Different types of managers and when to adapt

By Mark LeBusque. Published at Jun 10, 2020, in Features

There’s a lot of talk about managing in a certain way in order to get the most out of your people. In fact, you can find thousands of business books espousing the best ways to become a successful manager and climb the corporate ladder.

Whilst it would be utopia to find that perfect style of managing other humans, I can tell you from experience that the very best managers are nimble on their feet and can adapt in an instant to a different management style depending on the immediate circumstances.

Their adaptations are not significant swings from one style to another, but more slight adjustments that are necessary at a moment in time.

I call it situational management.

In my first book, Being Human, I share six management styles that I’ve witnessed over 20+ years in the business world. I’ve outlined in more detail four of these that will give you the moves to successfully transition back to the office, which is the next major disruption both managers and employees will face.

  1. SuperHuman – Short Term 24/7 Bursts there are times when it’s just “go, go, go” and you need to put on your cape and perform superhuman acts. Tighter than usual deadlines, that huge pitch that you had to complete in half the usual time, an unexpected tender lands on your desk etc. etc. I’m sure you felt overwhelmed initially, but then once the adrenaline kicks in, you find another gear and find a way to get stuff done. You are working ultra-long hours, coordinating resources to the second, making quick decisions on limited information in limited timeframes and just keeping up with the minute by minute change. It’s a time when you are kicking into the hardwiring of surviving a short period of chaos in order to win long-term. Think of this time as a sprint not a marathon or you might find yourself heading into the murky waters of burnout if you try to be superhuman for too long.
  2. Human Emotionally Invested and Human Focus First – humans need to make sense, feel connected and a have sense of belonging. This is particularly so in times of constant stress. This is the most important adaptation to master as it will bring business success more quickly than you ever imagined possible. The ability to provide direction, protection and order for the humans you are privileged to have under your care. We’ve all been exposed to this as work from home (WFH) became the “new normal”. We saw employees as humans at home, learned about their pets and kids, took time to have Friday drinks and regularly checked in and asked “how are you feeling?”. It is important to not see this as a fleeting fad but more as a long-term behavioural change that will add value to the way you manage. All managers should look to put this style at the top of their list and have it as their default.
  3. Robot – Absolutely Follow the Rulebook – As much as there’s a level of monotony to this style of management, it is also a critical piece to have in your management toolbox. There are times when process, policies and procedures must be followed to the letter of the law. This is where the role of the Robotic manager is important. Creating and enforcing rules and being regimented about this can be the difference between life and death in some businesses, or at a lesser level, the difference between being on the right or wrong side of the law. However, just like the superhuman style, you should be wary of practicing this for an extended period of time. If you do observe closely how your people start to zone out, become demotivated and disengaged and ultimately find another workplace where they don’t feel like policy and process is always put before commonsense.
  4. Tyrant – Sometimes management isn’t a Democracy – it’s no good being a little “both ways” or what I refer to as a “pushover” manager. Sometimes you have to be unpopular and rule with an iron fist. My suggestion here is that you use a little of the tyrant approach early days in your management career just to be able to set some boundaries. If you give an inch early some will take a mile. This should be a short-term approach to set the scene for what’s expected. Don’t stay in this space for too long or the employees will live in fear. It’s really there for a super short term burst in order to get things back on track before they spiral out of control.

My final piece of advice is to default to human, but also have the awareness to adapt depending upon a moment in time and a requirement in the business.

It’s all about self-awareness and reading the situation.

Don’t get caught in one style.

How will you adapt in order to grow as a manager?

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