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Pat Shuff's Blog

  • November 17, 2006

strong or weak management styles

So I am somewhat of a history buff and a fan of football. I also have a disdain for authority and don't really respect managers or leaders. My feeling is that they need to earn my trust and prove their worth. I have worked for a large number of worthless managers that got in the way of accomplishing the organizations goals and had a personal agenda that I got sucked into. I have been fortunate to find a couple of people that I would take a major pay cut or work major overtime to work with because I believe in similar things that they believe in and like their management styles. Even more fortunately, my current manager is one of those people. Currently, life is very good.

The reason I bring this up is what management style is best? The parallel in real life is which is better, centralized strong government or distributed and delegated authority? Most Americans agree that one of the strongest presidents that we have had of modern times was Ronald Regan. I don't want to get sucked into a Republican vs Democrat debate so for the record I am more of an Independant/Libretarian in my voting style. What I do want to talk about is Regan's leadership skills. He was not the type of person that could quote facts or statistics about an issue. He delegated most of the decisions to his trusted advisors. Alan Greenspan, for example, was one of his trusted avisors and led the financial market very well during his tenure. During the Regan administration states powers increased which for some states was a good thing but for others caused problems later down the road.

On the flip side, Adolph Hitler was a strong central government. His generals could not execute war plans in the field without approval from Hitler himself. Now I am not bringing up Hitler as an example of great leadership. I am bringing him up as a polar opposite to the Regan style of government. Instead of trusting his advisors, Hitler insisted on "micro managing" all decisions. This lead to weak and ineffectual middle level of management. This management style was pervasive into the organization. Every level of the German government required approval from the management. This led to lack of response in time of emergency, specifically when the allies landed on the northern coast of France.

The reason I degress into the management analysis is that I am currently working with a customer that is having difficulty rolling out products in the IT department. The previous CIO was an iron fisted do-it-my-way-or-the-highway manager who was just waiting to retire. The company stagnated technically and didn't grow as the industry grew. The new CIO is more of a trusting individual that wants to let individuals contribute and express their creativity. Unfortunately, the staff that exists was trained not to ask questions, not to show initiative. When the CIO attends a meeting he expects everyone in the room to contribute and they don't. They have hired a team of consultants to deploy the new technology but the employees who are managing the consultants are not willing to step forward and make decisions. They require an additional meeting getting someone else in the room to make the decision. When that person does not show up, nothing gets done or they start down the wrong path and have to restart the initiative. No one has global view on what they are trying to accomplish.

On the flip side I have been working with a new manager that is allowing me to see how long my leash should be and letting me have the run of the yard. I haven't been given everything that I ask for but I have been given everything that is reasonable plus a little more. My previous manager was very non-confrontational and didn't even insist that everyone on his staff show up to group meetings. If the lead developer wanted to sleep late on our normal Tuesday meeting time, it wasn't a problem because he was working hard. Unfortunately, that elevated that developer over everyone else and made us repeat all decisions that were made in the meeting and the background of the decisions. The job before that I was told that there was an open door policy but asked to leave the office when I started asking the tough questions like why is the manager consuming over half of the training budget on himself.

I guess that I am very fortunate to have a good manager that is giving me the freedom to be creative and supporting me in my initiatives. Unfortunately, it means that I have to be successful in the long run. Not that there is a problem with that. It just makes it more important to do well. For me it is more insentive than a large bonus or pay raise. Meeting expectations for me is the key to success. Fortunately I am in an industry where I have been given the opportunity to set my own expectations and resources needed to meet them.

While on break this week, think about your managers style. Does it fit your personality? Are you doing things to make them successful or are they providing you the resources to make you achieve your goals? What motivates you? Money? Fortune? Fame? Doing your best? I think that I know my answers to these questions. I'm just glad that I am not the manager that has to take care of these questions for people reporting to me. I am a much better individual contributor than I am at meeting other peoples expectations.




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