Power Sources and Management Styles

By LeNoble, Philip Jay | Management Review, December 1993 | Go to article overview

Power Sources and Management Styles


LeNoble, Philip Jay, Management Review


In an era when job-changing is increasing in frequency, the need to recognize and harmonize with your manager's personal style has become increasingly time critical. Much has been written about different management styles; it may be instructive to compare these styles with the type of power individual managers project.

I divide management styles into four types: autocratic, custodial, participative and collegial. The power techniques embodied in these styles can be coercive, reward-based, legitimate, expert or referent. A few examples will explain this breakdown.

Autocratic managers are the old-fashioned kind that provide discipline and structure and are totally focused on obedience. This management style is now passe. It does not work in a fast-changing society where decision making is increasingly pushed down. Managers who continue to adhere to this style - managers like Chrysler's recently retired CEO Lee Iacocca and some big-city police chiefs - maintain their power through intimidation and control of others.

A second style of management, and one that is also out of tune with today's business needs, is the custodial style. This is the style in which resources and ideas are controlled and innovativeness is suspect. Custodial managers find their source of power in the shape of tangible rewards - job security, salary bonuses, and the size and location of their offices. They achieve even more power with the legitimacy and officialdom of high authority and job titles. Chief executives who adhere to this style are frequently quoted in the business press as having accomplished specific goals during their "watch." Frequently, in fact, all custodial managers do is "watch." As a result, many of the CEOs who promised no-layoff policies and great medical coverage or retirement benefits while guiding companies to their lowest levels of financial performance and customer focus in the post-war period, are no longer on "the watch". …

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