This unit talks about roles of managers and leadership styles

Roles of Managers

Management is often expressed as the process of achieving an organization’s objectives through guiding development, maintenance, and allocating resources. The primary roles of managers are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.


The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.—Theodore M. Hesburgh

Planning is the process of determining a course of action for future conditions and events with the goal of achieving the company’s objectives. Effective planning is necessary for any business or organization that wants to avoid costly mistakes. There are four different types of planning that are associated with management: strategic, tactical, operational, and contingency planning.

Strategic planning involves creating long-range goals and deter-mining the resources required for achieving these goals. Strategic planning is the most far-reaching level of planning and involves plans with time frames from one to five years. Essential to the notion of strategic planning is that it involves an assessment and consideration of the organization’s external environment, and that the organization is adaptive to these outside, noncontrollable variables, adjusting and possibly redirecting its strategy to account for this changing environment.

Tactical planning denotes the implementation of the activities defined by the strategic plans. Generally, tactical planning involves shorter-range plans with time frames of less than one year.

Operational planning involves the creation of specific methods, standards, and procedures for different functional areas of an organization. In addition, the organization chooses specific work targets and assigns employees to teams to carry out plans.

Contingency planning involves the creation of alternative courses of action for unusual or crisis situations. In today’s society, companies are placing greater importance on contingency planning in order to respond to crisis situations. For example, realizing the impact of terrorism on businesses in the wake of September 11, 2001, many companies have developed contingency plans to respond to potential terrorism events.


This management role involves blending human and capital resources in a formal structure. The manager will divide and classify work by determining which specific tasks need to be carried out in order to accomplish a set of objectives.


Managers also have the role of leading or directing employees and plans. Some managers may be more successful at leadership than others. The goal of leading is to guide and motivate employees in order to accomplish organizational objectives. This role involves explaining procedures, issuing directives, and ensuring that any mistakes are corrected.


Controlling allows a manager to measure how closely an organization is adhering to its set goals. It is also a process that provides feedback for future planning.

  1. Setting performance standards. A company needs to set the standards by which performance will be measured. In a sales organization it may be sales growth or quarterly sales figures. Perhaps the manager will set the dollar amount for sales that are to be made that quarter.
  1. Measuring performance. Using the previous example, measuring performance for sales will require tallying up the number of sales made during the quarter.
  1. Comparing actual performance to the set performance standards. Now the difference between the set performance sales and the dollar amount of actual sales made during the quarter must be determined.
  1. Taking the necessary corrective action steps. If the sales were much below the set level, it is important to analyze what went wrong and try to correct it.
  1. Using information from the process to set future performance standards.


Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.—Dwight D. Eisenhower

Individual managers have their own styles of managing, and within organizations there is often a predominant style of leadership. The predominant leadership styles—autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire—have many variations. We can compare and contrast the effectiveness of each of these styles as it affects employee performance.

Autocratic Leadership

This style of leadership is both directive and controlling. The leader will make all decisions without consulting employees and will also dictate employee roles. Micromanaging is a form of autocratic leadership in which upper management controls even the smallest tasks under-taken by subordinates. The autocratic style of leadership limits employee freedom of expression and participation in the decision-making process. It may result in alienating employees from leadership and will not serve to create trust between managers and subordinates. Further, creative minds cannot flourish under autocratic leadership.

Autocratic leadership may best be used when companies are man-aging less experienced employees. U.S. companies operating in less developed countries often use autocratic leadership. It allows the parent corporation more control over its overseas investment. In countries

where the government controls the economy, U.S. corporations often use autocratic leadership because the employees are used to making decisions to satisfy the goals of the government, not the parent corporation.

Managers should not use the autocratic leadership style in operations where employees expect to voice their opinions. It also should not be used if employees begin expecting managers to make all the decisions for them, or if employees become fearful or resentful.

Democratic Leadership

This style of management is centered on employee participation and involves decision making by consensus and consultation. The leader will involve employees in the decision-making process and they will be encouraged to give input and delegate assignments. Democratic leadership often leads to empowerment of employees because it gives them a sense of responsibility for the decisions made by management. This can also be a very effective form of management when employees offer a different perspective than the manager, due to their daily involvement with work. A successful leader will know when to be a teacher and when to be a student.

Democratic leadership may best be used when working with highly skilled and experienced employees. It is most useful for implementing organizational changes, for resolving group problems, and when the leader is uncertain about which direction to take and there-fore requires input from knowledgeable employees. One of the down-sides of democratic leadership is that it may lead to endless meetings and therefore create frustration among employees if used for every decision made by a company. Democratic leadership is not a good idea in situations when the business cannot afford to make mistakes—for in-stance, when a company is facing a crisis situation such as bankruptcy.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.—Robert Half

This free-rein form of leadership, if it is to be successful, requires extensive communication by management with employees. It is the style of leadership that makes employees responsible for most of the decisions that are made, and in which they are minimally supervised. Employees are responsible for motivating and managing themselves on a daily basis under this leadership style.

Laissez-faire leadership may best be used when employees are educated, knowledgeable, and self-motivated. Employees must have the drive and ambition to achieve goals on their own for this style to be most effective. Laissez-faire leadership is not a good idea in situations where employees feel insecure about the manager’s lack of availability or the manager is using the employees to cover for his or her inability to carry out his or her own work. This type of situation can create re-sentment and result in an unhealthy work environment.

As with many categories that describe business concepts, an organization and its leadership may apply any or all of these leadership styles. For instance, the managing partners of an architectural firm may utilize autocratic leadership style with the lower levels in its clerical and administrative functions but employ a democratic or laissez-faire leadership style with its professional staff of architect-associates and partners.

Transformational and Transactional Leadership

Two additional styles of leadership worth exploring are transformational and transactional. Both have strong ethical components and philosophical underpinnings.

Transformational Leadership. Leaders who have a clear vision and are able to articulate it effectively to others often characterize this style of leadership. Transformational leaders look beyond themselves in order to work for the greater good of everyone. This type of leader will bring others into the decision-making process and will allow those around them opportunity to learn and grow as individuals. They seek out different perspectives when trying to solve a problem and are able to instill pride into those who work under them. Transformational leaders spend time coaching their employees and learning from them as well.

Transactional Leadership. This leadership style is characterized by centralized control over employees. The transactional leader will control outcomes and strive for behavioral compliance. Employees under a transactional leader are motivated by the transactional leader’s praise, reward, and promise. They may also be corrected by the leader’s negative feedback, threats, or disciplinary action.

The most effective leadership style is using a combination of styles. Leaders should know when it is best to be autocratic and when to be democratic. They can also be transformational and transactional at the same time; these are not mutually exclusive styles and in fact can complement one another extremely well.


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