You can categorize managers as long as you want, but in my opinion, the biggest difference between them is the attitude of the manager to their own duties. Their style is often guided by what is more important to them – expert task assignment or the fact that everyone works as much as the contract says they should. Let’s see what kinds of teams vibe best with what types of managers, and vice versa.
Warden – good at discipline, not good at task assignment
When we think of managers, many of us immediately imagine the Warden. They are strict, their voice often turns into a bark, and they always make sure that everything is run by the book and everyone comes in and leaves at the designated times. The management style of this type is built on overbearing, authoritarianism, colorful presentation, the ability to keep everything under control and closely monitor task completion (and by that I mean absolutely all tasks, regardless of their importance in the grand scheme of things).
The warden often hovers over employees and controls every step they take. Asking for time off or even for a much-deserved holiday turns into a psychological torture session (or series of sessions). There is an element of crazy to the whole character: being five minutes late deserves serious penalizing; negligence in the workplace seems perfectly fine to them.
People who love their job and genuinely want to learn, don’t like the warden and leave their position for another one, with a better leader. People who love peace and quiet, obey without questioning, and believe that discipline is everything, tend to stay and actually enjoy themselves.
Such type of management is perfect in crisis situations or for businesses with low employee retention where you buy employee’s time by the hour rather than form long-term partnerships based on professionalism. Usually these are positions that don’t require a qualification such as security guard, driver, cashier, and so on.
Counselors – don’t care about either task assignment or discipline
This type of manager is at the other end of the spectrum altogether. The Counselor is full of peace, love and positive energy, always trying hard to be part of the group, and not meddle with work duties (neither tasks not discipline). As long as everyone is happy, everything is peachy.
Counselors are always happy to let staff run errands in the middle of the day. They will never torment subordinates with questions about what they are doing, who gave them tasks and for what reasons. Sometimes they are very close with the team even after hours.
This style is perfect for creative professionals. They are good at completing their projects just as they are, without guidance, without micro management, just because they love what they do. Art for art’s sake, so to speak. But in order to move mountains for a more complicated project, creative personalities do need the right drive, motivation and guidance.
It’s next to impossible to get clear KPIs or a year plan from Counselors. Most of their energy goes into creating a welcoming atmosphere in the team. Counselors are perfect at leading teams of artists, designers, musicians, scientists and other creative professionals. The only condition is letting creatives enjoy freedom to do whatever they find necessary.
Leader – good at task assignment, doesn’t care about discipline
Leaders are concerned with assigning tasks properly and optimizing business processes but are totally unmoved by the fact that someone came in thirty minutes late. They interfere with job completion only to a degree that ensures successful KPI completion. Finding a personal approach with each team member is only done to enhance efficiency.
Leaders are able to achieve amazing results with almost any team. They can organize workflow to make it fit everyone’s schedule and agenda, assign tasks intelligently, follow through with completion, averting problems before they even arise.
The relationships of leaders and their subordinates are based on mutual respect. Meeting set goals is the most important aspect to them. If a GP appointment or working from home once a week does not get in the way of achieving set results, leaders are all for it. At the same time, arriving late to a client meeting or failing to meet deadlines will most likely not impress them at all.
Building a personal relationship with each team member is draining, in terms of spent energy and even business resources on bonuses for the most accomplished staff members. Therefore, operational costs of teams headed by a Leader are higher. Spending so much on teams with low staff retention or creative collectives that just want to be left alone is not a good idea. A Leader always creates a team that is a force of nature. These should be used for special projects, like guiding a team of managers, for example.
So who’s good at both task assigning and discipline?
Hypothetically, there still one more type of manager left – the manager that both follows through with discipline and aces business process optimization, excellent at pinpointing strengths in each team member to intelligently assign tasks. I have never met this rare type anywhere except for my wildest dreams, so I won’t even attempt to describe it. If you have worked with this unicorn, your comments on the experience are most welcome.
The Perfect Manager
Of course, nothing in life is black and white, and the types I have mentioned above are extremes, rather than real people. A good manager is a professional who knows that sometimes he has to put on a hat of a Leader, but also be ready with the Warden’s whip for other occasions. I think that all good managers always possess a few qualities that help them effectively lead teams of any size or quality:
- Proactivity. Solving issues before they appear by optimizing business processes;
- Tranquility. Communicating the feeling of confidence in the team’s successful delivery;
- Healthy self-esteem. Never wasting any time or effort to impress others;
- Good sense of humor. Knowing that to do things right, everyone needs to laugh.
The most important quality of a good manager, in my opinion, is their unselfish interest in the happiness of others. Some managers focus this interest on their team and how happy it is in terms of business resources and yummy ‘carrots’ they receive. Others focus it on the happiness of the board of directors and whether objectives are being met, profits are growing and costs falling. The best managers cater to the needs of both groups equally.
Considering what I’ve talked about above may help managers reach their full potential when they choose their team and management style. I hope it can also help staff members pick their ideal boss and allow business owners to find people they can safely trust their enterprise with.