Today’s organizations are increasingly focused on cultural fit. And for most organizations, managerial fit — or the concept of matching management and leadership styles to the team and the work culture — is equally important, as the skills and approach needed to meet a team’s demand for leadership or to complete a task can vary significantly. Often, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works best across the entire organization.
Instead, you should rely on skills and competency analyses to determine where and how leadership fits into a particular team or role. That means first understanding the roles and the teams in question. However, taking steps to ensure a good managerial fit can improve business productivity more than many other remediation measures you take because it bottlenecks and detractors in leadership.
Components of a good manager
Nearly everyone is familiar with different management styles like waterfall vs. Agile. Most organizations would never try to put an Agile leader in a waterfall team or vice versa, unless they were shifting the entire team approach. People learn and work in different ways, and the management style needs to accommodate the various strengths and weaknesses. Managerial styles are commonly broken down into four major categories: delegation, coaching, training, and supervising.
The leader directly plans and distributes tasks to individuals. The manager is responsible for signing off on all work and ensuring quality. This method is a good fit for task-based teams, such as maintenance development, customer service, pick and pack, etc. This is an authoritarian leadership style.
This style maps to democratic leadership styles. In it, the leader helps the team plan, manage, and decide how best to achieve goals or outcomes. They help teams find individual solutions to issues by asking questions, coaching, and offering empowerment, while functioning as an expert in the field when needed. This method is a great fit for teams that work in product development, problem-solving, and engineering.
The team lead is normally an expert in the field and primarily exists to enable the team to work efficiently, usually by directly showing them how. This tapers off in efficacy as the team’s skill level grows. However, if someone provides excellent training, they may be a good fit for managing starter teams, where people are introduced to the organization and its work before moving into their own teams. This maps to “visionary” leadership styles.
In this style, the leader oversees the team and steps in when necessary to offer advice and structure. Their role normally revolves around quality and people management. However, it’s unlikely the leader would create or drive new strategies. This method is very common in manufacturing and production, where repetitive work is performed to a consistent standard. It’s also considered an authoritarian leadership style.
Each leadership style assumes different levels of commitment and attentiveness in their approaches. For example, a hands-on leader in a delegation process is likely to micromanage. Similarly, someone in a coaching role who is very diligent might find themselves doing all the work to avoid the longer process of getting someone to perform better through coaching.
Leaders have to balance how engaged they are with their team’s technical ability. The goal should be improving the team, not having one technically skilled person shoulder everything for efficiency.
Matching management styles
Every team is unique and requires its own combination of managerial styles. However, organizations can’t afford to maintain every type of management. So, it’s important to assess where different kinds of leadership best fit into your organization and then choose leaders that meet those qualifications. For example, a democratic leader who uses coaching tactics in a production line setting will often fail as a good manager. There, the job is to ensure teams know what to do, at what pace, and that quality remains consistent. Because there’s nothing new to learn and very little problem-solving, you’d be better off investing in a delegation expert.
Matching management styles to how teams work means understanding how those teams work and why. E.g., maintenance teams are usually slow, require delegation, and benefit from some creativity. Development teams working on new products and achieving outcomes normally benefit from freedom and a leader who can enable them to work together and use creativity.
- Delegation works best in crisis periods or in cases of rote and repetitive work
- Coaching and training work best for long-term creative work and performance
- Supervising works best when teams are good at what they do and only need light guidance
You’ll also want to consider the personality styles of the people in the team. For example, if you have a team full of self-motivated people who continuously invest in personal development, a leader using a delegation management style would kill the team. On the other hand, if you have a team full of people who are accustomed to working in waterfall methodology, a training manager might help them to make the shift to Agile, but a delegation-focused one would maintain the status quo. Choosing good leaders for your teams means understanding the leader and the team.
In most cases, the best leaders can leverage more than one style of leadership. That should be true whether they start out with just one style or if they start out being good at several.
Tools like Profiles Managerial Fit can help HR to map out leadership styles to employees – which can identify skills gaps and show you where to invest in training for those leaders. And, working to develop more diverse leadership skills before someone moves into a leadership position and after, will often help.
For example, if your team finishes the project they’re working on and has to move to a new one, your managerial style might have to shift from supervision to coaching or training. The more people can alter how they lead to meet circumstances, the better they’ll be as leaders.
Wrapping up — Managerial fit can make or break the best teams
Leadership is a make-or-break factor for your team. If you pair a bad leader with a great team, the team will decline. If you pair a great leader with a bad team, the team will improve.
Investing in working towards matching managerial styles to teams and to the work being done works to improve how managers work with their teams, so that good leaders don’t end up being bad managers for their specific team.