In one of my previous BizGuides entitled, Congratulations, You Have Been Entrusted to be the CEO! … Now What?, I defined three models of CEOs from the perspective of an individual’s self-behavior: the “plate spinner”, the “one-man band” and the “conductor”. In this BizGuide I am going to dig deeper and examine the different types of management styles portrayed by the CEO/Manager with their direct reports/subordinates.

In the past managers have believed that they should use methods such as greed and/orfear to manage their teams. This style of manager will use a “Carrot” or “Stick” to execute these methods and while both have advantages, they also suffer from major limitations. As long as an incentive remains in place, the “Carrot” approach works well. However, this method quickly falls apart when the reward is withdrawn or curtailed. Similarly, the “Stick” approach of poking your employees to follow instructions will keep your employees in tow. However, when presented with more interesting and less stressful alternatives, there is no doubt they will rebel and run to the exit.

Over the years I have observed three models of management styles: a “Switchboard Operator”, a “Drill Sergeant” and a “Coach”. Each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of how well it will withstand adverse conditions and accomplish company objectives.

During the early days of telephony, a “Switchboard Operator” made connections between people by manually inserting plugs into the correct jacks. The switchboard operator would create a link and enable two parties wanting to communicate while also performing other functions as part of their role. In this type of management style, the CEO exhibits a relatively lower hands-on approach and provides more autonomy to the team.

Aside from teaching the recruits the basic operations and combat functions of the military, a “Drill Sergeant” infuses absolute discipline and obedience into the recruits’ mental attitude. The CEO in this model is the most dominant person, and the ultimate single decision maker, a very autocratic model which tends to discourage independent thinking.

The “Coach” uses her/his experience and wisdom to provide guidance while acting as a sounding board for each member of the team. The coach encourages each individual to grow to their full capacity and learn to make their own decisions. The CEO in this model is more of a consensus builder and a facilitator to the team. Over time, this model allows for the creation of a solid management team of decision makers.

It isn’t “one size fits all” when determining how to manage your team. You may find yourself needing to make use of each of the management styles during different phases of your company’s evolution. In addition to following one of these models, I believe that it is paramount for a CEO to have a set of principles that will guide them in making decisions. I personally followed these principles and find them to be of great value:

  • Take 24 hours to reflect – In my opinion, this is probably one of the most important rules of management. You will encounter situations, both personally and professionally, that will appear on the surface worthwhile to pursue and you will be pressured/encouraged to make a rapid decision. Taking 24 hours to review your options allows you to have sober second thoughts prior to making an important decision.
  • When running a relay, focus on the hand off – The major stumbling point during a 4×4 relay heat occurs when a runner is handing off the baton to the next runner. It is vitally important that the first runner continues to run with the second runner while passing the baton to ensure a smooth transfer. Within companies, management must act in a similar fashion, and ensure that there is a proper hand off when transferring tasks/work packages between departments.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – This is a famous Chinese proverb. No matter how simple or complex, short or long the work is, the key is to initiate action to get the ball rolling. Management is all about making decisions and taking actions. Avoid “analysis paralysis” situations which will prevent, or delay making a decision that will put you on your way to completing any given task successfully.
  • If you want something done, ask a busy person – This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a famous inventor. It’s all about the time management attributes that busy people are able to master. Busy bees can execute more tasks in the same amount of time than people that have not learnt how to manage their time efficiently. Focus on identifying your best performers and putting them into action. This will get the work accomplished successfully, and on time.

I believe that the best approach when managing people is to build a team that will embrace your vision. Then, empower those team members to make decisions at their level of management. Make the management process transparent and regularly give credit to the highest performing members of the team, both during internal meetings, as well as at external events. Recognition will go a long way in making each individual feel more satisfied and committed to the company.

As a final note, start using the words: “WE” and “US” rather than “I” and “ME”. As a CEO, and any person in a management role, you should never hog all the accolades for the success of the organization.

For more insights on how great leaders behave read this weeks Biz Rules “Cliché management jargon – don’t get caught using these words”.


Written by

Eli Fathi

Eli has been a technology entrepreneur for the past 30 years and has founded or cofounded a number of companies with a few successful exits. Currently, he is the CEO of a company offering automated fraud detection platform. Eli was the cofounder of Fluidware Corporation, an Internet software company offering Software as a service (SaaS) online applications based on collaborative feedback. He was the co-CEO from inception until the acquisition by SurveyMonkey.

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