What Makes a Good Manager?
Management: it makes or breaks a company at every level. Organizations of all sizes need effective management to succeed; this is a given.
But while everyone can agree that good managers are essential to business success, there’s far less agreement on what makes a great manager. Furthermore, even if we can recognize good management when we see it, how can we cultivate management skills?
In today’s article, we’ll give you the answers you seek. We’ll start with an overview of the different management styles. Then, we’ll look at the qualities that great managers have in common, in order to put you on the path to becoming a better manager.
The 6 Management Styles
“‘Management’ is the arrangement and animation of human affairs in pursuit of desired outcomes.” - Tom Peters
Ever since Peter Drucker pioneered the theories that inform modern management, scholars, researchers, and business practitioners have been trying to figure out how to manage effectively.
One seminal attempt at answering this question is Daniel Goleman’s paper “Leadership That Gets Results”. Goleman draws on a study of the management practices of a random sample of more than 3,871 executives from across the world to objectively answer “What makes a great manager?”
In his paper, Goleman identifies six distinct management styles. Each is most effective in a given situation, and a good leader knows which management style to choose. Best of all, these management styles are not innate. Some styles may come to you more naturally, but you can learn all of them.
The six management styles are as follows:
Let’s explore these styles in further detail to see how each can help you in the workplace.
Of all the management styles, this is the most extreme. A coercive manager doesn’t give directions; they give orders. The implication is “do what I say, or else”. In most situations, this is an ineffective management style. It erodes morale, creates operational inefficiencies due to the lack of autonomy it gives people, and kills innovation.
When to use: Only in emergencies. This could be a business emergency such as looming financial insolvency or the threat of a hostile takeover. Or it could be a safety concern such as a fire or tornado. When the only thing that will save the employees and company is a drastic change, the coercive style is the right choice. Avoid it at all costs in other circumstances.
“Authoritative” can sound like a negative characterization due to its similarity to “authoritarian”. Correctly applied, however, the authoritative management style is one of the most effective. The authoritative manager develops a clear vision and then inspires their employees to follow it. While they are firm in their general vision, they leave room for employees to innovate in the details, which cultivates feelings of ownership and keeps employees motivated and invested in the work..
When to use: This style applies in most circumstances, but is especially valuable when a company is stagnating. The only time that this style of management would be detrimental is when the manager may have less specialized knowledge than his or her team. In this case, the authoritative management style can make a manager seem pompous and get in the way of the experts applying their skills.
The affiliative manager works to keep their employees happy and build relationships among them. They don’t just care about their employees’ feelings and emotional well-being; they also verbalize this investment, asking how their employees are doing and even meeting with them one-on-one to build rapport.
When to use: This management style can be a powerful tool for maintaining employee morale when a company is facing or recovering from difficult circumstances. The affiliative style can also aid in rebuilding trust in the wake of a failed coercive manager, and it can guide employees through times of personal crisis.
However, this style does have its drawbacks. The affiliative style can crowd out the opportunities for constructive feedback that is essential for employee growth and improvement, and leave employees unsure of the company’s goals. This style works best as a complement to the authoritative style.
As the name implies, the democratic management style involves seeking employee input and consensus when making key decisions. Applied correctly, this management style can result in greater buy-in from employees in difficult or controversial decisions, as well as fresh insights and perspectives on company planning that managers might not have come up with on their own.
When to use: The democratic management style works best when a manager is unsure of what to do and has a team of competent employees to offer the manager their valuable input.
Managers should not rely too much on this style, as it is tempting to use as an excuse to put off making a difficult decision. Managers should also avoid this style in times of crisis, when the clear vision and decisive action of authoritative management are more appropriate.
Pacesetting managers sets ambitious goals for themselves and their team members and do everything in their power to meet (or exceed) these goals. They’re experts in their own right, and they exemplify the high standard to which they hold their employees.
When to use: In the right circumstances, this style can create outstanding results. Most of the time, however, it’s a bad idea. While setting high standards is an honorable goal in theory, in practice it can create a culture of stress and micromanagement.
This approach can work wonders when leading a small team of high-achieving experts, but it should be used with caution and avoided under most circumstances.
Of all the styles we’ve explored so far, the coaching style is the one most managers overlook. This style relies on working with employees to develop their strengths and improve their weaknesses. The coaching manager engages in dialogue one-on-one with their employees, treating their relationship as a collaboration in pursuit of mutual success.
When to use: Coaching can only work when both parties - the manager and the team members - have bought into it. In other words, team members must want to be coached for this management style to add value to an organization.
But, if the manager has effectively established a mutual trust and respect between themself and their team members, instances will inevitably arise in which team members come to the manager for advice, guidance, and help improving their job performance. At this juncture, the coaching style of management is the one to reach for. But managers need not wait for their employees to be inspired to ask for coaching; managers can actively encourage employees to solicit advice.
However, managers should avoid using this style in scenarios where the manager lacks the expertise to coach their employees, or if employees have demonstrated resistance to managerial feedback.
Developing Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Improving Your Management
Underlying Goleman’s observed management styles is the idea of emotional intelligence. Goleman pioneered this field in order to explain abilities that traditional IQ tests fail to measure. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively” (80). Cultivating emotional intelligence is valuable in all areas of life, management included.
That’s right: emotional intelligence is something you can learn and develop. When people refer to “natural” management styles, they’re referring to the areas of emotional intelligence in which a manager has natural strengths. Just because certain styles come more naturally than others, however, that doesn’t mean a manager can’t work to develop the other skills and styles needed to round out his emotional intelligence toolkit.
So what does emotional intelligence entail? Instead of looking at each in isolation, we’ll examine them in the context of the four most desirable management styles: authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching.
Emotional Qualities of the Authoritative Manager
In order to be an effective authoritative manager, one needs to cultivate the following qualities:
Self-confidence - When a manager is confident in their ability to achieve the goals they set and has a high sense of self-worth, their team members can tell. Without self-confidence an authoritative management style seems forced.
Empathy - An authoritative manager can sense other people’s emotions and put themselves in their position. More than that, they care about other people's concerns. Empathy is one of the key differences between an authoritative and a coercive manager.
Change catalyst - An authoritative manager knows how to lead people toward a new vision. Under their management, change doesn’t seem forced or unpleasant; it feels inspiring and empowering.
Emotional Qualities of the Affiliative Manager
The affiliative manager exemplifies the following qualities:
Empathy - Empathy is key to being an effective manager in this case as well. After all, in order to get people to understand each other and work well together, a manager needs to relate to their employees' concerns.
Building relationships - This is the hallmark skill of affiliative management. An affiliative manager needs to be able to foster good relationships with and within their team.
Communication - Effective communication goes both ways. A good manager needs to be able to express their ideas and vision clearly, but even more so, they need to listen to what their employees have to say. When a manager exemplifies effective communication, it will make their employees more comfortable in communicating honestly with them and each other.
Emotional Qualities of the Democratic Manager
These are the qualities that characterize the democratic management style:
Collaboration - When a manager adopts a democratic management style, they invite their team to share ideas and participate in the decision making process. Collaboration is thus a key skill for employing this style. A democratic manager must know how to work with their employees, not over them.
Team leadership - While the democratic manager is a skilled collaborator, they are also a team leader. They promote cooperation among the members of their team, knowing that democracy only works if all team members have a say.
Communication - A democratic manager knows that if they want other people’s voices to be heard, they need to understand how to communicate. When they model good communication, their team members will be able to express ideas clearly in the democratic environment.
Emotional Qualities of the Coaching Manager
The coaching manager needs the following skills to succeed:
Developing others - This is the keystone skill of the coaching management style. Through feedback and guidance, the coaching manager helps others develop as employees and people.
Empathy - To coach effectively, a manager must be able to relate to the feelings and position of their team members. Even if it’s been a while since they were in their employees' positions, a coaching manager is able to adopt their employees' perspectives in order to understand what motivates their career goals.
Self-awareness - This is the ability to be aware of and understand one's emotions and the effect they have on others. For before a manager can help others develop themselves, they must first gain self-understanding.
Maintain Employee Engagement in the Workplace
There is no “right” way to become a successful manager; great management is the application of the right management style to the right situation. A great leader doesn’t just use whatever approach comes most naturally--they study and cultivate the skills that allow them to use a variety of management styles. The result is a more engaged workforce that’s better able to serve its customers.
We’ve talked a lot in this article about how great managers empower employees to do their best work. One key aspect of this process is recognizing which employees have the potential to move into new roles. After all, internal hiring not only benefits the company by maximizing the potential of its best employees, but it also engenders loyalty and cultivates a motivated and engaged workforce. Everyone wins.
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