What Kind of manager do you need?
May 10, 2022
I’ve written quite a bit about what it takes to be a good leader, but I have not focused on what kind of manager is right for YOU. Over the years, I have worked with horrible managers – throwing paper clips or worse at folks, mediocre managers who do little to assist you in growing and developing in your career, and a few who have been supportive and encouraging and work to help me achieve my goals. For the latter, I have not taken the time to think about what aspects of their leadership I needed at the time or which elements proved the most helpful. Then, a few days ago I came across a great CNBC article by Sari Wilde, entitled “There are 4 types of bosses. Here’s the one you want to work for – and why experts think they are the most successful.” Before I jump into the merits of the article, I want to start with Wilde’s 4 types of bosses.
The four main types of managers:
- Teacher managers develop their employees based on their own expertise and experience. Their mantra is: “I did it this way, and therefore you should, too.” They typically advance in the organization not necessarily because they are the greatest managers, but because of their institutional knowledge.
- Always On managers constantly monitor and check in on their employees. They have good intentions and want to be the ones providing continuous coaching and feedback across a wide breadth of skills.
- Cheerleader managers have a more hands-off approach, giving positive feedback and putting employees in charge of their own development. They are approachable and supportive, but not as proactive as the other manager types when it comes to developing their employees’ skills.
- Connector managers provide feedback in their area of expertise, while also connecting employees to others on the team or in the organization who are better suited at addressing specific needs.
I think these are great descriptions and the article takes a deeper dive – worth the read – than the simple descriptions noted here. While I enjoyed the article and the identification of 4 types of bosses, I don’t believe every manager necessarily fits neatly into only one box. For example, I would say I am a combination of a Cheerleader and a Connector manager. I have worked for managers who are only Connectors or only Teachers and I have worked for some who are Always On and Cheerleaders (which can be a little exhausting). In some cases, the type of manager I worked for was a perfect fit, but later on in my career the same type was not a good fit.
As you navigate your career trajectory, it is important to understand what you need from your manager. And it is equally important to recognize that what you need on day one will be vastly different than what you need in year three. As you grow in your position, your needs should change. Career growth begs for managers who can connect you to the right people, but it is also about cheering you on along the way. When you can pinpoint what you need, then you can ask for it. For example, if you are looking to get promoted within the next year and that promotion will take you out of your current department, you need your manager to connect you with people across the organization who can help you network and grow into that position. And a good manager will want to do this – even if it means losing you. This might involve introductions to the potential new boss, sitting on committees or a working group with individuals who you will want to be able to showcase your skills, i.e., get noticed.
If, however, you are at the start of your career, you may need a Teacher, but one who will give you the space to do things on your own with some guidance, but nor micromanagement. Then you’ll need a Cheerleader to help you see your achievements, understand your value, and to tell others about the great work you are doing.
Whether you are at the start of your career or mid-career, understanding your needs puts you in a much better place to seek the support and guidance you need to achieve your career goals. You can’t assume a manager will know what you need when you need it. This is why it is important to have open conversations about your career growth. In fact, it is something to consider when interviewing for a position. You do not want to work for a manager who has no interest in furthering your career.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Dean, Graduate College
Assistant Clinical Professor, Goodwin College