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What Is Your Management Style?

Oct 13, 2012

Great leaders are good at adapting to the environment around them and making changes when needed.

Higginbotham 5 12   CopyBy Gerald Higginbotham, Ph.D, PAS

During my years with California’s Cooperative Extension, I had the opportunity to become well acquainted with various dairy families. I was always intrigued by the various management methods exhibited by the father or mother as they worked with their family members.

The usual situation was that the father or mother had little or no formal education. Their schooling was basically “the school of hard knocks.” The parents started in the dairy business with practically nothing and gradually increased their dairy farm cow numbers over time. They managed to be quite successful even with their limited formal education. Their children recognized the value of an education and subsequently graduated from college. Some returned to the dairy to help in the management of the operation. They were eager to apply the knowledge they had learned in their formal education to the dairy.

This is where I noticed conflicts arise between the parents and children, which usually concerned the unwillingness of the father or mother to allow changes to be made to the management of the dairy at the suggestion of the son or daughter. The parent usually had the response “I’ve been doing it this way all my life and we don’t need to change.” That was probably true whether it was deemed a successful pattern or not. In one instance, a promising young dairyman, recognizing that his father would not be open to his suggestions, decided to leave the family operation. This caused great heartache among family members.

How can these situations be avoided? A solution can be found in examining management styles. Management styles can be divided into two kinds: autocratic and democratic.

The autocratic leader requires control over all organizational decisions and requests little input from his or her team or family members. He or she may also be referred to as authoritarian. In a positive sense, autocratic leaders are good at making decisions, although they may not always be the most informed. On the negative side, people who work for autocratic dairy managers or owners often feel as though their contributions are not valued. The autocratic leader often only considers how his decisions will affect him or her and not other employees.

The democratic leader gives everyone equal say in decisions. The “leadership by committee” approach makes employees and family members feel that they have a part in the final decision. The collaborative style of management often leads to more thought-out decisions in relation to problem solving.

If you are contemplating a change in management style, first identify what type of manager you are and determine if a change is needed. The most effective way to figure out if a change is needed in your management style is to solicit feedback from those who are under your leadership.

According to Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark Consulting, one of the defining qualities of good managers is that they can look inward to examine their own strengths and weaknesses. They’re also willing and happy to listen to outside input on how they can grow and change.

If you have decided that a change in management style is needed, how do you proceed? According to Picoult, you should think about each thing you say and do, and before reacting, catch yourself and do something differently before you fall into your comfort zone. Great leaders are good at adapting to the environment around them and making changes when needed.

Sometimes it can be hard to change one’s style of management after using the same style for so many years. It takes extraordinary effort from within to recognize that changes are necessary in order to have harmony in the workplace, whether it is among family members or employees. Family members and employees need to be supportive in the management transition, as change is not always easy to achieve -- but having a support network eases the transition.

Dubois, Lou. How to change your management style. May 4, 2011. Inc.

Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is Ruminant Business Manager in California for Micronutrients, a Division of Heritage Technologies, LLC. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-907-8013 or

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