First Among Equals: The Ultimate Management Style in the 21st Century?
For much of the 20th century, management style was kept fairly rigid, dictated by an abundant workforce that was readily available and largely expendable. That was all well and good when manufacturing industry was at its height and leaders could dictate the pace more easily.
Our transformation during the information age has, however, bought new challenges particularly for management style and leadership. Employees are no longer commodities, they are assets and the best need to be nurtured, encouraged and given a greater degree of autonomy.
Why Management Style is Important
How you manage a group of individuals is important and leaders have their own way of doing things.
Some are set in their ways, others look continually to improve how they engage with employees.
An autocratic manager likes to have as much control as possible and doesn’t believe much in consultation. This is a useful style if you need to get something done urgently but can ultimately stifle creativity and growth because employees feel too subordinate.
A paternalistic style of management works in a similar way but essentially has a more caring approach. Employees may well feel a little more valued but can also be frustrated because they can’t move up while their ‘father/mother figure’ is dictating the pace.
More democratic styles of management allow for stronger employee participation – they allow others to input into developments and influence decision making. This can lead to a more committed team that wants to push the business forward but it can also delay decision making which can ultimately impact on growth.
Finally, there’s the option with highly professional or expert teams to let them get on with the business they were hired to do with little or no managerial input. This can work if everyone is on the same page but can quickly become chaotic if there is no central command.
All of these styles have their merits. Some work in certain situations while they are unsuitable for others. Increasingly, however, managers have to balance the benefits of being in control with letting employees innovate and make decisions that drive the company forward.
Key to this is the first among equals notion of management.
How to Manage a Group of Professionals
Stricter, autocratic approaches suggest that those in higher positions are superior in some way and this can cause problems if you want to promote employee satisfaction and retain those workers who add value to your company. If you place into the mix that many employees are now coming to the workplace with a range of professional qualifications and want to develop their own careers, there a plenty of benefits of adopting a ‘first among equals’ approach to management.
When you view all the people on your workforce as equal, it changes the way that you think about everything. You essentially come at management from a new angle, one that better dictates how you behave and react to those around you. Managers know they have an important role to play but they also understand they only part of the mix that leads to success.
Staying in control and confining people to their boxes is one of the least desirable aspects of autocratic rule. It’s important when managing a group of professionals to give them the autonomy they need and to allow them to a certain extent to control of their own future. Not only does it create a better atmosphere in the workplace it gives individuals a sense of their own value and options for the future.
Considering yourself as equal to other employees in the workforce is not about ceding control as a manager. It’s about removing ego from the equation and allowing professional employees to realise their full potential. That’s not only good for them, it’s great for the business as well.
If you would like to improve your management abilities, our Level 5 Management and Leadership Course can develop your people management skills. Contact us today for information about our online management courses.