What must one do to attain virtue?

The 7 management virtues

Management virtues - these are the characteristics that make a good manager. Managers face challenges every day that require their personal strengths. The technical level, on the other hand, often seems like "child's play".

Managers, especially when they work in SMEs, have to make many decisions within a very short period of time. Often alone and under time pressure. The manager is usually asked exactly when the others no longer know what to do: when employees do not want to make a decision alone, when a customer complains massively or when there is anger in the team. Then it is good if you can trust your management virtues, that is, character strengths and attitudes that you have developed in the course of your life.

What are virtues?

"We call virtues worthy of praise". This definition goes back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle back. In his opinion, a virtue was the right mediocrity between two extremes. Generosity, for example, was the middle ground between waste and greed.

Plato also dealt extensively with the concept of virtues and shaped them 4 classic basic virtuesthat have been considered trend-setting for centuries. These are:

  • bravery
  • justice
  • Prudence
  • Cleverness or wisdom

The Catholic Church later added to these four basic virtues 3 Christian virtues:

The 4 basic virtues and the 3 Christian virtues became the 7 cardinal virtues. Based on a text by the Christian poet Prudentius from the 4th century, the list of 7 heavenly virtues. These can be found in numerous pictorial representations in the form of women who are equipped with appropriate symbols. The 7 heavenly virtues are:

  1. humility
  2. Charity
  3. chastity
  4. patience
  5. moderation
  6. Benevolence
  7. Diligence

Over time, the doctrine of virtue was transferred to many other areas: chivalric virtues, civil virtues, Prussian virtues or military virtues, to name examples. It's always about getting along with Values to deal with and after Ideals to strive. The virtues thus determine the Guidelines for your own conduct.

Why do we deal with virtues?

What should we do with these old-fashioned virtues today? The term “virtue” may seem out of date, but the discussion about values ​​and virtues is very topical. The image of the job description “manager” is badly damaged, precisely because core values ​​have been violated by top managers of large corporations. The discussion about ethics, morals and values ​​in corporate management can be found, among other things, in the establishment of value committees. Science is also increasingly concerned with the term “corporate social responsibility”. The supposedly so old-fashioned virtues are more relevant than ever in the working world of the 21st century. That leads us to the 7 management virtues.

It is important for every manager to be aware of their own basic attitudes and attitudes. It is just as important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Conversely, those who know their strengths can deal with their weaknesses more confidently.

The 7 management virtues

We have summarized the most important characteristics that make a successful manager in the 7 management virtues:

  1. determination
  2. honesty
  3. Prudence
  4. Predictability
  5. care
  6. Communication skills
  7. Self-criticism

Why these 7 management virtues?

Because they are interdisciplinary relevant for almost all executives and because they are all critical to success. They have a major impact on many of the decisions a manager makes. They significantly shape leadership behavior.

1. Determination

Determination is the firm will to implement one's decisions - despite all obstacles and adversities.

Why is determination a key skill for leaders? Because as a manager you have a strong role model function. If you are not resolute in advocating a project and you have doubts, your people will not follow you. The doubts don't even have to be expressed openly. It is enough if they can be guessed implicitly, something through body language or a vague choice of words.

Determination means setting goals and sticking to them, making clear statements and decisions, and then pushing them through.

If one consults Aristotle's theory of the right mediocrity between the extremes, determination as the opposite pole needs care, self-criticism and prudence in order not to become stubborn. There is no point in clinging to something that is obviously wrong at any cost. But it also doesn't make sense to throw everything overboard for no good reason.

Management Virtues - Self-Determination

  • Am I convinced of what I am doing?
  • Do I believe in my success?
  • Do I show that to my employees too?
  • Do I tend to pursue a goal so resolutely that I don't even listen to other opinions about it?

2. Honesty

Honesty describes the quality of always telling the truth, i.e. not expressing untruth in any form. In the root of the word we find the term “honor” hidden. So it's about a person's reputation. Honesty is the basis of any trusting relationship. Without it, no trust can be built or maintained.
There is no alternative to honesty in dealing with employees. If your co-workers catch you lying, you are "through". You lose your trust. You are also undermining your authority and reputation.

Honesty means conveying unpleasant news as well as bad news, even if you find it difficult to do so. However, it doesn't force them to always say everything they think or know. There are situations when it is wiser not to say anything so as not to unsettle or hurt others.

In addition to being honest with others, there is also being honest with yourself. Achieving this is hard work because it requires self-criticism.

Management virtues - self-check Honesty:

  • Am I honest with my employees?
  • Am I scared of passing on bad news?
  • Do I praise even if there is nothing to praise?
  • Do I weigh up what information I will pass on?
  • How do I deal with praise and criticism? Do I praise employees too often or am I too critical?

3. Prudence

Prudence is the quality of remaining calm and composed in difficult situations. Even when things are “going very well”, level-headed people keep an overview and react in a well-considered manner. Many effective managers are characterized by precisely this quality.

A good mix of prudence and determination is invaluable, especially in crisis situations. It's about not losing any time on the one hand, and on the other hand keeping calm and working concentrated and efficiently. Prudence is also required when it comes to moderating and settling conflicts.

Not every manager was born with calm and prudence. On the contrary, ambitious and successful people often have to work particularly hard on these virtues. You need a lot of your own strength and a steady character for rest. The manager as "solid as a rock" is an important element of effective leadership.

Management virtues - self-check prudence

  • Am I easily upset?
  • Do I allow myself to be provoked quickly?
  • Can I keep calm and an overview in a crisis situation?
  • How good am I at mediating conflicts?
  • Do I have the freedom to gather new strength, e.g. through sport, leisure time, relaxation?

4. Predictability

Consistency and predictability are important qualities in leading others successfully.

Those who are predictable act in such a way that others can adapt well to them. This makes it easier for your employees to work with you. This enables you to anticipate your expectations, plans and reactions. This in turn means that you can make decisions on your behalf, even if they are not available. This in turn gives you the freedom to transfer responsibility and makes your management much more efficient.

Conversely, a manager who is considered unpredictable is perceived by employees as exhausting and stressful.

No matter which leadership style you pursue: Your predictability, your consistency and your consistent way of reacting to situations, problems and people is a great stability factor that your employees have in a constantly changing environment.

Management virtues - self-check predictability:

  • Are my reactions predictable and understandable for my employees?
  • Do I react differently depending on the situation?
  • Do my moods determine my actions?
  • How well do your employees make decisions on your behalf, even when you are not on site?

5. Diligence

The right amount of care and attention to detail is always a tightrope walk. Care stands between perfectionism and negligence. Diligence means performing your work with accuracy, but without slipping into attention to detail.

On the one hand, our complex working life demands detail-oriented work. On the other hand, as a manager, you often have to make decisions without having detailed information - often due to time constraints.

The level of detail orientation of a manager has a major impact on leadership behavior. People who are very detail-oriented are mostly perfectionists. Accordingly, they have high demands and expectations of themselves and their employees. This often makes it difficult for employees to meet them. Managers, on the other hand, run the risk of doing too much themselves and delegating too little.

People who are less detail-oriented usually give their employees more leeway and more easily pass on responsibility. To do this, they have to live with the fact that they cannot always keep track of everything.

The Pareto principle can help you in this area of ​​tension.

Management virtues - self-checkCare:

  • Am I more detail-oriented or do I tend to avoid detail-oriented work?
  • Do I delegate enough tasks to my employees or do I tend to do things myself?
  • Do I express my expectations towards my employees in detail or do I assume that they already know what I want?
  • Do my employees usually meet my expectations?
  • Do I act according to the Pareto principle?

6. Communication skills

80% of problems in companies are based on communication problems. The ability to communicate clearly, precisely, and effectively with employees is vital for a leader.

You don't have to be particularly talkative or extroverted. The secret to clear communication is the right order. Listening clearly comes before speaking.

Active listening is a key skill in communication. You need this competence to lead your team, but also to negotiate with customers and business partners.

Active listening also requires prudence and empathy. Because first you have to understand exactly what the other person has to say to you. Only then should you speak for yourself.

The constant work on your own communication skills is worthwhile. So become a good listener. Also, pay attention to your tone, choice of words, and body language as you speak.

Management virtues - self-checkCommunication strength:

  • Do I take enough time to think before I speak?
  • Am I a good listener, i.e. do my employees get enough time and attention to express their point of view?
  • Am I a good speaker, i.e. can I convey what I want to say?

7. Self-reflection

Self-reflection is perhaps the most important virtue for managers. Thinking about yourself, critically questioning and judging your own thinking, your own viewpoints and actions will lead to you finding and maintaining the right balance. We have seen that with many virtues it is important to find the right mediocrity. Self-reflection is the virtue that helps us decisively in this.

self reflection puts Self-confidence ahead. It's about learning to assess your own strengths, weaknesses, abilities and characteristics. That is inconvenient and has to be overcome. Hence are Self-criticism and Self-confidence by no means contradicting, but downright complementary skills.

Management virtues - self-checkSelf reflection:

  • How self-critical do I deal with myself?
  • Do I tend to be exaggerated or rather low in self-confidence?
  • Can I assess myself well with my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Am I working to develop my strengths?
  • Can I accept my weaknesses and compensate for them with my strengths?


"You can - or not - lead people!" We hear statements like these over and over again. But we think that's a mistake. In fact, a whole range of skills are required for successful leadership. A healthy attitude is just as important. But nobody is born with it. Everyone has to work out for themselves what defines and guides them.

Mean leadership lifelong learning. The prerequisite for this is to observe and reflect on yourself and the reactions of others to your own behavior. We need openness and willingness to change in order to improve our leadership behavior.

Numerous food for thought, methods, guidelines and tips can be found in the BEITRAINING seminars Successful Leadership LYT and Practice-Oriented Leadership (QSL).

Which virtues for managers do you consider important? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

These articles might also interest you:

• The 80-20 rule: more success with the Pareto principle
• How much self-criticism do managers need?
• Conducting employee appraisals professionally
• Properly express praise and criticism

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