MANAGEMENT STYLES

January 6, 2016


If you are fortunate enough to have a job during these trying times you probably work for or at least report to someone who is presumably in charge. By that, I mean an individual responsible for giving you a performance review.   This scenario seems to fit most of us but even if you are the boss you may be surprised as to the following classifications of personality types indicated by “Industry Week”.  This is an excellent publication and I recommend you log in to their on-line website if at all possible.

I have served in both capacities; i.e. employee and employer, during my fifty (50) plus years as a gainfully-employed engineer so I do have some experience with management and the peccadilloes of  various management styles.  In my opinion, no two managers are just alike; although most do fit into one of the twelve (12) management styles given below.  I used the headings from Industry Week but have structured the text under each heading from my experiences over the years.  Any names have been changed to protect the guilty and preclude lawsuits against my company and me.  Let’s take a look.

  • VISIONARY—You are very fortunate to have a manager that has vision.  Someone who can plan one, three, five or ten years ahead and one who knows where the company should go relative to resources and competition.  Equally important, is a manager that can call an audible when necessary.   This quality is so very rare today and yet is absolutely necessary for progress in any company. Times change; technology changes; necessary skill sets come and go; turnover is inevitable.   In my entire career, I have worked for only one true visionary.  He was definitely ahead of the curve relative to products that would excite and sell.  One caution, some visionaries, being before their time, cannot obtain technical support or financing quickly; consequently, the products may not meet expectations or may fail outright. Visionaries simply are before their time.
  • THE CLIMBER—This person is all about me and is obsessed with his own career.  He will use you to his advantage, obtain his raise or promotion and when you serve his purposes, he will discard you like a wet paper towel.  Some employees; i.e. direct reports, do survive but it is advisable to always have a “plan B” in your back pocket at all times.  He can be ruthless when he does not get his way or when things go “south”.  He will never hesitate to throw you under the bus to save his own skin.  I have worked for two climbers over my career, one male and one female.  Both were dangerous relative to their direct reports.  It was not a fun situation.
  • THE BUREAUCRAT—Everything is by the book.  If there is no written policy, no procedure, no course of detailed action, etc. he or she will panic and “time will stop”.  Thinking “outside the box” never happens.  Innovation never occurs. Creativity is stiffled.  Most actions taken are accomplished by “group-think”.    This type is the furthest thing from adventurous when it comes to decision making.
  • THE PROPELLERHEAD—This type of manager is tech all the way.  No “gut-feel” here. If he cannot put numbers to the problem or an explanation of the problem using a generated formula or computer code, delays definitely occur.  A great concern—he always feels he does not have enough information to make a decision even when a decision was needed to be made two weeks ago.  Procrastination can be a huge issue for this management type and, generally, the team gets blamed. (NOTE: If you combine the propellerhead with bureaucrat styles you can get a very difficult situation.)
  • THE FOGEY—OK, an “old guy”.  Someone who has been there, done that and knows where all of the bones are hidden.  “We tried that back in the ’80 and it did not work then and it won’t work now”.  He, seemingly, does not compensate for newer technology or listen to those younger members of the team. He refuses to incorporate additional team members or outsiders to solve problems.  He is not a self-starter. He always plays it safe because retirement is in his front window.  I would say look at Congress but I know that’s not PC.
  • THE WHIPPERSNAPPER—Just the opposite to the Old Fogey.  A young person, generally right out of college, who knows it all.  (His father probably owns the company so now he is a brand new manager.)  This type can be a dictator also due to his network and connections.
  • THE SOCIAL DIRECTOR—He values personal interactions and demands the “right chemistry” between all members of the team.  He needs to know “how the wind blows” relative to the people he manages and spends an inordinate time on Facebook, Twitter, U-Tube, etc etc checking up on his employees.  Meeting after meeting is called and they are extremely time-consuming.   One of my first positions as a working engineer was reporting to a social director.  She was a lady.  Very nice lady but a social director.  This was before social media but made no difference.  If you came in looking like you had a problem you were in her office in a heartbeat.  She was the “mother-confessor”.  The lady priest that took all confessions.  Now, to her credit, I never heard of her discussing private matters in a public fashion.  I suspect she took some information to her grave.
  • THE DICTATOR—We have all worked for a manager like this one.  I have experienced this three times in my career.  “My way or the highway”.  “ We don’t do it like that, son.”  They cannot stand for individual thinking and veto any thought that is not theirs.  One difficulty, if your dictator is on drugs or drinks excessively like one I had, you are in trouble day one.   The “druggie” owned a small company and his actions were instrumental to his having to declare bankruptcy.  He talked a good game and that’s why I came on board.  The product was very interesting also and my skill sets fit right in.  I lasted about seventeen months.
  • THE SALES STAR—This person is a great salesman but only knows how to sell.  He is not hands-on and probably has difficulty tying his shoes.  He cannot solve problems that are not sales-related and you will need to cultivate other sources if you cannot extricate yourself from difficulties.
  • THE HATCHET MAN—This guy was hired to purge the department and reduce “fat”.  He, many times, throws the baby out with the bathwater.  He only sees what he wants to see and sometimes reduces staff to levels requiring other employees to work horrible hours to compensate.  I have experienced only one hatchet man in my career. He was hit-and-run and eventually eliminated most of the working class in the facility.
  • THE LOST LAMB—This management type is totally lost.  He is clueless.  He talks a good game but cannot play a good game.   He has no vision. He is horrible at delegating.  He does not surround himself with competent individuals and depends upon a small and select group to receive advice. They are mostly “yes-men or yes-women”.   He misses deadlines.  He is frequently over budget.
  • THE HERO—He coaches others. He brings people together. He shares. He is instrumental in surrounding himself with people possessing skill sets leaning towards accomplishment.  He is the furtherst thing from being a dictator. He is not a busybody.  He reaches a consensus by listening to his people and lets them perform at their level of capability.  He stays in touch and is always available when needed.  He is decisive and never waivers from his responsibility as a manager.  He promotes. He is gracious in his applause and never condescending even when a direct report screws up.  He never scolds in public.

I hope this helps you identify the type of manager you work for or the management style you have. It’s never too late to change and become a hero.   If you love your job and find fulfillment in your job, you can tolerate just about any management style—maybe.  Things get tough when management plays employees and become less than transparent.  I had one manager who gave the entire team less than stellar reviews because he did not want to provide bonuses or raises for his people that year.  He owned the company and the first quarter of the following year he drove in with a new Mercedes-Benz.  We all noticed!!!!!!!!

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