Several people have recently asked me what I consider to be the best management style. My answer is always the same, a flexible one. Naturally a management style should have some foundation to add stability and credibility, but much of that emerges from character and the competency of skills. Managers can easily end up ineffective even if they stick to one style of management and in today’s challenging business world, sticking to a single style is probably no longer an option.
The best managers seem to know how to move seemingly effortlessly between the four classic management styles and have learned when, how and how much to shift gears. Here are the four classic management styles and some “Do’s” & “Don’ts” for each;
1.Leading from the front
Teams will need to be reminded of the bigger picture, inspiration and a shared vision that drives them to work together to excel as a whole. Managers that lead from the front well know how to rally the team around them, to create that shared passion. The challenge with this style is that a manager can get caught up in their own autobiography, become a bit of a control freak and the team loses its autonomy and ability to push back. Managing from the front means that you must take the responsibility for the teams mistakes and give the credit away when they succeed. Don’t get yourself mesmerized by your own business card caesar.
2. Setting the example
An effective manager knows when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get into the mix with the team. Setting the example builds credibility with the team, letting them know that you are not above getting your hands dirty plus you know what you are doing. The challenge is that managers that live in this style end up not making their team better in the long run. They spend more time doing people’s jobs because, “it’s easier if I just do it myself”. Managers that stay in this style too long get frustrated because they believe they have no time to do their own job and the cycle continues. Know when to jump in but for the sake of the entire team, know when to push yourself back out.
3. “Hands On” style
The “hands on” manager will not be right in the middle of things, but just on the perimeter. It’s like being the coach of a sports team where you use the S.O.S. model (Show, Observe, Shape) in some fashion. A good hands on manager knows the difference between teaching, training, coaching and knows how to tailor employee developement for each level of employee. The benefit of this style is in a well-trained team that knows your system. It can also create huge loyalty and credibility from the employees for your personal involvement in their career development. The down side is that at higher management levels with many employees or over large geography, it simply isn’t possible to coach everyone yourself. Too much hands on can also be seen as “micromanagement” by some or take authority/credibility away from the managers who report to you. Success in this style lies in effectively “training the trainers”, that is the leaders on your team then support/reinforce their efforts with the rest of the employees. Give those leaders some room to execute and observe them from a greater distance. Want to know if your plan is making it all the way to the newest employee? Try to have a career progress conversation with everyone on your team, every 30-60 days depending on the size of your team.
4. “Hands Off” style
There is an old saying, “hire great people then get out of their way and let them do their job”. There is certainly some wisdom to that saying in the information by the minute age with seemingly endless conference calls, hundreds of emails per day and reports about reports. Want to know how good your team is? How well do they execute when you are gone for a few days for that meeting? Can you take a couple of days off without the place burning down? Nothing says that you don’t trust your team more than looking over their shoulders constantly. So step back and let your people do their jobs! The danger in living in this style is becoming disconnected from your team and from your business. People don’t know you when you stay at a distance, you become unapproachable. Your direct reports lose sight of your expectations and any team vision. Often there is temptation for some to take chances that are reckless or against the mission and values of the organization. There will always be those that cannot resist that temptation because they know the boss is not looking. Then you are left with the responsibility of explaining to your organization how you had no idea what was happening within your own team.
All four styles have their merits and weakness…Want to be an effective manager? Learn to flex them all.