How to Work With Different Management Styles

We don’t always get to choose who our boss/executive is, much less their leadership style, in fact, when you interviewed for the role, they might not have even be involved. So, you walk in on your first day with no clue what to expect, its potluck if both your styles of working are going to gel. Maybe that is not the most efficient way to recruit a PA or EA but is it often the case. You may find yourself working with someone who has a leadership style you haven’t dealt with before or don’t particularly want to deal with! Help is at hand because once you accept that you can’t change them, you can only change how you work with them, it becomes easier. 

This doesn’t just apply to new roles of course; you might be working with someone a while and have come to the realisation that there is a communication issue. With all the styles, remember they are not necessarily “wrong”, they just might not be the ideal fit for you, so don’t take it personally.

1.    The Controller

Let’s get arguably the most challenging and certainly for me the most memorable in my opinion out of the way first.

How to recognize a controller

The controller manager had a direct, authoritarian leadership style. They don’t tend to ask how your weekend was and how your pets are. Controllers value efficiency and productivity, and set clear, specific goals. If you send them a spreadsheet with one formula error on it, expect them to notice within minutes. They tend to micromanage their employees for maximum control. They don’t tend to listen to or take advice well.

How to deal with the controller

Don’t take the micromanaging personally. Schedule regular update meetings or status reports. Don’t wait to be asked. Be flexible with their needs and goals. Be brief and to the point in communicating with them, whilst being professional, don’t try to get them to talk about their personal life. Stay a step ahead – anticipate, even more so than you usually would. Instead of offering advice simply articulate to them the pros and cons of a potential decision or course of action.

The disadvantages of working with a controller

If you are used to working with different, more friendly, leadership styles, you may find the controller cold or unfeeling to work with. You may feel you are being victimised as your mistakes will be pointed out. You might feel more pressure to be perfect and have perfect attendance etc.

The advantages of working with a controller

Their attention to detail is second to none, and yours will be too as you don’t want to submit work to them that isn’t proofread, or double/triple checked; they will pull you up. You will know where you stand, because they will be clear on what they expect from you. They aren’t the type to give vague instructions. You won’t have a problem with lack of clarity. The controller won’t pat you on the back for doing a good job the way some bosses might, they have high expectations, so this may make you raise your own bar as it will take a lot to amaze them. Praise from a controller is unusual so the day you receive it, you will know you really are impressive. Controllers get to their positions of authority because of their attributes not despite of, so they have much to offer in terms of learning from them so watch them closely.

2. The Bureaucrat

Ah, the Bureaucrat, also known as the “by the book” executive. Your nightmare boss or your perfect boss, it depends on your perspective. There will be no clocking off 5 minutes early every day to catch your train, but you will get every single employee entitlement and training that’s officially available to you. And if SOPs are your thing, chances are every part of your role is standardised. If it’s documented, it’s the bible to the bureaucrat. If you have ever started in a new role and been thrown in at the deep end with no training, no buddy, and no structure, you will appreciate that this type of boss is not so bad, and they will have arranged for a smooth introduction and induction. Maybe that’s why so many Bureaucrats seem to work in HR!

But if this all sounds very irritating then worry not, help is at hand because once you accept that you can’t change them, you can only change how you work with them, it becomes easier. With the Bureaucrat, you may find yourself quoting rules and regulations like scripture quotes.

How to recognize a Bureaucrat

The bureaucrat is a manager who values process and rules. Bureaucrats resist new and innovative ideas, preferring to base decisions on what's been done in the past. They have high respect for the chain of command within organisations.

How to deal with a Bureaucrat

Follow and know the rules, regulations and procedures. Be persistent when introducing new ideas, present them well, as this is one of the hardest managers to persuade to change. A great strategy is process mapping. Get some MS Visio training and map out how things are done and how things could be done. This is a proven tactic I have used to manage change with a Bureaucrat person. They cannot argue with logic, record it in black and white and keep emotion and opinion out of it.

The disadvantages of working with a Bureaucrat

You may find them inflexible and rigid and this could lead to frustration on your part. There is no “bending the rules”. For example, with a hiring manager Bureaucrat, ff the ideal candidate applies for a role 10 minutes after the cut off time their application won’t be accepted, even if the Bureaucrat is cutting off their nose to despite their face, they won’t hear of making exceptions.

The advantages of working with a Bureaucrat

If you don’t have this particular leadership style yourself, actually you could make a really good team as a Bureaucrat type and an opposing style can balance each other out sometimes. Yes, there could be conflict on occasion, but the Bureaucrat could keep you grounded, and you can encourage them to be less unyielding. You might be fighting a losing battle there but having to find ways to persuade them to do things your way forces you to think inside the box as well as outside it and dig deep to achieve your goals while keeping within the confines of regulations and rules.  

3. The Open Minded

If it’s your first time working with an executive with an open-mind style, you might need a bit of time to adjust! If you have been micromanaged in the past or worked with a bureaucrat, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry now. The open manager will take your opinions on board and run with ideas, but they might not always tell you how they want those concepts implemented. 

How to recognize an open manager

The manager with an open style values an autonomous and team-orientated system. Open managers have general goals and don’t always give specific directions. They do value relationships and enjoy chatting informally to get things done on occasion. Their team dynamic will be important to them. They enjoy networking. They will have an open-door policy whether literally or figuratively.

How to deal with an open manager

Approach them with ideas, don’t sit back. Encourage them to be specific if you need more direction in implementing their vision. Include social aspect to your 1 to 1s to progress your working relationship. Make your own decisions.

The disadvantages of working with an open manager

If you want to clock in and out and just do your work to the letter of what you were hired to do, with a minimum of fuss and disruption, then this might not be the environment for you. Your manager will want more contribution from you, they don’t want robots as employees. They will want you to have job satisfaction as they see this is a reflection of their effectiveness as a manager.

The advantages of working with an open manager

There is an opportunity here to take on more responsibility than just what is laid out in your job spec. So, if you are ambitious, career-minded and looking to the future, this is an ideal manager to work under as they will be delighted if you approach them about training, mentorship or simply to offer to take on more duties or suggest better ways of doing things. Remember that an open-minded and open-door style doesn’t mean that you can get overly familiar, you still need to show respect.

4. The Entrepreneur/Self-Made (wo)man

The Entrepreneur as a management style is pretty similar to the open manager in that they are full of new ideas, energetic, and can be fun to work with. Entrepreneurs are hard workers themselves and often expect employees to go above and beyond their stated duties.

How to recognise an Entrepreneur

As the name would imply, he or she is often the founder/owner of the company but not always. This is a management style rather than a title. They may have climbed the ranks of a company or industry. Two real-life examples I know are someone who started as a cleaner in a store and ended up regional manager and someone who worked up from porter to CEO (100% true). Neither own nor started the business but they fall into the entrepreneur management category.

The Entrepreneur would have a varied skill set themselves so when managing multiple staff of different disciplines, they do have a good idea of what their jobs entail whether that is regarding finance, operations or sales. This is largely an advantage as they are not going to ask you to do something that they themselves have not done or would be prepared to do. It also means you can’t pull the wool over their eyes with regarding to how long tasks take or how laborious your job is.

How to deal with an Entrepreneur

Enforce personal limits, don’t go overboard on working through lunches regularly. Set boundaries. Be a sounding board to their ideas and play and devil’s advocate.

The disadvantages of working with an entrepreneur 

As mentioned above, they are quite the jack of all trades and you won’t be able to able to convince them that your tasks take longer than they really do. No slacking off here.

The advantages of working with an entrepreneur

They understand your role and they might see how it fits into the overall company structure better than you can, so through them, you may gain a better appreciation of how important you and your role is in the company, however lowly your title may be. In this regard, they excel at team building.
By Margaret Young

Margaret is the owner of Margaret Young Business Services and is an admin trainer who provides 1 to 1 and small group training to admins, PAs and EAs across Ireland and the UK. Her training specialism is in practical office and soft skills such as minute taking, MS Office productivity, and event management, all crucial to the ambitious PA in today’s busy competitive work environment. She also offers interview preparation coaching. Margaret’s training is designed to upskill and empower her clients by using a tailored, bespoke approach based on the client’s desires. With 20+ years’ experience in c-suite support roles and management, she fully appreciates the challenges involved in these professions. She is passionate about corporate wellness in relation to the admin role, and is also developing an offshoot of her business specifically to focus on this:

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