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.
Read related: Leadership Lessons from King Arthur
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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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.