The workplace, often a touchy subject. Are people supposed to enjoy it? Is it natural to hate it? The truth is probably somewhere in between, but one thing’s for sure: leadership can make a huge difference. Poor leadership can make for a grueling and unpleasant workplace environment. For people that enjoy their work, however, stories about great and motivating leadership are abundant.
This, of course, isn’t a new discovery. How leadership can motivate or alienate workers has been an important subject since societies have existed. More recently in his book, Clint Pulver breaks down four different types of managers he has observed in the workplace, and how workers respond to these kinds of leadership. He describes The Removed Manager, The Buddy Manager, The Controlling Manager, and The Mentor Manager. Let’s take a look at what each of these are and how teams respond.
The Removed Manager
The removed manager is just that: removed. They don’t play an active role as leadership, they aren’t particularly engaged with the team, and they more or less just exist on the chain of command. Maybe they need a career change and haven’t found a good move, maybe they’re just sticking around for the benefits—whatever the case, if they were ever excited about the position, that time is long gone.
Low engagement with the team has predictable results. Pulver explains that the removed manager sets low expectations, achieves low engagement, and workers feel disengaged as a result. The team is just working towards the next paycheck, likely looking for another place to work instead. There’s no reason to stick around a place that doesn’t even know you’re there.
The Buddy Manager
It might seem like anything is better than the removed manager, and to some extent, that’s probably the case. However, better doesn’t mean good. The buddy manager is a good example of this. Pulver describes the buddy manager essentially as being a friend first and a leader second. Running late? No problem, friend! Need the rest of the week off? You got it!
High engagement, high connection…low expectations. Don’t get me wrong, having a positive relationship with your workers is incredibly important, but making this professional relationship and friendship with low expectations can create an entitled team. Workers might feel comfortable with leadership, but to the point of expecting leadership to sacrifice business for friendship. This can quickly throw productivity out the window.
The Controlling Manager
To avoid entitlement, a more rigid leadership might seem like the obvious option. Too rigid, though, and you have another problem. Pulver describes the controlling manager as having a “my way or the highway” mentality. “You should be grateful to have this job,” the controlling manager says, entirely uninterested in the workers as individuals.
As you can imagine, this sort of mentality is often met with pushback. Workers are people and people need to be engaged with humanity—it’s how we work. If leadership treats workers as just cogs in the machine, workers can feel disengaged with the work and even rebel. Productivity goes down, workers might misbehave or make “mistakes” out of spite, and ultimately the business takes a hit. This kind of leadership leads down a dangerous path for everybody.
Although none of these leadership styles are ideal, they all offer interesting points. Too removed and workers won’t feel engaged. Too demanding and workers push back. Too lenient and workers take advantage. Each seems to be a correction on the last, but still miss the mark somehow. How do you strike a balance?
The Mentor Manager
Enter the mentor manager. As Pulver says, “this is where the magic happens.” Mentors lead people through growth and towards their goals. The mentor manager does this in the workplace, investing in their workers as individuals and helping them grow within the framework of the organization both as employees and as people. By making sure workers feel confident and capable, the mentor manager ensures that the entire organization is built on a sturdy foundation, and everything simply falls into place. Everything else, of course, referring to results, profits, etc. Much like with servant leadership, when the team feels valued and supported, they will reinvest this effort into their work, which will be reflected in the business.
Pulver argues that becoming a mentor manager is the most valuable skillset to acquire, and I think it’s pretty easy to understand why. It’s good for business, it’s good for individual employees, and it’s good for leaders too. Just what a mentor manager might look like in practice will depend on each workplace and team, though. Do you know how it would look like for you? Do you know any mentor managers in your own workplace?
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