What motivates a great manager to lead? Perhaps a better question: what motivates a great manager to leave their position as an independent contributor and take on the roles and responsibilities of a manager.

Is it pride, ambition, ego, money? What types of power in the workplace do they leverage?

We’ve had the great fortune to experience the leadership qualities and management motivations with thousands of managers. Through our work and interviews, we’re able to take a peek into their professional soul and explore why they’ve aspired and eventually chosen the path of being a leader within their organization.

Within a few moments, often times it’s clear the motive of a manager. Their tone, verbiage, and focus, even during a short conversation, says it all.

It’s not always pretty. However, when we do come across a manager who demonstrates the subtle signs of a great manager, we pay attention. Of course there are many traits great managers contain.

Feedback we’ve received from interviewing countless direct reports range from:

“She really understands how to read people and communicate with them on an individual basis.”

“I do want to not let her down, so every day, I come in to impress. She makes me want to win.”

“His work ethic is infectious. The more I’m around him, the more I want to be involved.”

“He is not only my boss but someone I can trust and call on in almost any situation. He’s my friend.”

“She comes down hard on me when it’s required and knows when to kick back and relax.”

“He knows more about the business than just about anyone in the company.”

Everyone of these quotes highlights a skill or trait of a great manager.

All of these interviews have reached some conclusion on what makes a great manager. However, after running the analysis and taking into account the direct report’s point of view along with the manager’s reasoning for leading, great managers have one trait that is constant across the board.

Every great manager we’ve interviewed has the same motive: they sincerely want their teammates to succeed.

They answer the question about why they’ve chosen their path to lead, and the answer always starts or trends to their team.

“I want to see everyone on my team achieve their potential.”

“There is nothing more special than interacting with the spouses of my employees and seeing that what they do for our team and our company has changed their family’s life.”

“I come to work everyday believing I’m the conduit to their success.”

This type of selflessness is hard. This type of attitude requires sacrifice. This type of mentality is achieved by great managers.

A sincere belief to help every individual team member succeed is a trait of every great manager.