The emergence of COVID-19 has highlighted a range of different management styles and personality traits that have become more obvious since the pandemic hit. Having observed many leaders react differently to the changes brought upon us this year, I thought I would take a light-hearted look at the different styles leaders have displayed as they adjusted to new working environments and distance from their teams. I must admit I have been able to easily recognise these as I have operated in most at some stage in my career!

Micro manager – the one with the “I can’t see you, so you probably aren’t working” attitude. This manager has reluctantly agreed to let staff work from home. They want staff to check in at the beginning of the day and the end of the day or possibly fill out a time sheet.

Over my dead body manager – this manager sees no ability or value in people working remotely. They applied for a job, on company premises, so there is no need for them to work from anywhere else. This profile is complicated by often having aspects of both the micro manager and the performance manager.

Performance manager – the manager with the unrealistic view that in difficult and unusual circumstances, staff should just maintain pre-COVID performance. They often lack empathy for staff, particularly if they are not as optimistic as the manager. This manager seems totally unaware of the issues that may be occurring in the lives of staff and the impact of uncertainty and home-schooling interruptions. Perhaps the saying that surfaced during this pandemic, “empathy before performance”, was designed for this manager.

Laissez faire manager – this leader gives the least possible guidance to staff. This can be a positive for those who respond well when left alone, make decisions, and get on with their responsibilities and obligations. However, this manager often lacks understanding for those in need of support, guidance and encouragement. Another saying that may have been designed for this manager – “when you think you have communicated enough with your staff, communicate more”. This manager has a relative in the abdication manager.

Abdication manager – this style is similar to the Laissez faire manager and involves delegating a task without sufficient information. They are difficult to contact and take a long time to respond – they often just go missing in action! They believe all people should be independent. They don’t give guidance and support and leave staff wondering why this person is a manager.

Does it all manager – feeling sorry for staff, this manager does most of the work, particularly in difficult times. What is often not realised is they are robbing staff of the opportunity to learn and do things themselves. This approach can create a situation where staff just rely on their manager to do everything. Often the manager can become stressed because they are trying to do too much and staff do not realise they are essentially deskilling.

Introverted manager – this manager thinks working from home is fabulous, and probably goes into the office to get away from the family while everyone is working remotely. They have no need to talk to anyone, are happy at the idea of getting all work done by 2pm, and would prefer to not have to deal with people.

Extroverted manager – this manager has been agonising over being stuck at home and away from others. They hold regular check ins, and after weeks of being locked in doing Zoom calls when you ring them, they talk and talk and talk. They take any opportunity possible to meet people in coffee shops.

New world order manager – this manager is particularly well-suited to staff that have enjoyed working from home immensely and never want to work in the office again. This manager has worked with remote staff before. It can be successful if you have experience in this, but can also pose problems for the dynamics of working with a commercial family.

While this is a somewhat humorous look at some of the management styles encountered over the years, it is safe to say many of these management styles have been accentuated by the pandemic. I’m sure many of you recognise some of these traits in yourself, or perhaps the people you work with.

A colleague of mine has experienced a major perception shift due to COVID. This person is the passionate founder and CEO of a business established 15 years ago. He has aspects of a micro manager, but also has an element of over my dead body in his style. Due to having to create two shifts in the management and administrative head office, a green team and a gold team, he was unable to have all his direct reports in the weekly face-to-face meeting. The lesson became to focus more on the objectives rather than the activity. He realised the only thing he has control over is clearly articulating the desired outcome. He has accepted he has to leave staff to get on with it and achieve the objective. Once he got over the initial concerns about what people were actually doing, he found he has more time and is less stressed. Without the intervention from COVID, he may not have seen the necessity for a change. He also found his most productive team members are those culturally aligned to the vision and values of the business. But, that as you know is another story!

Like my colleague, I have worn many different management style hats during my career. Now is a great time to self-reflect and think about your own approach. Have a look at what you are doing now or ask your staff and see if there is something you can change. By embracing the permanent changes implemented across organisations as a result of the pandemic, you have the potential to change your way of thinking and take your management capabilities to the next level.

Happy managing!

Ian Hamilton

Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash