In the past, managers were viewed by their employees and organizations as valuable commodities. They were seen as capable leaders with distinct management styles who guided their organization’s teams to success. They were viewed as indispensable.
But are these “experts” right?
Are managers a useless relic of the past, an unnecessary component of corporate culture that’s fast becoming obsolete?
So, what’s the problem then? Why are so many managers viewed unfavorably?
The Wrong Managers & Management Styles Hurt Employers
Research from Gallup found that organizations choose the wrong manager a whopping 82 percent of the time. It’s one of the most important decisions a company can make, yet 8 out of 10 times everyone gets it wrong.
These bad managers cost businesses billions each year. Having too many of these managers is a great way to bring down a company.
It can’t be that bad can it? Actually, it can.
Here’s why this matters so much.
Everything gets better when your entire team, your employees are engaged.
- Higher productivity
- Better quality work
- Dramatically decreased turnover
- Less issues with theft and absenteeism
- Greater profitability
An engaged workforce makes everything better. Okay, so what creates a disengaged workforce? What’s the cause of these problems at work?
Good Managers Can Go Bad, Bad Managers Can Be Reformed
If it were as simple as hiring good managers and firing bad ones solving the problem would be simple. But it isn’t. Good managers go bad, and bad managers can be reformed.
So, what’s the real cause of these headaches at work? What separates the successful managers from the unsuccessful?
When I say “management style,” I’m referring to the way a manager makes decisions relating to their subordinates. Management styles are heavily dependent on your corporate culture.
Choose a management style that clashes with your corporate culture and you create a recipe for disaster. The wrong style de-motivates employees, kills productivity and trains employees to disengage or leave.
Which management styles are we talking about, how many are there and which ones work best?
Management Styles are Effective, but Endless
There are more than 25 management styles, each with their own set of pros and cons. In the right environment, they can all be effective. That’s the problem though.
The right environment isn’t always healthy.
Certain management styles are touted as brilliant or the best. Famous consultants, managers and executives may present a preferred management style as ideal.
But it all depends on your organization.
Companies fail to choose the right management candidate 82 percent of the time, remember? Finding the right candidate depends on matching management style and culture.
Okay. Let’s look at a few of these management styles.
1. Authoritarian management styles
Managers who are high in conscientiousness and possibly low in agreeableness tend to prefer authoritarian management styles. These managers tend to be industrious, orderly, candid, and less trusting.
- Command and control management styles rely on strict hierarchy. Management orders, employees obey. Disobedient employees are punished.
- Fear uncertainty and doubt. Managers who use this tactic keep their subordinates in a consistent state of fear. They use fear, guilt and shame to scare their team into compliance.
- Micromanagers use their power to control every detail. Employees are forced into a rigid structure that conforms to management’s preconceived ideas.
2. Extroverted management styles
Managers who are high in agreeableness and possibly high in extraversion far more likely to prefer these management styles. These managers are typically softhearted, understanding, compassionate and considerate.
- Charismatic managers (e.g. Elon musk, Steve Jobs) who rely on the strength of their charisma and personality to command subordinates.
- Transformational styles are based on a mutual give-and-take relationship or managers and employees support each other.
- Transactional styles use positive rewards such as incentives, bonuses and stock options to motivate employees to improve performance. These styles are less effective with socially conscious employees who are looking to make an impact at work.
- Servant leadership. These managers see themselves as supporters and cheerleaders. They use their leadership skills and power to support coworkers, choosing to serve others first before their agenda.
- Complex adaptive. This style is based on the idea that everyone in the company is a leader. Organizations with a flat organizational structure like Zappos prefer this method of management. Employees are expected to influence, persuade and motivate each other.
3. Political management styles
Managers who are high in conscientiousness and low in agreeableness prefer this management style. Managers who are competitive, outspoken, headstrong, calculating or manipulative may find this style to be ideal.
- Mushroom managers maintain authority, power and control by controlling the flow of information. The less their team knows the better. This puts managers in a position to accept the rewards for a job well done or throw a teammate under the bus when something goes wrong.
- Campaigners rely on office politics to gain and retain power. Managers focusing on office politics are typically far less interested in profit, productivity or performance, choosing to focus their time and attention on climbing the corporate ladder. These managers seek to retain subordinates who further their political goals.
4. Administrative management styles
These managers are high in conscientiousness, particularly the subset of orderliness. They’re focused on the way things should be above all else, choosing to focus on rules and process over preference and intuition.
- Process-driven managers follow a predetermined process, choosing to enforce each step of the process to maximize results. These managers are typically interested in optimizing the process and less interested in their subordinates or their ideas.
- Rule-driven managers follow the rules explicitly. They rigidly conform to any predetermined rule, even in situations where a predefined rule doesn’t make sense.
5. Democratic management styles
These managers are high in openness, have a great degree of intellectual curiosity, preferring a diversity of ideas. They’re imaginative, open to the feedback and ideas from their team. They’re more than willing to experiment, preferring to try something new to achieve results.
- Participatory managers do their best to gain input and feedback from their coworkers and subordinates. These managers are more influential because they give their coworkers the chance to buy in to their ideas and have their say.
- Consensus managers, like their participative counterparts, prefer the decision by committee approach. Group think and codependent decision-making can be problematic for this management style.
6. Laissez-faire management styles
These managers are high in agreeableness, with a high degree of trust in others. Easy for them to trust their team and their subordinates, relying on them to perform at a high level without consistent involvement.
- Cowboys like the Results-Only-Work-Environment (ROWE) movement, focus exclusively on results. They inspire, motivate and support their team but prefer a hands-off approach. This approach is popular in sales and marketing departments.
- Seagulls are managers who are completely hands-off choosing only to get involved when something goes wrong.
- Trust but verify. These managers trust their team to self direct, checking in periodically to verify results, provide helpful direction and offer constructive feedback.
7. Cultural management
Culture and social conditioning play a powerful role in management. Often times these roles will supersede personality and preferences of an individual manager.
Here’s a notable example.
- Paternalistic management styles, particularly with organizations in East Asian countries, have a low power distance culture. These organizations require that subordinates accept and expect power to be distributed unequally (and unfairly). Subordinates in these organizations are expected to conform to cultural norms and an established hierarchy. Employees are expected to accept their place in the hierarchy.
This is a lot to take in, isn’t it? What about your employees? Which management style will work best for them?
Which is right for you? The perfect management style complements your company culture.
Your management style will either complement or clash with your organization’s culture. Is your culture…
- High in conscientiousness, low in agreeableness? Democratic management styles may clash with your culture, creating disagreements and frustration among like-minded employees.
- High in openness, high in agreeableness? Your culture will thrive with democratic styles, and chafe under autocratic ones.
- High in neuroticism, low in agreeableness? You’ll need managers who are skilled in servant leadership, transactional and transformative management styles. Servant leaders are able to change the culture of an organization over time.
- High in extraversion with moderate conscientiousness? Charismatic managers with a touch of transactional leadership may be just what your culture needs.
It’s no wonder most organizations choose the wrong manager 82% of the time! Most organizations try to force their employees into a particular management style.
The vast majority of organizations aren’t asking themselves if these management styles are a good fit. They’re simply shoehorned onto the organization…
Which inevitably leads to disaster.
That’s the problem. We don’t want to choose. We want to be free to change our minds as we see fit. It’s a fair point.
What if you make a mistake?
What if you choose the wrong management style for the organization? Are you stuck with a style that won’t work for your culture?
Not at all…
As long as you choose a style that complements your organization. Choose poorly and the results we discussed earlier – decreased productivity, poor quality work, employee turnover and poor profitability – become a reality.
Change your mind, change your style. It’s no problem as long as the style you choose is a fit for your organization.
Let’s say you’re looking to empower your creative and marketing teams. You want them to come up with creative ideas for testing. You want your team to come up with some ideas on their own. Which management style would work well for that?
The Cowboy management style.
You give your subordinates a framework to follow, a short and simple list of do’s and don’ts.
Then you turn them loose.
Your hands-off approach will give them the freedom they need to come up with terrible, decent and amazing ideas. You inspire, motivate and support – but you keep things hands-off until you’re ready to evaluate the results.
See what I did there?
I tailored the management style to the performance and results I needed. You can do it too.
Why Managers Are Still Valuable
It used to be that managers were seen as valuable. They were viewed as capable leaders who guided their organization’s teams to success. They were viewed as indispensable.
They still are.
The manager isn’t always the problem. Sometimes it’s a style mismatch. Managers aren’t a useless relic of the past. They’re needed now more than ever. Good managers lead organizations, great managers change organizations.
They change them for the better.
You can and you will, if you tailor your style to your audience. Amazing managers craft their approach around their audience because they see the value it brings to those around them.
Choose the right management style and you’ll show those around you that you’re indispensable and beneficial – no explanation necessary.