Management Styles

When it comes to the various management styles in business, perhaps Bruce Lee said it best:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

So the question is: what shape do you and your employees take within your company? Lex Sisney is a professional CEO coach and author of the cutting edge book, Organizational Physics, The Science of Growing a Business. Instead of a cup, bottle or teapot, Lex has broken down the different management styles accordingly:


  1. If you’re a Producer you’re generally focused on what’s happening right now and getting immediate tasks accomplished. You’re constantly driving to get things done and you thrive on winning. Likewise, if you have an employee who’s a Producer, they’ll tend to work fast but get frustrated when things don’t go their way. As Sisney says, “Don’t judge the person, judge the force. There’s that producing force, what does it need? It needs help removing obstacles. Once those obstacles are removed, it can produce again.”
  2. A Stabilizer responds well to change, but they prefer to create order and focus on doing things the right way. You’ll know an employee is a Stabilizer if they move more slowly and work very methodically. As Sisney says, don’t judge the person, judge the force. Stabilizers require data to process before they can move forward with a detailed plan. Give the Stabilizer force what it needs, and they will be a really strong asset in the workplace.
  3. Meanwhile, if you’re an Innovator then you thrive on making disruptive changes and being creative. You see opportunity in chaos because you’re good at problem solving. As far as an Innovator is concerned, the status quo is meant to be shaken. These are the employees who barge into your office with a brand new idea they have to share with you. While you might already be overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand, don’t dismiss this innovating force. Instead, listen to it and engage its ideas so that they can talk them through. Conversation usually helps Innovators clarify their ideas and helps them turn them into practical plans that will benefit your business.
  4. And finally there are Unifiers. If you’re a Unifier you also respond well to change, but with an emphasis on keeping coherency and making everyone come together to work well as a unit. An employee who’s a Unifier tends to be more emotional and needs to connect with coworkers on a personal level before they can be productive. Engage with them candidly, make them feel listened to and needed and these people will thrive accordingly. When they’re up and running, they will be the emotional glue that holds your company together and helps everyone get along. If you can be patient enough to nurture the Unifier force, your business will be all the stronger for it.

According to Sisney, each of us has some mix of those styles, even if we’re predominantly more of one than another. The secret to success, he says, is being able to hone in on the style that comes most naturally to you and exercise that over the others. Sisney believes that by focusing on your natural style, you’ll be happier in the workplace and increase productivity as a result. Surround yourself with co-workers whose strengths and weaknesses balance each other and there will be no stopping you.

Or, as Bruce Lee might say,

"You will become like water moving around the stone."