What Makes An Effective Manager?

Management mirrors life, there are no clear-cut rules to follow, no manual or bible with all the answers. Management is a process and an understanding, based on years of theoretical developments, learning and growth. Essentially, management is the ‘process of getting things done effectively and efficiently through and with other people’ (Mary Parker Follet, 1941). There are two core principles to this management process, efficiency in minimising resource costs, and effectiveness in goal attainment. However, effective management does not come from these principles alone.

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Management theories differ and will ultimately shape the beliefs and attitudes of managers. Although this will influence the way in which managers control and operate their businesses, the extent will be context dependent and influenced by both internal factors e. g. size of business, type of manager, reputation of business, and external factors e. g. diversity, competition, technology, ethics etc. The type of management classification is also a key point for effective management, as the composite view of the firm suggests that management behaviour is qualitatively different at the technical, organisational and institutional levels.

At the root of any management process is management theory, and it may be the choice of approach, which determine the ‘effective’ from the ineffective managers. For effective management, it is essential that the level of managerial position i. e. line management or enabling management, is taken into consideration, alongside the nature of the business. Principles may not generalise across businesses – what is effective for one business may be ineffective to another.

Managers may choose to take the mechanistic approach of Scientific Management with the view that there is ‘one best way’ for a job to be done (Fredrick W. Taylor ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ 1911). This type of management may be effective in its systematic and analytical nature of increasing efficiency and productivity; however, its ‘mechanical treatment of employees’ (Robert Owen) is questionable. This is a main source of criticism by humanists such as ‘Hugo Musterberg (1960) who argued that, scientific managers were concerned with physical skills, but ignored mental skills’.

This concept is at the core of The Human Relations Movement emphasising the need for interpersonal employee-manager relationships (Hawthorne Effect). Again this theory has positive implications for management such as empowerment, group-decision making, conflict resolutions, and further work by researchers such as ‘Elton Mayo’ ‘Dale Carnegie’, ‘Abraham Maslow’ and ‘Douglas McGregor’ has introduced physiological and motivational perspectives for management. However criticism is evident from the lack of scientific validity, and an over-emphasis on psychological processes and personal philosophies.

In hindsight, it may be most effective for managers to be open-minded to the concept that management processes may not be fixed in stone, and that it may be that a combination of numerous theories and principles, may prove most effective. It is obtaining a balance between science and behaviourism, in order to create a management process that is interrelated. Another possibility is that there is a conceptual framework for management within which, each approach has a place, and where it can be related in some meaningful way to others (Harold Koontz ‘The Management Theory Jungle’).

This process can aid the effectiveness of management processes. Through entwining specific ideas from different models of management, managers will be more adept to embrace management processes with a broader knowledge, and with a more open perspective. ‘Henri Fayrol (1950), highlighted the importance of the management process of planning, organizing, leading and controlling ‘ to which a combination of these theories can be applied to prove most effective.