in meetings all day.

I am very sensitive to human suffering, especially when I am the human doing the suffering. While a certain amount of misery is inevitable, an awful lot of extraneous human suffering can be traced to a management decision somewhere that inevitably led to it. So, like so many other people, I think management-ology is an important subject. But I am starting to wonder if there is any point in it.

We live in a virtual sea of management advice these days. There are books, blogs, articles, magazines, seminars, university courses, webinars, consultants, speakers, and trainers, all there to cultivate better management. So here’s my question: is any of this management advice actually . . well . . . you know . . . working?

I am sure there have been many individual epiphanies and improvements here and there, but if you compare our current state of overall management expertise and effectiveness to the big picture of historical norms, can we honestly say we have better leaders and managers nowadays? In making your comparisons, remember that Romulus and Remus never read Good to Great, Eisenhower never read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and NASA put men on the moon without a single visit from Tony Robbins.

I hate to be the one to say it, but when it comes to trying to persuade people in power to do something different, logic, efficiency, and serving the greater good are turning out to be ineffective arguments. We must always remember that when people possess power, their primary goals are always to maintain it, to increase it, to enjoy it by exerting it over others, and to remain as comfortable as possible. Any new idea, no matter how well researched and thought out, and no matter how great its potential benefits to the workforce or the general populace, must serve those goals if it is to be implemented. Otherwise, one must rely upon the wait-for-a-cataclysmic-event-to-require-change approach.

I just realized that Niccolo Machiavelli told me all this 500 years ago. Did I listen to him? Of course not.

About the Author: Justin Locke is a largely uninvited participant in discussions of management philosophy. Visit his website at

photo credit: LifeSupercharger via photopin cc