Which Am I? Both, Among Others


Stephen Abram recently posted this graphic on his blog, Stephen’s Lighthouse, in hopes of provoking a conversation. I thought I would climb onto my SLAW soapbox in reply, in hopes of continuing the conversation and to solicit the views of *this* community.

I’ve reposted the link to Stephen’s original source at the end of this entry. On the Cheezburger.com site, the graphic appears under the title “Which Are You?” I infer that one of these graphics is supposed to be the “good” model, and the other “bad”. 

In the first graphic, the Boss can be seen as a drag on the effectiveness of the team. Morale may not be good because they have to carry the business and someone who seems to be rather demanding (and possibly yelling). Not good. The second image shows the leader in the traces, helping the business advance, and showing the way. Making a contribution, and providing direction for the team. Not putting themselves above. Really understanding the work, because they do the work. A hero.

On reflection, though, I wonder if this interpretation isn’t too simplistic.

The Boss has a better view of the road. He can suggest course corrections before it’s too late. Yes, he’s not helping the task get completed, but without his perspective, is it likely that the team will recognize new opportunities, consider putting wheels on the business, or reverse the entire process and start pushing instead of pulling? Nope. They’re going to stick with what they know, because all that they can see is the six inches in front of them. The (peer) Leader is a great model for stable circumstances, and probably works in the short run, but I wonder if you’d ever see innovation from this team.

I would like to propose a third image. A free-floating Manager, who runs ahead of the team to identify obstacles, and to clear them. She consults with team members to confirm that they understand where they are going, and to see if they have encountered any problems. She pops occasionally onto the business, to look further down the road, and uses that information to suggest course corrections. She leaves the current path to talk to other teams, to get ideas about new ways to accomplish the task, to find new tasks, and to find new resources. From these forays, she learns about wheels, horses, engines, and so on.

Whatever model you suggest, most managers find themselves having to move between styles. The “command and control” style works when the team is in crisis and needs direction (or so the management texts say). Collaborative leadership, as I’ve said before, works in the short term and when everyone is clear on the direction and how to get there. Successful managers have to be able to adapt their style and strategy to the circumstances. Rigidly clinging to one way of being is not productive.

Which type of manager am I? Both, and many more besides. How about you?

What’s your reaction to this graphic? What other models can you propose? (We haven’t even considered the Manager in a helicopter…)

Source: cheezburger.com


  1. I like your model, Wendy. I myself like to manage in a consultative fashion. Ultimately I think teams in the workplace like to know what direction to go in. There are often no “right” or “wrong” directions. You just gotta pick one. I will get opinions of everyone on the team, and then pick a direction for us to all pull in. It may or may not jive with the opinions I heard, but will take them into account. I also think a lot of people want to work and support a team, but don’t want to carry the responsibility on their shoulders. Whether boss or leader, that is where we come in.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post!