Every project manager will have their own way of dealing with things that’s unique to them and their personality and experiences. However, more generally, we all fit into types of management styles. There are pros and cons to each of these and it’s always good to recognize which one you are so as to work on pushing your strengths and shoring up your weaknesses.
The Different Types of Management Styles
The Superhero/Phone Booth Manager
The project is barely holding it together, stakeholders are complaining about delays and overruns, vendors are delivering below standard when they bother delivering at all and a panic sets in. Thankfully a quick dash to the phone booth and a superhero is now standing in everyone’s midst, making calls, soothing worries and all-around saving the day. What a hero!
Upside: Who doesn’t love a hero? Everything was a mess, and this manager flies in and makes it alright again, all the while getting showered with adulation.
Downside: Well, why was the project a mess in the first place? The cape shouldn’t be something this project manager changes into – it should be their daily attire. If they could be performing at a higher level but aren’t, then they’re letting everyone down, themselves included. Waiting for the Superhero Manager to come in and save the day also disempowers teams, which can make progress dependent on just one person.
The Helicopter Pilot
If you’ve heard of “helicopter parenting,” this is the management version. This type of management style essentially describes the micro-manager, always hovering, waiting to spot an opportunity to dive in and “help” a team member in need. They like knowing that every little detail is going as planned and seek to spot any divergence the moment it crops up.
Upside: Staff feel supported and know that their project manager is always close at hand to guide them through any difficulties.
Downside: Employees are never empowered to do things on their own and so their professional growth is stunted. There’s also the issue of spending too much time on other people’s work and not enough on one’s own, which can be straining for the manager him or herself.
Everything, no matter how great or small, needs a plan. Whether it’s improving your NPS score by 5 in six months, growing revenue by 50% over three years or finding a date for your brother’s wedding, the Strategist believes all that’s necessary is the right plan.
Upside: Highly organized and well-prepared, the Strategist makes sure everybody knows what they should be doing and what they’ll be doing for the whole project.
Downside: Plans, by their nature, are inflexible. To be Agile and flexible, one needs to be able to react and adapt rapidly to changing situations.
The Guidance counselor
In school, the guidance counselor has one of the best jobs – they don’t teach class so don’t have to give people homework, yet they have the potential to inspire every kid to be their best self. Or at least that’s how it should play out. In management, the Guidance counselor does have to actually give people work, but also thrives on helping reports to advance and improve themselves, for their own good and that of the company.
Upside: Employees have the benefit of an experienced and supportive mentor helping them to achieve their professional goals. Higher skills and loyalty are beneficial all round.
Downsides: Guidance takes time. Prioritizing personal meetings, setting career paths and providing educational opportunities can make tasks “subservient” to people and take away from more urgent or pertinent work. Guidance counselor-style managers may need to work to find a balance between the two.
Space Station Pilot
Compared to the Helicopter Pilot, always floating around, seeing what’s happening, the Space Station pilot is on another level. They trust the ground crew is capable enough and that team members are doing what they’re supposed to do, so they themselves are free to push the boundaries of what the team is capable of. The Space Station Pilot is an innovator who pushes new technology, especially when it makes everything easier.
Upside: They have the vision to see the world much more clearly and can create and execute grand plans. They may work seamlessly with the decentralized management approach of business Agile, being comfortable empowering team members with more agency over tasks.
Downside: If there’s a problem back down on earth (i.e. the team), they can be unable to help due to lack of experience or patience.
The Executor (not Executionist! Don’t worry) is the kind of manager who has been given instructions and ensures that they are executed. This type of project manager revels in being a key cog in a larger machine: orders are followed, deadlines are kept to and the project and organization move ever-forward.
Upside: Everyone is comfortable knowing their role and what they’re supposed to do. The Executor is happy to engage with everyone on performance-based matters and loves their work.
Downside: Without well-defined objectives and a clear roadmap to achieving them, the Executor can struggle to get creative and think outside the box. Also, focusing purely on work-based issues can come off as cold and disconnected.
Managers may recognize themselves in any combination of these types of management styles, or none at all. And since each has its strengths and weaknesses, you can rest assured there’s a way to make the most out of any style. Project management tools that offer flexibility and visibility, like Clarizen One, can help. Schedule a live demo today.