If your leadership style is not working…
If your leadership style is not working…
You’ve identified that your style of management isn’t working, but how do you effectively make the change without hurting your organization?
By Lou Dubois
Robb Heineman, one of the principal owners of Sporting Kansas City
When five local entrepreneurs purchased the Kansas City, Missouri-based Major League Soccer franchise for $15 million back in 2006 (then known as the Wizards), they came into a business that had been owned by the late Lamar Hunt as a secondary property behind his NFLteam (the Kansas City Chiefs) and that didn’t have much brand identity. The new owners, though, came in with little soccer knowledge but focused on building an innovative business and becoming a community staple. And in five short years, they’ve massively changed the organizational structure and are building a new model for sports franchise management.
“We have the utmost respect for Lamar Hunt and what he did for soccer in Kansas City,” says Robb Heineman, one of the principal owners of the recently renamed Sporting Kansas City. “Without him, we wouldn’t even be here. But we wanted to challenge the model. At the end of the day, the team on the field needs to be successful to succeed. But we hope that by building and managing a team on the business side that is winning from an innovation perspective, that translates to on-field success.”
Assessing your organization’s management style and determining its time for a change is not easy, though. If you’re new, as the Sporting Kansas City owners were, they had a chance to redefine the way the business was run. But not all managers have that luxury and sometimes need to change styles in their existing role.
“If you begin to think your management style is backfiring, where you ultimately see it is in the disengagement of your staff,” notes Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark Consulting, a business advisory firm based in Simsbury, Connecticut. “As employees become disengaged, they become less interested in your success as a leader but more importantly in your company’s overall success, which is what matters most.” But how can you successfully change your management style like the ownership group did at Sporting Kansas City? This guide will describe the five different management styles, how to recognize the type of style you employ and how to make that important organizational shift.
How to Change Your Management Style: What Type of Manager Are You? The first step to changing your management style is identifying what type of manager you are. Traditionally, there are four management styles, but a fifth is also worth noting.
Autocratic: A leader who requires control over all organizational decisions and requests little input from his or her team members characterizes autocratic management, also referred to as Authoritarian. In a positive sense, autocratic leaders are good at making decisions, although they may not always be the most informed. On the negative side, people who work for autocratic managers often feel as though their contributions are not valued by the organization and decisions often don’t consider how it will affect employees other than the manager.
Paternalistic: Paternalistic management is also very dictatorial, but includes the best interests of the employees as well as the business itself. In a very basic sense, the leader is often in a better situation to make overall organizational decisions due to experience. A well-known example of a paternalistic leader is Steve Carrell’s character Michael Scott in the NBC comedy The Office. From a positive perspective, these managers care about the social needs of their employees (for example, being happy), but it also slows down and clouds the decision-making process.
Democratic: Exactly as it sounds, a democratic management style gives everyone equal say in decisions, from employees to management themselves. The “leadership by committee” approach makes employees feel really good about the overall product, and the collaborative style of management often leads to more thorough and thought-out solutions to problems. If the workforce doesn’t have the experience necessary to make informed decisions, they can sometimes be made hastily while also being drawn out in the decision-making process (since you are soliciting input from much of the organization), but democratic leadership is popular and often effective.
Laissez-Faire: A form of management that is characterized by being very hands-off and allowing group members to make many big decisions, a laissez-faire management style has generally led to the lowest productivity level among groups. In short, that is due to very little managerial guidance and freedom for employees to make many decisions (informed or not). In an organization where your employees are highly experienced, good at working on their own and/or motivated, a laissez-faire approach can be a good one, but in many cases, leaders need to actually lead.
Servant Leadership: the leader being focused on their colleagues and what they need to succeed defines the fifth and final management style, made popular by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant as a Leader.” They are often humble managers that are extremely talented at tapping into the expertise of their entire organization. “The reason I think servant leadership is so powerful is because no matter what industry you’re in or how large or small your business, you’re likely in business to serve someone else—namely a customer,” says Picoult. “Servant leadership provides a model for employees of what it means to serve internally, and that’s something they can apply to the customers they deal with.”
Dig Deeper: Leadership Styles Guide