Leading People Series:

The Leadership Manager

This site, What makes a good leader, has coined the term leadership manager to describe a manager who varies their leadership style to respond to different scenarios.

The reason a leadership manager adapts their leadership style is to maximize the performance of the organization. To get the best outcomes you will find that different situations require different leadership styles.

There are a number of scenarios where a manager will adapt their leadership style including,

  • Your people are at different levels of development

  • You want to drive change

  • You want to build company spirit

  • You want to create focus on critical issues

What Makes a Good Leader "Hot Links"

This page is just one in the “what makes a good leader” series providing tips and techniques on effective people leadership.

Leadership Style - Hands on, Hands off
“The Leadership Manager”

There are three leadership styles for managers

The hands off manager:

These managers manage through their team leaders, never bypassing the line of authority. They do not tend to interfere in the daily running of the business, even during times of change.

These managers find that their style works, the business maintains its current course, productivity is constant and customer service levels are where you would expect them to be.

However, they become frustrated with

  • Their direct reports who do not meet targets or complete assigned tasks. Employees working for hands off managers do not tent to develop or develop very slowly. This occurs because the hands off managers do not pitch their coaching and support at the right level for these employees to ensure the employee develops the required skills.

  • Their change management programs because their change programs are often slow or stalled because these hands off managers remain distant they do not get actively involved with their change programs and the business never reaches its full potential.

New managers often deliberately select this leadership style as their style of choice; making statements like “I do not need to follow up with my employees; I trust them”.

If you are a hands off manager then read more about the leadership manager, try this new leadership style and see your employees develop and your team’s performance improve.

The hands on manger:

These managers interfere constantly in the running of the business; they bypass the organization structure and issue instructions directly with frontline employees. These managers do not delegate effectively and their employees sit back and allow the manager to do the work.

A hands on manager is someone who thinks

  • My employees are not ready to do this task

  • It will take longer for me to explain the task than to just do the task myself

  • I am the only person here with the knowledge to do this task

The hands on manager will need to be a workaholic to get through the amount of work they choose to take on; they become frustrated with and loose faith in their employee’s ability.

These managers tend to run businesses at below average performance.

Often the hands on manager will hide behind the statement “I am a perfectionist; I want things done to a high standard”. However, on observation, these managers tend to want things done their way, which is rarely perfect and their work is often of low grade.

The self-professed claim of perfectionism is really a mask for “Controlling” and “Unwilling to let go” or “not prepared to try new ways”

If you are a hands on manager then your team’s performance will improve and your employees will take on more responsibility if you adopt the leadership style of the leadership manager.

The Leadership Manager:

The leadership manager will, in general, be a hands off manager, however they will change their leadership style in the following situations; when,

  • managing cultural change: example: Requiring team leaders to adopt a new behavior (say, starting to do monthly one-on-ones, starting to managing undesirable behaviors in the team, starting to provide regular coaching)

  • they have a direct report who is new or is developing new skills

  • a team member or team leader “goes off the ball” or looses their way

  • implementing process change

  • completing a unique short-term activity, or

  • a team leader requests additional support

In these scenarios, the leadership manager will adopt a “hands on leadership style”.

Read further to find out how to be hands on without interfering.

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The Leadership Manager and Behavioral Change

“This how to guide” applies the techniques of the “leadership manager” to introduce more leadership success into your business, including improving your cultural change programs.

Some typical behavioral change scenarios

  • Team leaders starting to manage undesirable behaviors

  • Team leaders commencing monthly one-on-ones

  • Team leaders starting to manage absenteeism

Leadership Manager Tip: Gain a thorough understanding of the “Behavioral Modification” motivation theory – once mastered you will use it frequently.

Let us take the example of getting your team leaders to start giving all employees formal feedback every month, you are asking them to change their behaviour from not giving feedback to giving feedback.

If we break the behavior down further, you are asking your team leaders to,

  • commence planning to give feedback,

  • organizing the feedback session with the employees,

  • structure the feedback session, and

  • act on employee issues that the leader has not faced up to previously.

What is your role as a Leadership Manager?

Your role is to support, coach and mentor your staff through each of the stages of this change.

The leadership manager process:

After assigning the task “Give your staff feedback each month” you need to give your staff a day or two to process the request and work out how they are going to complete the task.

After 2 days you should follow up with the team leader and ask them “Who are you going to give feedback to first?” by asking this question, you are doing two things

  • Showing interest and commitment to the goal

  • Opening the door to a coaching session

Now the leadership manager is prepared to be hands on or hands off depending on the needs of the team leader, (works for team members too).

If your team leader does not seem to have a plan, the leadership manager will offer to help them to get started. Note the word “offer” if your team leader does not take up the offer you should only reinforce expectations that they have a plan by .

If the leadership manager finds that the team leader has a plan then you simply provide positive feedback. (The plan may not be the way you would plan, however that is ok).

(In high performing companies, the leaders play an active role in getting the task started).

Then find out what time the first feedback session is and one hour before it starts go back and ask the team leader how they are going with their plan, offer to role play if required, ask what information they are using as a basis to provide feedback.

The simple secret of the leadership manager is that they adopt a hands off management style for most day-to-day management activities, however they will flicker between hands on and hands off management during times of change and in response to their peoples or business needs.
The team leaders will either have booked a room and have a structure for the session or they will be vague – again offer to help if you see the team leader is in need of some assistance.

You will be amazed at how many times I have sat with a team leader and coached them through the process of developing a monthly employee feedback plan, including who and when, all resulting in the team leaders commencing and persisting with providing employee feedback on a monthly basis.

A Key Point

By adopting a hands-off leadership style, you will be missing the opportunity to coach, mentor and provide positive reinforcement. By adopting a hands on leadership style, during periods of change, you will help your employee meet their goals, build the trust and confidence of your employees and provide support just when the team leaders require it the most.

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Continue your leadership manager journey by learning about management by walking around
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