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What kind of manager are you?

As management company officers, property managers, and resident managers, you are not only managers of property, but also managers of people. The way you handle that critical responsibility determines to a great extent whether you are successful in your job functions.

What is your management style? What kind of manager are you? What kind should you be?

Are you autocratic? Do you define the problem, determine the solution, and permit very little group interaction?

Are you participative? Do you present the problem, get suggestions, and then make the decision?

Are you democratic? Do you present the problem and allow the group to determine and implement the solution?

Is your style always the same, or does it vary depending upon the situation? Some management experts contend that the style should be consistent and argue for one of the three.

Advocates of the autocratic style say, "I am being paid to lead. If I let other people make the decisions I should be making, then I am not worth my salt. I can't waste time calling meetings. Someone has to call the shots around here, and I think it should be me."

Participative leaders say, "It's foolish to make decisions alone on matters that affect people. I always talk things over with my subordinates, but I make it clear to them that I am the one who will have the final say."

Democratic leaders usually say, "I put most problems into my group's hands and leave it to them to carry the ball. My subordinates are more likely to succeed when they implement decisions that they helped to formulate "

I believe a manager should be flexible and adapt leadership patterns to his or her circumstances. These include the organization, the leader him- or herself, the subordinates, and the specific problem at hand.

The autocrat

Autocratic leadership fits best in an organization whose group philosophy supports the use of fear, threats, and punishment. Generally, the subordinates do not know or accept organizational goals and are not especially loyal. Furthermore, their own goals may not be compatible with those of the organization.

These subordinates prefer dependence and usually are not willing to assume responsibility for decision making and self-control. Furthermore, they probably have not shared in decision making and control processes in the past.

The autocratic method is usually employed by a person who is self-centered and prefers his or her own decisions to those of others. Such a manager is generally highly knowledgeable and task oriented. He or she has a questionable degree of confidence and little trust in the abilities and knowledge of subordinates.

The autocratic manager usually subscribes to Theory X, which says the average person dislikes work and will avoid it if possible. People must be controlled, directed, and even threatened with punishment to achieve organizational goals.

The autocratic method is used where there is little or no room for error in the task to be accomplished and where there is little time available to make decisions. It is also employed where new ideas and innovations are not important to successful task completion.

The democrat

On the opposite side of the spectrum, democratic leadership is most appropriate where goals are clearly defined and communicated to subordinates. Subordinates are responsible for making decisions to further those objectives and have a high degree of goal acceptance and loyalty. Their goals should be compatible with those of the organization.

Subordinates should have a relatively high need for independence and be willing to assume responsibility for decision making and self-control. They are generally well acquainted with these responsibilities.

The democratic leader tends to observe only the highlights and operate on a "management by exception" basis, under which he or she intervenes only when a "red flag" appears. The democratic leader may or may not be knowledgeable concerning decisions to be made and tasks to be performed. He or she prefers to let others make the decisions on their own and has a high degree of confidence in subordinates.

The democratic manager is people oriented and subscribes to Theory Y, which says that the expenditure of physical and mental effort at work is as natural as play or rest. A person will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he or she is committed.

There should generally be a moderate amount of room for error and a moderate to large amount of time available for making decisions and completing tasks if the democratic approach is to succeed. Generally, new ideas and innovations are essential to the successful completion of the task.

The participator

The participative leader falls between the two extremes and does well when organizational goals are fairly well defined and communicated. Participative leadership is appropriate where there is at least some degree of acceptance of these goals and some loyalty to the organization. Subordinates should have a moderate need for independence and be at least somewhat willing to assume responsibility for decision making and self-control.

The participative leader wants and solicits ideas from others before deciding and has a reasonably high degree of confidence and trust in his or her subordinates.

This style emphasizes task accomplishment and people considerations equally. It generally provides direction and structure for the task at hand, but is considerate of the follower's needs.

There should be a limited to moderate amount of room for error in the task to be accomplished and a moderate to large amount of time available for the decision making process and task completion if the participatory style is to be effective.

Selecting a style

In the final analysis, the management style should depend upon the situation. No one method is appropriate for all organizations, people, problems, or situations.

Difficulties arise when there is a conflict in the managerial method employed and the dynamics of the situation, e.g., having an autocratic leader where the profile of the organization and subordinates calls for a democratic or participative style. This is when morale suffers, employee turnover increases, and productivity declines.

Several illustrations might serve to clarify how to recognize what managerial style is appropriate for a specific situation.

For example, assume the project maintenance superintendent reports to the rental manager. If the maintenance superintendent is competent and self-motivated while the resident manager is not very knowledgeable, the autocratic style would be inappropriate and self-defeating, especially if the maintenance superintendent is accustomed to working on his or her own without much supervision. In this instance, either the participative or democratic style would be best.

On the other hand, if the maintenance superintendent is not especially loyal, lacks organization, and was accustomed in prior employment to being monitored closely, it would be a mistake to use anything but the autocratic style.

Generally, every manager has a favorite, or more natural, style, which is perhaps the result of personality and prior experience and training. Nonetheless, managers must be able to use other approaches when the situation calls for it. A person who arbitrarily uses one managerial style, theoretically his or her most natural style, in all situations, with all people will be managing in an inappropriate manner much of the time.

Often a new manager will begin using a style prior to studying and learning about the characteristics of the people, the organization, the present circumstances, and perhaps the style of his or her predecessor. He or she may get off to a bad start in this way.

For example, a certain project might have a loyal staff of long-tenured employees who are competent in their positions and who were managed in the past by a person with a democratic or participative style. If a newly appointed property manager or resident manager begins with an autocratic style, this approach will cause a morale problem, probably a loss in productivity, and perhaps some resignations.

The flexible, management-style system recommended in this article requires that the manager understand each style, be able to recognize when each is appropriate, and know how to implement each.
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Author:Basile, Frank
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1990
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