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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Let's explain how each of Mintzberg's 10 managerial roles can be improved and applied in the workplace.
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.
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.
Develop your professional network. Your contacts could include the following:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
This role requires a leader to manage assets in a way that supports strategic goals. There are 4 types of resources:
To allocate these resources wisely, consider the following:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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