I've had a number of managers. Some bad. Some good. Some in between. Here's what I think it takes to make a good manager.
- Promotion - A manager needs to promote the team constantly. This means regularly presenting and talking about the work. In other words, getting in people's faces and telling them the team's importance and how they are benefiting from it. The flip side is protecting the team at all cost. No one is going to trust someone who won't stand up.
- Coordination - A manager needs to knock down road blocks. Fight for the right resources. Put the right people in the right job, task or project. This requires not only to understand each team members strengths and weaknesses, but how each team member likes to work and what they like to work on.
- Motivation - A manager needs to provide positive feedback and incentives. And "yes" money is important, but interesting work and "you're doing a god job" can help too. Again, you have to know what drives each team member in order to come up non-monetary motivations. You can't cast a blanket over everyone.
- Conceptualization - A manager needs understand and communicate the larger concept and importance of a project. Many people refer to this as "the vision thing", but I think that is too vague and weak. Effectively creating and communicating a new concept requires experience and expertise in making stuff over and over again. Vision only skims the surface. It does not provide enough meat to build.
It's is difficult to pull off all of these things well. Often you are constrainted by time and other objectives within the larger company. I admire those who can do them all well.