December 19, 2022
General
Natalia Rossingol

10 Managerial Roles, According to Mintzberg

Learn about the different managerial roles identified by renowned management theorist Henry Mintzberg, including interpersonal, informational, and decisional roles.

Being a manager means assuming various managerial roles at the same time. You would have to be an inspirational leader, take responsibility for people and processes, and handle multiple issues of different kinds. Each of the roles managers perform is important, and each presents its own challenges.  

In this article, we will discuss managerial roles described in the theory of Henry Mintzberg, a Canadian academic and author specializing in business and management, a Professor of Management studies at McGill University. Mintzberg categorized managerial responsibilities, drawing a line between duties that require different skill sets. This way, he made it easier to analyze the nature of managerial work.

What is a managerial role?

Managerial roles are behaviors adopted to perform various management functions, like leading and planning, organizing, strategizing, and solving problems. Within an organization, managers of different levels have different responsibilities that may overlap.

Henry Mintzberg classified managerial roles based on their purpose. He developed 10 managerial roles and divided them in 3 categories, grouping the roles that share similar features. Some of these features can be applied to two or more roles at the same time.

What are the 3 categories of managerial roles?

According to Mintzberg’s typology, managerial roles fall into three basic categories:

Interpersonal roles. This category includes the roles which concern interactions with people working inside and outside the organization. Basically, the majority of managers’ time is spent on interpersonal communication through which things get done.

The managerial roles in this category are figurehead, leader, and liaison.

Informational roles. The informational category involves creating, receiving, or sharing information with coworkers. The manager collects information from sources both inside and outside the organization, processes it, and delivers it to those who need it.   

The managerial roles in this category are monitor, disseminator, and spokesperson.

Decisional roles. Interpersonal roles are about dealing with people, and informational ones are about dealing with knowledge. Decisional roles are about action. By communicating with people and using information, managers make decisions that lead the organization to its goals.

The managerial roles in this category are entrepreneur, disturbance-handler, resource-allocator, and negotiator.

Let’s explain each of the managerial roles in the three categories in detail.

Managerial roles

Mintzberg's 10 managerial roles explained

Figurehead

This role requires performing social, ceremonial, and legal responsibilities. The Figurehead represents the organization, as well as motivates the team to achieve goals. For people, this managerial role is a source of power and authority.

Examples:

  • Managers in the figurehead role attend social event where they promote their company.
  • Greeting a potential business client and giving a tour.

Leader

The leader role is the most pivotal as it shows to which extent a manager’s potential is realized. Managers are in charge of their people's performance, which may mean leading a team, a department, or an entire organization.

The responsibilities include hiring and training (direct leadership) and encouragement of employees (indirect leadership). Leaders influence and motivate people, giving them a sense of purpose to reach organizational goals.

Example:

  • A manager sets a goal for the team and communicates his expectations, making sure that people understand them. He monitors their progress and provides feedback and resources if needed.

Liaison

Managers in the liaison role develop and maintain internal and external relationships. They are a connection link that bridges the gap between employees of different levels to ensure work is done smoothly. Liaisons transfer knowledge through different members of the organization, up and down the chain of command, and can also involve their business contacts from outside the company.  

Examples:

  • A manager coordinates with people inside the company, as well as coordinating work between the company’s units.
  • A manager coordinates with people outside the organization, such as buyers, suppliers, and strategic partners.
  • Manager-client-employee interaction. A manager communicates with a client to see what the client's needs are, providing this information to the employees after the fact.

Monitor

In the monitor role, managers are expected to look for information necessary for their organization, as well as for information that can concern potential industry changes. They gather internal and external sources, trying to identify problems and opportunities for growth. In other words, they scan the environment to assess the current state of things in a company and see if corrective action is needed.

Examples:

  • Seeking customer feedback to see how exactly you can improve your products or services.
  • Monitoring industry trends, like products made by competitors or government regulatory changes, in order to meet standards and stay on track.

Disseminator

Receiving information from various sources, a manager in the disseminator role is responsible for sharing it with those who may need it. This can be done in both verbal and written forms.

A manager can pass on information directly to the appropriate person, or pass it on between subordinates if they lack contact. The information can concern the organization's direction or strategy, as well as specific technical issues.

Examples:

  • A one-on-one conversation between a manager and an employee where a certain issue is discussed.
  • Developing a proposal for a new product design, submitting it to upper management for approval, and providing it to the employees so that they can get familiarized with it.

Spokesperson

Managers in a spokesperson role speak for their organization, defending the company's interests. Their responsibility is to make the organization look good in the eyes of potential or new clients and the general public.

Examples:

  • A manager attends the annual shareholders’ meeting, informing the attendees about the results her team has achieved this year and presenting statistics.
  • A manager speaks on behalf of the company at a conference.
  • Division leaders talk to other division leaders, informing them about strategies and resource requirements.
  • CEOs meet with investors or government officials to give them information about the company which they may find useful. This way, they can persuade investors that their company is pursuing a good strategy, and raise some capital.

Entrepreneur

In the entrepreneur role, a manager organizes and runs business processes. This role develops and implements new ideas or strategies, which often means coming up with innovative solutions. Entrepreneurs create conditions for change since innovation and change are needed for a company to stay competitive. Besides, they make sure a company adopts new products and processes pioneered by others or change the organizational structure.

Examples:  

  • A manager decides to use social media to increase sales.
  • A manager reorganizes a weak department, or uses mergers or acquisitions.

Disturbance handler

A manager solves issues as they arise – like sales that grow too slowly, a client breaking a contract, or valuable employees leaving. The task of the manager in the disturbance handler role is to fix the problem, maintaining productivity.

Example:

  • When two members of a team have a conflict, it’s the manager’s responsibility to help them resolve it.

Resource Allocator

The resource allocator role requires a manager to determine how and where to apply organizational resources. By resources we mean equipment, staff, funding, facilities, and time. Typically, the resources an organization has are limited, so it takes some effort to decide how to best allocate them.

Example:

  • A manager divides funding between the departments of his organization, based on their current and future needs.
  • A marketing manager divides funding between media advertizing and promotions.
  • A resource manager distributes project workload across people.

Negotiator

Managers participate in negotiations, trying to reach their goals. This managerial role includes negotiating with external parties, where they represent the interests of their organizations, as well as negotiating with internal parties, such as other departments or team members.

The better negotiation skills managers have, the higher their chances to come to an agreement with customers, better organize the work process, and gain access to more resources.

Examples:

  • A manager negotiates pricing, delivery, and design with customers.
  • A manager negotiates over access to capital and personnel with seniors.

How to apply Mintzberg's management roles in the workplace

Naturally, no one can be equally skilled in all ten managerial roles. But as we mentioned before, a manager plays all of them – some less and some more, depending on the context of his work. This is why it makes sense to develop the areas where you as a manager feel less skilled.

To figure out what you need to work on, start with the following steps:

  1. Think about the roles you spend most of your managerial time in. These roles will be the ones that will require your attention in the first place.
  2. Write out 10 roles and score yourself. For example, use a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is “very skilled”, and 5 is “not skilled” at all. This way, you will identify your weak areas.

Let's explain how each of Mintzberg's 10 managerial roles can be improved and applied in the workplace.

Figurehead

In the figurehead role, managers represent their teams, so they need to build a powerful positive image.

First of all, think about your reputation. Do you set a good example? Are you empathetic and humble, or, on the contrary, cold and selfish? Answer these questions to see where you need to work on your personality.

Leader

Not everyone has strong leadership abilities. However, they can be developed. Try to understand how confident you are at leading other people – motivating employees and organizing their work. Improve your emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and reading the emotions of others.

Liaison

Develop your professional network. Your contacts could include the following:

  • your department or team;
  • other departments and teams in your organization;
  • former colleagues or clients;
  • local businesses;
  • voluntary groups.

There are different ways of how to make contact with the necessary people. You could meet them face-to-face at conferences. You could also use social media like LinkedIn or Twitter. In any case, your task is to let people know what your organization does and get them interested.

Monitor

In a monitor role, a leader will have to gather information effectively. That’s not always easy.

One problem is information overload – too many pieces of information that you receive over a short period of time, like emails, voice mails, publications to read, and other similar things. To overcome it, you’ll need to identify priorities and put a time limit on information gathering.  

Another thing that obstacles monitoring is ineffective reading strategies. You will need to learn how to read quickly and thoroughly, not paying excessive attention to information that’s not relevant.

Disseminator

To share information with coworkers, you will need to have good communication skills. You can communicate verbally, using your body language or phone, or through writing. Traditional face-to-face meetings are very useful but time-consuming. Instant communication saves your time, but it may also create a lot of misunderstanding.

That’s why it’s important to learn how to structure and present your thoughts. This will require you to learn academic writing, improve your presentation skills, and, again, emotional intelligence, to predict reactions.

Spokesperson

As a spokesperson, a manager is expected to represent the organization and speak for it. Managers will have to know how to deliver excellent presentations and probably work with the media. This means a manager will have to create an image of a confident person who can freely speak in public.

Here are some tips on how to work with the audience:

  1. Understand who your audience is, as that will determine your style. Speaking to a colleague will be different than speaking to upper management.
  2. Use simple language. Structure information in a way that the audience can easily understand it.
  3. Work on your body language.
  4. Pay attention to real-life feedback.
  5. Let the audience ask you questions.

Entrepreneur

In the entrepreneur role, a manager is expected to be creative and properly react to change.

Speaking about creativity, we don’t mean creativity that is innate – but rather technical one, which is achieved by the ability to reframe issues and see them from a different perspective. 

Managers are also supposed to be able to handle change. This requires them to have change management skills:

  • Writing change management plans – a critical part of implementing a change.
  • Setting goals for changes.
  • Communicating plans to employees, who need to understand their roles in the change.  

Disturbance Handler

A good leader is supposed to have conflict resolution skills, because conflicts will inevitably take place. Sometimes employees cannot resolve conflicts by themselves, and will need leader's help. Sometimes a leader will be involved in a conflict himself.

The most common ways of resolving a conflict include the following:

  1. Negotiation. Negotiation is conducted without a third party. You brainstorm options and look for tradeoffs.
  2. Mediation. In this case, there is a third party – mediator, who doesn’t find a solution but encourages the parties to explore the interests of each other. A mediator works with them both separately and together.
  3. Arbitration. This technique also involves a third party. But unlike a mediator, an arbitrator makes a decision, often confidential. This decision is based on the arguments and evidence of each side.

Resource Allocator

This role requires a leader to manage assets in a way that supports strategic goals. There are 4 types of resources:

  1. Physical resources. These include equipment, buildings, and inventory (like raw materials and finished products).
  2. Human resources. People are the most valuable resource since they have knowledge and can demonstrate creativity.
  3. Intellectual resources. These are non-physical resources like patent and copyright. At the same time, talent within an organization can also be considered a form of intellectual resource.
  4. Financial resources. These are funds.

To allocate these resources wisely, consider the following:

  • Set goals. Short-term goals will require resources that are needed for critical company operations. For long-term goals, you will need resources that will ensure the company’s survivability. 
  • Set up effective communication. Spread important information about resources between departments of all levels, to avoid conflict.
  • Prioritize. Evaluate the current use of resources, and make adjustments, if necessary.
  • Calculate resources. This applies only to those resources that can be calculated.

Negotiator

Negotiations often determine the success of a company. In the negotiator role, a manager will have to talk to people, negotiating for power and resources, and this will occur all the time.  

Here are some tips for becoming a good negotiator:

  1. Remember you negotiate with people, not with organizations or departments. This is why to reach a deal, a manager will have to think not about his own interest, but also the interest of the other side.
  2. Perception is powerful. Don’t perceive the other party as an adversary. Trying to get what they want, managers should also help the other party get what they want, too.
  3. Negotiating is not begging. The agreement must be fair to all parties.
  4. Do not narrow negotiations to one issue. Prepare multiple options to create bargaining opportunities. For example, if the topic of discussion is a job, do not narrow it just to an issue of a salary. Discuss other things like promotion and relocation packages as well.
  5. Trade things that are of low value to you but of high value to the other party.

The five minds of a manager

Henry Mintzberg, together with Jonathan Gosling, a director for Leadership Studies of Exeter, also determined the so-called “five sets of a managerial mind.” According to the authors, successful managers should possess all of these skill mindsets, each of which supports an important managerial function:

Reflective mindset

Function: Reflect                                 

Target: Manage the Self

Managers must be able to understand the situation. They should explain it, using both their personal experience and analyzing the current environment. 

Action mindset

Function: Act

Target: Manage the Change

Directed by visions, managers need to focus their people’s effort to actually move to their goal. 

Action and reflection are two basic characteristics that form the basis of management. They go in pair, supplementing each other. Action without reflection – which is, decisions without considering options – is not smart. Reflection without action is passiveness.

Collaborative mindset

Function: Collaborate

Target: Manage the Relationships

To achieve results, a manager must communicate with people. It’s important to remember that people are not just assets that can be traded. They have relationships, and basically, a leader manages these relationships, not people themselves.

Worldly mindset

Function: Have Knowledge and Experience

Target: Manage the Context

Mintzberg and Gosling oppose the term “wordly” to the terms “globalization”. While globalization means things are perceived from a distance, a worldly view takes into account cultures and habits. This way, managing from a worldly perspective means taking into account social, economic, and geographical factors.

Analytical mindset

Function: Analyze      

Target: Manage the Organization

Managers are surrounded with things of different categories – physical assets, structures, systems, and techniques. It requires an analytical approach to problem-solving. This means managers will have to use both quantitative and qualitative data to make decisions.

Mintzberg and Gosling say that this framework is not scientifically based, but rather provides the attitude that opens possibilities.                       

The value of Henry Mintzberg's management theory is that he described the roles managers of different levels play every day - this is a holistic approach that reflects the whole complexity of the managerial work. At the same time, this typology gives managers a chance to clearly see where they lack skill, so they can work on self-improvement.

Enjoy the post? Sign-up below for the latest strategies, stories and product updates from the team at Runn.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 5,000 users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed