When I am asked of my management philosophy, my reply is usually, “It depends.” I believe the right management philosophy depends on the team composition and circumstances. Below are some easy to remember formulas:
team = manager x (staff #1 + staff #2 + … + staff #n)
This is perhaps the classic management model, the manager serves as an “enabler” of the entire team’s effectiveness. Her role is to ensure that the team is operating efficiently by defining good business practices and providing the right tools and trainings, etc. The manager’s role magnifies the entire team’s effectiveness, like a multiplier. This type of manager is usually the team’s face to the rest of the company.
team = (staff #1 + staff #2 + … + staff #n) x manager
This is like the previous model, but the manager keeps a low profile, and encourages the staff to interface directly with the other parts of the company. Managers who lead from behind like this are often new managers who may have to lean on their staff for the know-how; but when the managers grew more confident, they began to lead from the front. Managers who are mentors often lead from behind as well. They take pride in creating good pupils, and are happy to put the pupils in the spotlight. I find managers close to retirement, and those rare, self-less managers, operate this way.
team = STAFF #1 + (staff #2 + … + staff #n) x manager
Many teams have superstars; and these superstars can have big egos. Confident managers who can keep their own ego under control are best suited at managing the superstars. These managers work to give the superstars the visibility they need while not letting the egos get out of control.
team = (STAFF #1 x staff #3 + … + STAFF #2 x staff #n) x manager
One way the manager could channel superstar ego positively is challenging them to become mentors by pairing them with junior staff. This way the superstars help grow the team, learn new soft skills, and have their ego satisfied. This will also help groom future managers.
team = (manager + staff #1 + staff #2 + … + staff #n)
In many startups, the manager acts like one of the staff, and usually has a title of Team Leader to deemphasize the manager roles. This model is usually desired for budget-strapped startup companies where the management activity is minimized and product development activity is maximized. Everyone has to be “billable”. For this to work, the manager must not have a big ego, be a control freak, and get hung up on the title. Monetary reward is usually what unites the team with a single focus.
team = (staff #1 + staff #2 + … + staff #n)
In rare cases a team is so small and tight-knit, the role of a manager is unnecessary. For this nearly Utopian model to work, members must share the same vision and respect one another; and have the maturity to manage egos and handle disagreement without going through an authority. I personally only find this model works for teams formed for a specific purpose; and when the purpose is reached, the team disbands. I would venture to say that this model is rare in the corporate world.
A good manager must be perceptive of the team composition and dynamics, and apply the appropriate style of maximize the team’s effectiveness.
(The above article is solely the expressed opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of his current and past employers)