A Tale Of Two Management Styles

A Tale Of Two Management Styles

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
~ John Quincy Adams

Have you ever been on a team where you felt your manager was trying to “herd the team” rather than inspiring them to become self sufficient. I am sure many of us have had such a manager or heard of one.

Unfortunately this style of management is more common and prevalent than we care to acknowledge. This is in fact the most easiest of the styles of management to fall into, if you aren’t cautious.

What makes this style so prevalent? Why is that some managers like to follow this style of management? Is is just convenience or is there more to it?

The Scarcity Mindset

One of the most common reasons why managers tend to fall into this style of management is because they tend to look at their roles an opportunity to exert authority on their reports.

Most first time managers look at this new position as a “license to control” and not really as a lateral move or a step up with additional responsibility.

This brings with it a false sense of authority and a desire to be “on top of things” all the time. They can become obsessed with “micro-managing” their teams.

When a manager looks at their direct reports as “resources” instead of people, they automatically view them as something that needs to be “managed” and not “developed.”

Since there are a finite number of people that report into a manager, he or she may feel the urge to “shepherded” them as a way of “controlling” (not to be mistaken as “utilizing”) them.

A scarcity mindset drives a manager to strive for conformity. There is very little room for creativity and freedom to try new things. They are afraid to try new things since they operate from a position of fear.

For them failure is not and option and any deviation from “proven path” is discouraged or even staunchly criticized.

Since they believe that managing with this mindset is a zero sum game, if someone has to win, others have to lose. There can only be one winner. Hence this often results in the infamous “bell curving” of employee performance reviews.

Having a scarcity mindset discourages people from adopting a growth mindset. So people take fewer risks and over a period of time, what you get is people who do their jobs, just good enough to protect them from getting fired! Click To Tweet

Congratulations, you’ve just mastered shepherding!

A Tale Of Two Management Styles

Over the period of 10+ years of my career in Tech, I have worked with numerous managers and each of them had their own styles. Every single experience I have had in the past has helped me examine their styles closely and come up with the following two broad styles of management:

  1. Centralized Management
  2. Decentralized Management
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Let me explain these styles further to give you a idea of what exactly I mean by this.

1. Centralized Management

This is a style of management that focuses on keeping the decision making powers heavily centralized and doesn’t encourage “consensus” based approach to problem solving.

Most of the decisions are made by either a single person or a few people at the top of the organization ladder. There is very little effort made to take people into confidence before any decision is made.

One of the most common reasons why a company may adopt this style of management is because, it gives them a false assurance that they are moving “fast” with their decisions.

It also means a few people are influencing and shaping how the products or services in the organization is built and offered.

It gives the management unlimited leverage since the decision making is centralized and hence they are able to see decisions and changes coming before everybody else in the organization.

This is a very important distinction since it lets them pivot sooner than the rest of the organization. So when things go south, they also get the wind of something bad coming, sooner than everyone else.

Although it seems to promote “efficiency” in favor of openness, it is a buzz killer!

Nothing turns off people more than management that doesn't "trust" in its own employees with the ability to lead themselves and do things in the best interest of the company. Click To Tweet

This style of management actually favors hoarding information and it is often used as a way to ration the critical information on a need only basis.

It’s a sure shot way to keep your teams from every becoming self reliant and self driven.

2. Decentralized Management

This style of management is exactly opposite to the one I described above. It is a culture where there are no single “power center” of sorts.

A company with this style of management often believes in openness and “free flow of information” throughout the organization.

The teams which operate with the style of management often tend to have high levels of trust because there is no hoarding of information.

People are encouraged to ask tough questions and the management doesn’t shy away from answering them.

To operate at this level means that the management has to have high levels of integrity and demonstrate its commitment towards its employees on an ongoing basis.

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Although it appears to be painstakingly “hard to scale”, it definitely ensures people are on board with the management and their vision.

This style of management has a common goal, i.e to empower its employees and make sure they are self reliant and are driven intrinsically.

Teams don't need to be "shepherded" for them to be successful. They just require clarity of objectives and freedom to take risks without the fear of a backlash. Click To Tweet

Journey From Shepherding To Self Sufficiency

One of the side effects of trying to “shepherd” your team is that, although it appears to pay off in the short term or even medium term, you’d slowly start to feel the burn out.

The burden of having to constantly “keep an eye” on your team will eventually catch up with you. As I mentioned earlier, your team is not motivated to “go over and beyond” at point in time. They will do just enough to keep their jobs in tact.

While you can get an astounding level of conformity in the short term, which gives might give you sense of being “in-charge” of your team, you might fail to recognize the growing sense of suffocation in your team.

So if you are a manager in such a company, how do you move from being a “shepherd” to a “leader”. How do you make your teams more self reliant? How do you make sure they are motivated to go over and beyond their job description to perform their best?

Interestingly enough, google undertook a massive research project called – Project Aristotle. Their study revealed that these 5 qualities make your team extremely successful.

So if you are looking at ways to grow your team and guide them towards self sufficiency and have them work effectively, follow the above tips.

There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than seeing your team grow and succeed and being able to guide them in this journey, is truly a privileg. You don't want to miss. Click To Tweet

What has been your experience working with different teams in your career? Did you encounter the management styles I listed above? What steps did you take to grow your team?

Leave you thoughts in the comment section. I would love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Management Styles”

  1. It’s really hard in management to find the balance of how involved or not involved to be in day-to-day activities. I try to allow my team to be as independent as possible as long as they are communicating appropriately up the line and with their teammates. Being too decentralized isn’t the best either because communication is essential so everyone knows what’s going on. Great post with insight from both sides.

    • It’s a hard balance to strike and unfortunately many companies I’ve worked with in the past seem to tilt heavily towards one or the other.

      I’ve found that there’s no getting away from them. So I’ve tried to find teams that work for me and my style of working.

  2. Love me some John Quincy Adams’ quotes!

    I love the graphic organizer here and how I learned more centralized management vs. decentralized management. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Also, when you mentioned scarcity mindset, it really makes me think of “fixed mindset” and the work of Carol Dweck with growth mindset. She weaves together awesome tales of great and bad leadership in her book. You’d probably like it if you haven’t checked it out already.

    • @SavvyHistory,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I haven’t look at the book yet. I think it will be a great read.

      Yes fixed mindset can really mess with your team and stop them from ever taking risks.

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