Managers are typically tasked with monitoring, evaluating, and guiding the work of other people. This focus on external goals and activities does not necessarily encourage introspection; however, it is vital that managers become examiners of their own behavior and performance, as well as of their employees. Knowing your management style, your strengths, and your limitations can help you become a more effective team member, and can make it easier to guide the performance of your employees as well (Clarke, 2010). This CQ Dossier will provide an introductory guide to the process.
Self-Knowledge is Vital
When working as a manager, your focus is likely to be on other people. On a daily basis, you are tasked with monitoring the work of other people, providing motivation and leadership, evaluating performance, and reducing interpersonal conflicts (Mosadeghrad et al, 2017). These responsibilities are outward-looking; as such, you may feel as though self-observation is not your strong suit, or is a task you should not devote time and energy to. A growing scientific literature on self-awareness, however, begs to differ (Sy, Tam, & O’Hara, 2006).
Research shows that managers who possess high emotional intelligence are more effective, respected, and appreciated within their organizations (Clarke, 2010). But “emotional intelligence” does not only entail awareness of other people’s feelings and needs – a truly emotionally intelligent person is aware of how they are feeling and what they need, as well. A degree of emotional openness is also essential to forming significant relationships with people in your organization. Managers who are introspective are more likely to recognize their own failings, be humble, and connect with their employees in meaningful ways (Argadona, 2015). Therefore, it is highly beneficial for you to engage in a bit of self-exploration and reflection.
Evaluating Your Style
Most organizational research classifies management as having up to seven distinct styles: Autocratic, Consultative, Persuasive, Democratic, Chaotic, and Laissez-Faire (Saeed et al, 2014). A manager’s predominant style can be classified by an outside observer, such as a psychological researcher or consultant; however, a well-trained, well-informed manager can also examine their own practice and determine what their management style is (Obiwuru et al, 2011).
Why evaluate your style? The advantages to determining your management style are manifold: first, knowing your style of management helps you to understand the core values and assumptions that guide your decision making (Obiwuru et al, 2011). If you are a Democratic manager, your actions show great respect for the expertise and desires of others; if you are a Autocratic manager, you value structure and hierarchy to a much greater degree. Knowledge of your own style can also help you identify areas of growth or challenge – some management situations may be better suited to a style you are not currently very well versed in (Lok & Crawford, 1999).
By understanding your style of management, you can also examine the common problems experienced by other managers of your style, and pre-empt them if necessary (Yang et al, 2011). For example, if you are a Democratic manager, you probably are respected and valued by your employees, and seen as approachable and just. However, as a Democratic manager, you may sometimes find that the whims or preferences of your employees carry more weight than the organizations needs, or what the data recommends. Recognizing this problem can help you to adapt and make sure your organization is not excessively ruled by fleeting democratic preferences (Lok & Crawford, 1999).
How to classify your style. The most straightforward means of evaluating your management style is by reading the scientific literature on how each style is typified. Each management style is characterized by overall trends and values, and you may recognize your own tendencies among them. However, it may also be the case that your ideal management style and your actual practice do not line up. To make sure you are being a reasonably objective evaluator of your own style, include the input of your human resources department, or possibly a management consultant.
To further verify your self-evaluation, you can use a validated psychological measure of management styles, such as Clark and Clark’s (1990) leadership measures. These surveys and assessments, while multiple decades old at this point, have been used in a variety of organizational and cultural contexts, and have proven robust and reliable. A significantly younger measure, by Dulewics and Higgs (2005) evaluates leadership style and organizational context simultaneously. You can also seek to cross-reference your evaluation by surveying trusted employees and fellow managers about your own style. The perceptions of other people can be invaluable in understanding how your managerial decisions come across.
Evaluating Your Strengths
Once you have come to understand your management style and worked on your introspection, the time has come to clear-headedly examine your weaknesses and strengths. It is important to remember, at this stage, that all managers have room for improvement, and that all management styles and policies come with limitations and flaws. Acceptance of limitations and criticism is vitally important, as it will make you more receptive to change. Just as you ought to motivate your employees with a mixture of encouragement and critique, you must be gentle, yet honest, with yourself.
Style-based strengths. Your unique strengths as a manager probably align with your management style (Lok & Crawford, 1999). Autocratic managers often enjoy high group cohesion and adherence to rules; Consultative managers tend to cultivate environments where the expertise of all people is allowed to shine, and a variety of perspectives are considered. Discuss your performance with your colleagues, and even wit your employees, and determine if the common themes that emerge are consistent with your perceived style.
Your leadership style should also inform your understanding of professional limitations (Luthans & Peterson, 2002). Could your organization benefit from greater structure? Or does it need more horizontal organization and collaboration? How receptive are you, as a manger, to the concerns and ideas of employees with less status than you? Do you need to be more responsive to conflict, or less? It is likely that the organizational issues that you struggle the most with, emotionally, are also the ones that you could stand to grow professionally in addressing.
Outcome-based strengths. Perhaps the most clear-cut way to evaluate your performance as a manager is to look at discrete, measurable outcomes. What is the retention rate in your department? How many of your employees are meeting their productivity goals? What does employee satisfaction or absenteeism look like in your department, compared to others? When examining your strengths, look at qualitative factors as well – survey employees and observe how they describe your actions. Are you seen as warm and accepting, or competent and focused? You will have a hard time finding direct criticism in employee feedback, but you can still glean a great deal from the attributes they choose to focus on when describing you. By triangulating these outcomes with your own self-knowledge and the feedback of HR, you can determine areas of potential improvement (Yang et al, 2011).
Managers are seldom encouraged to consider their own attributes and internal feelings, but to utterly ignore these factors is a significant oversight
Managers who are high in self-knowledge are more effective, and are better at connecting with employees
Self-knowledge of your leadership style can help you identify your values, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a manager
Organizational outcomes, such as absenteeism and productivity, can help you identify your areas of potential improvement
Feedback from HR, as well as interviews and surveys of employees, can help you identify how you are perceived and how effective you are as a manager
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Argandona, A. (2015). Humility in management. Journal of Business Ethics, 132(1), 63-71.
Clark, K. E., & Clark, M. B. (Eds.). (1990). Measures of leadership. West Orange, NJ, US: Leadership Library of America.
Clarke, N. (2010). Emotional intelligence and its relationship to transformational leadership and key project manager competences. Project Management Journal, 41(2), 5-20.
Dulewicz, V., & Higgs, M. (2005). Assessing leadership styles and organisational context. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(2), 105-123.
Lok, P., & Crawford, J. (1999). The relationship between commitment and organizational culture, subculture, leadership style and job satisfaction in organizational change and development. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 20(7), 365-374.
Luthans, F., & Peterson, S. J. (2002). Employee engagement and manager self-efficacy. Journal of Management Development, 21(5), 376-387.
Mosadeghrad, A. M., & Mojbafan, A. (2017). Conflict Management Styles of Nurse Managers in Hospitals Affiliated to Tehran University of Medical Sciences: 2015. Iran Journal of Nursing, 30(107), 62-73.
Obiwuru, T. C., Okwu, A. T., Akpa, V. O., & Nwankwere, I. A. (2011). Effects of leadership style on organizational performance: A survey of selected small scale enterprises in Ikosi-Ketu council development area of Lagos State, Nigeria. Australian Journal of Business and Management Research, 1(7), 100.
Saeed, T., Almas, S., Anis-ul-Haq, M., & Niazi, G. S. K. (2014). Leadership styles: relationship with conflict management styles. International Journal of Conflict Management, 25(3), 214-225.
Sy, T., Tram, S., & O’Hara, L. A. (2006). Relation of employee and manager emotional intelligence to job satisfaction and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(3), 461-473.
Yang, L. R., Huang, C. F., & Wu, K. S. (2011). The association among project manager's leadership style, teamwork and project success. International journal of project management, 29(3), 258-267.
Erika Price is a social psychologist, writer, and statistical and methodological consultant based in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Erika's research has focused on the psychology of political tolerance and open-mindedness. In addition to conducting experimental and survey-based research on these topics, Erika helps clients use methodological and data analytic tools to answer pressing questions that challenge their organization.