A Managerial Melting Pot
Being a manager is hard. Trying to juggle the weight of your individual tasks while ensuring the successful completion of others’ is even harder. Constantly evaluating, modifying and reevaluating your own behavior is just plain difficult.
Despite that, we as managers do this every day—and we (hopefully) do it with a smile. Why? Because we know that this role isn’t about us and our needs but rather the needs of our staff and the organization as a whole.
Read related: Key Takeaways for Hiring Business Leaders and Managers
In the past, management-based studies were quick to define individual styles, pigeonholing leaders based on their natural (or preferred) approach. Management courses echoed these definitions, labeling one person autocratic and another affiliative. Case closed.
More recently, however, educators and experts have come to the understanding that practicing just one management style is rarely effective: In order to be successful, managers need to adapt their style to meet the specific needs of the staff and the situation.
Knowing the skill level and behavior of each individual on your team is imperative to determining how to best lead, so apply that knowledge when establishing which “traditional” styles listed below will be most effective. A senior marketing manager isn’t going to react very well to an autocrat, and the recent graduate will fail under the instruction of a laissez-faire leader.
Remember: The best management style is adaptive.
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Decisions are made by the manager without any input from the employees. The manager sets the goals, defines the tasks, creates the deadlines and hands out the discipline when a goal is not met. This is also referred to as a directive or commanding style.
Pros: Allows for quick turnaround of projects with little room for error.
Cons: Doesn’t promote teamwork, collaboration or employee growth. Employees may become resentful, feel undervalued and/or become de-motivated.
Famous leader: Martha Stewart
The end-goal or “vision” is defined by the manager who then remains relatively hands-off, allowing the team to work autonomously, yet will check in periodically to reiterate the vision and provide feedback on task performance. Also referred to as Authoritative or Persuasive.
Pros: Empowers employees and promotes growth.
Cons: Less experienced employees may not be as successful without hands-on guidance, and new and/or non-credible managers may have a hard time relaying a compelling vision.
Famous leader: Steve Jobs
Read related: Leadership Styles You Need at the Top
The primary focus of the manager is teamwork and interpersonal relationships. With the affiliative manager, the people come first.
Pros: Emphasizes employee satisfaction, growth and collaboration.
Cons: The happiness of the team can overshadow the significance—and performance—of the project, and poor performance of an individual may be overlooked in favor of group praise.
Famous leader: Joe Torre
The manager will often request input from employees regarding project or organizational decisions rather than simply dictate orders. Also referred to as Participative.
Pros: Employees may feel a greater sense of pride in their work due to being more involved, and the additional input from those close to the task is typically beneficial.
Cons: Employees may not agree or be experienced enough to make the best decisions. In addition, listening to multiple (potentially conflicting) opinions is time-consuming and may hinder a project’s completion.
Famous leader: Bill Gates
A blend of democratic and autocratic, the manager will request input from employees but ultimately make the final decision.
Read related: Ten Critical Steps to Achieving Magnetic Leadership
Pros: Offers employees the chance to be involved without forfeiting the ability to make the final decision.
Cons: Those empowered to offer opinions may not be capable of doing so, and the opinions offered may be conflicting. Also, the potential upset caused by ignoring an employee’s opinion is a risk.
Famous leader: Donald Trump
The manager establishes the to-dos and is then relatively nonexistent—how the team chooses to complete the tasks and at what pace is up to them. The manager is available to provide input, if asked.
Pros: Offers employees more room for creativity which may cause people to be more invested in a task or project.
Cons: Without guidance or defined expectations, quality and timeliness of deliverables is at risk.
Famous leader: Warren Buffet
The manager leads by functioning at a very high level, therefore setting the standards for performance and expecting equal results from employees.
Pros: High-level of performance and quality deliverables.
Cons: Employees may become resentful and feel inadequate.
Famous leader: Mr. Miyagi
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How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”