Management styles

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It depends on countless factors how a project organizes communication and how it makes decisions. Professional literature often emphasizes the inequality of team member as to how decisions on the handling of resources are made (skills) and how these decisions are allowed to be made (formal competences). Anyway, there are project teams that do not accept this inequality and prefer to see their voluntary work as a non-hierarchical possibility for the self-realization of all team members.

Most of the models that are published in the literature represent the management styles in the form of a continuum: On one side there is the power of control and decision of individuals (leaders), on the other the power of everyone. We are referring to Lewin’s model.

Authoritarian / patriarchal management style Cooperative management style Laissez-faire management style
Guidelines and control Guidelines built on agreement No guidelines, no control


[edit] Your way between hierarchy and equality

Practice shows that both authoritarian and domination-free management styles quickly lead to problems. On the one hand, volunteers often derive their intrinsic motivation from the opportunity for co-decision. Not every team member is keen on achieving the goal of the project at each moment - the questions of how and with whom are also crucial. For them, hierarchy as a means of centralizing power leads to a loss of motivation. And to be perfectly honest: Is a project team that solely rests on the decisions of one person able to make our societies more democratic?

On the other hand a non-hierarchically organized team will struggle if not all members participate in pleasant and unpleasant activities in equal measure. At least in theory all members would have to be able, but also willing to be equally committed. But, in practice, those who perceive themselves as more responsible are often frustrated and feel pressured into an informal leadership role. The environment of a project also demands the definite responsibility of certain individuals (e.g. in case of signatures on contracts). This way informal hierarchies emerge that are not in accord with the team’s self-perception.

Find your own way – talk about your desires and agree on how to make decisions. The examples mentioned above show how important it is to consider this realistically – because communication within a team always costs time and effort. And, what is more, you should be able to spend your time together as comfortably, trustingly and effectively as possible. See also: Practical team management

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