This post, an excerpt from my book Business Without the Bullsh*t, describes the types of bosses that everyone ends up working for eventually and, if they start their own company, eventually become.
1. The Visionary
Visionaries are more concerned with the future than with what's going on here and now. They manage by creating (or trying to create) a reality-distortion field that makes people believe the visionary and his team can accomplish the impossible.
Many visionary bosses view the late Steve Jobs as a role model, and that's the problem. Like Jobs visionary bosses can be intolerant, overly critical, and unfair, and sometimes throw tantrums when they don't get their way.
Not surprisingly, visionaries are most commonly found inside high-tech and biotech firms. When they migrate into traditional industries, they usually end up returning to their original spawning ground.
If you're working for a visionary, be willing to drink the Kool-Aid, work ridiculously long hours, and listen to endless variations of "this product is going to change the WORLD." If that's your cup of tea, this type of boss can be a lot of fun, tantrums and all.
2. The Climber
Climbers are all about getting themselves promoted. As a general rule they're interested in you as an employee only insofar as you can help or hinder their ascent to the corner office.
Climbers are master politicians. They never have colleagues; only competitors. They spend endless time and effort figuring out how to win status, claim credit, and build alliances.
With climbers you must be clear in your own mind that loyalty is simply not part of the relationship, and that you'll be discarded faster than a month-old mackerel the second you make the climber look bad.
With that proviso, if you're working for a climber, do what you can to make him look good and (most important) be the person who has his back when his fellow climbers try to stab it.
3. The Bureaucrat
Bureaucrats believe that their position and importance lies in an ability to make everything run by the book. They are resistant to change because they see the current situation (which is the one that put them in power) as the best of all possible worlds.
In the olden days, bureaucrats used to love endless pages of paperwork. Today they love endless screens of online forms. They also love meetings, especially those that review and discuss the activities of others.
Bureaucrats thrive inside what they like to call "large enterprises." They falter in small firms because the lack of a crowd makes it too obvious that they aren't really doing very much. Bureaucrats are predictable and easy to please. Document everything in detail and limit
all your activities to what's been done in the past, even if it no longer works. Warning: a bureaucrat boss can grind your creativity into dust.
4. The Propellerhead
When engineers get into the management chain, they bring a technology-oriented worldview with them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you'll be judged almost entirely on your technical competence.
The propellerhead boss prefers employees who are experts in some technical field--the more obscure the better. They consider all nontechnical types (like MBA holders) equally stupid and useless.
Don't take offense if a propellerhead boss communicates with you primarily through e- mail, even if that boss has an office two cubicles away. Propellerheads tend to avoid people issues.
The easiest way to get on the good side of a propellerhead is to become fluent in nerdy pop culture references. If possible, illustrate your business point by quoting lines from Star Trek or Star Wars.
5. The Fogey
These bosses have been around since the days when "secretaries" (whoever they were) used "typewriters" (whatever they were). Fogeys are simultaneously wise in the ways of the world and clueless about what's actually going on.
Fogeys who are close to retirement are often quite jovial and easy-going; those who must continue to work because they can't afford to retire can be meaner than dyspeptic weasels.
Working for a fogey requires the patience to listen to the same "war stories" multiple times. Don't assume the duffer is a doofus, though. Fogeys can be surprisingly shrewd, especially when it comes to political infighting.
Fogeys are mostly looking for two things: respect from the young'uns, and reassurance that they're still relevant. They make great mentors, because they tend to be generous with their advice and time.
6. The Whippersnapper
The flip side of the fogey is the barely-out-of-college go-getter who's assigned to manage a group of seasoned employees. Whippersnappers are energetic, enthusiastic, and secretly afraid that nobody is taking them seriously.
Because that insecurity is so huge, follow two essential rules when working for whippersnappers: (1) respond positively to the energy they bring to their job; and (2) never, ever remind them of their relative inexperience.
Needless to say, you may end up wasting time repairing problems generated by the whippersnapper's inexperience. That's fine, but remember to be enthusiastic about it! However, depending on your level of tolerance for the whippersnapper's learning curve, you may want to consider finding work elsewhere.
7. The Social Director
Social directors see management as a community-building process. They consider the personal interactions that happen in the workplace as important as (and sometimes more important than) the actual work itself.
Social directors always try to manage by consensus. They call a LOT of meetings and spend a LOT of time letting people air their opinions and ideas. They shy away from making decisions that might leave a team member "disappointed."
Working for a social director requires you to constantly build alliances and garner supporters. If you want a decision to be made, you'll need to get everybody on the team to back it publicly.
A word of warning: when it comes to handling their own emotions, social directors can be pressure cookers. They either let off steam through a series of hissy fits, or they suddenly explode. If it's the latter, try to be elsewhere when it happens.
8. The Dictator
This is the classic "It's my way or the highway" boss. While most people find this management style grating, working for a dictator has some advantages. They make decisions quickly and efficiently, without over-analyzing everything.
Another advantage of working for a dictator is knowing exactly where you stand. Why should your boss bother to stab you in the back when it's more convenient to stab you in the front?
Unfortunately, dictators tend to be impervious to outside opinion and brittle when it comes to change. When they fail (and they always fail eventually), it's on a truly epic scale.
The tricks to working for a dictator are (1) follow orders, (2) follow orders, and (3) be ready to jump to another job when you see the dictator driving your company (or your division) over the cliff.
9. The Sales Star
Selling is part of every job, and every boss should be able to sell his or her ideas up and down the management chain. The problem with this type of boss is that selling is the only thing he or she does well.
These bosses are usually created when top sales professionals are promoted into management. This happens with fair frequency, despite the fact that managing people requires a different skill set than selling to customers.
Sales star bosses tend to be self-motivated, aggressive and good at building relationships, understanding needs, and generating workable solutions. That's because they're salespeople.
Therefore, the way to deal with sales stars is to encourage them to sell! Bring them into situations where a deal must be closed, or terms negotiated. They'd really rather be getting their hands dirty (as it were) than managing people anyway.
10. The Hatchet Man
Hatchet men (or women) are brought into an organization to fire people as quickly as possible, usually to make the company more attractive to investors or position it for an acquisition.
By the very nature of the job, such bosses aren't likely to be filled with the proverbial milk of human kindness. Still, being human, they can't resist euphemisms that cast their actions in a positive light (e.g., corporate triage and ventilating the firm).
There are only two roles available for people who work for a hatchet man: henchman and victim. Ultimately the favored role, that of henchman, is temporary: they often get canned too.
The best way to deal with a hatchet man is to be long gone by the time he arrives. This requires attention to the writing on the wall. For example, the moment you see the words private equity investment on an internal memo, your new job is finding a new job. (See "Secret 39. What to Do If There's a Layoff.")
11. The Lost Lamb
Sometimes people who have no management talent end up in a position of authority. This generally happens when a manager leaves suddenly and top management needs somebody to hold the fort while it finds a replacement.
Lost lambs have no idea what to do other than continue whatever policies and strategies were previously in place. They know they're placeholders and dread doing anything that will be held against them once they're pushed back into the ranks.
What these bosses want is for you to move your projects forward without bringing ANY difficult decisions to them. They are, however, easily convinced to make minor decisions in your favor simply to keep you happy.
The biggest danger with a lost lamb is that if you end up making the lamb too successful, top management may conclude that the temporary assignment should be permanent, and you'll be saddled with the dead weight of the lost lamb for the foreseeable future.
12. The Hero
There are indeed men and women in this world whose personalities and characters make them well suited to manage other people. They're the fabled "natural leaders," and they're as rare as diamonds in dunghills.
Heroes prefer to coach others than to do things themselves. They have a knack for figuring out exactly what their employees need in order to do a superlative job and then how to get that for them.
Heroes always give their teams credit for the wins but take personal responsibility for the losses. They believe that "the buck stops here" not that "shit rolls downhill."
There are two problems with working for a hero. The first is that the hero will probably get promoted or be recruited to work elsewhere. The second is that once you've worked for a hero, it ruins your ability to work for the typical bozo.
Excerpted from the book Business Without the Bullsh*t by Geoffrey James. © 2014 by Geoffrey James. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus. All rights reserved.