Many management books exist. They come and go like fashion. Things change. Then, they return. Some managers cite the latest and greatest. Others cite the old standbys. All search for the best management style. It’s the quest for the Holy Grail.
Here’s the secret to the best management style though: it’s all of them and none of them. Times change. Employees change. Situations change. Cultures change. Markets change. Customers change. It’s easy. One size does not fit all. Yet, all have a place when the planets align in a special way for each one.
Hey Management Gurus, People Are Different!
A commentary from The Economist prompted this post by striking a thought I’ve had for quite a while. The commentary’s main point, “Management in theory and practice is found wanting,” comes down to this key quote:
The trouble is that humans come with many different personality types and not all respond to the same coaching strategies. . . . No single approach can possibly be right (good news for writers of management books, who can keep churning them out).
Think about this. How many management books speak to personality differences when it comes to managing? For all but a few it’s “one size fits all.” Setting goals is one. Defining jobs is another. Stating a clear vision is one more. Following up is still another. The list goes on.
Now, the simple minds out there will say I’m dissing these things. No, I’m not. What I’m saying is that they don’t go far enough. They don’t talk about how to present these appealingly to different personalities. They stop short of making touch down.
The Best Management Style For Any Situation
Things change. Stuff happens. The best management style will change with these. What’s great this year might only be good next . . . then mediocre the following year . . . then down right bad after that.
We see this all the time. One moment firms want managers who can grow the business. Next they want ones who can rein in expenses. When opportunities are plentiful, perhaps a collaborative manager will do best. In a crisis, perhaps an autocrat. Ever hear of “turnaround specialists”? That’s this point in spades.
Adapting The Best Management Style
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith also points out the dangers of sticking to one way. In the end, grasp and use many styles. Don’t expect each to say when they work best though.
No, this is just something each manager needs to figure on his own. After all, each situation differs. Yes, this is work and thought. Yet, if a manager is afraid of this or can’t do it, should she really be one?