September 09, 2013, 2:29 PM — Manager A: Controlling, demanding, requires accountability and is not afraid to hold people responsible when they make mistakes.
Manager B: Supportive, encouraging, empowering, laissez-faire.
Who is the better boss?
Shockingly, Manager A, writes leadership and strategy expert Greg McKeown in Harvard Business Review. (Don't feel bad, we got this one wrong, too.)
In a mind-bending piece, McKeown asserts that the best boss you've ever had (i.e., the nice, easy one) may be detrimental to your chances for advancement as their "hands-off, low control, absentee approach" doesn't push employees to achieve their best.
And that's odd because the supportive, encouraging, empowering model has been the one traditionally promoted by management experts as best practice.
"They may speak about empowerment and enablement," notes McKeown, who collected data from 1,000 Silicon Valley managers for his research. "All the while they allow their people's career prospect to decline slowly."
He describes one such manager thusly: "His manager had been in the company for 20 years. He had learned how to survive in the bureaucracy: don't make too many waves, don't cause problems. He played the political game well enough to still be there but not well enough to strengthen his reputation. He had slowly lost his political clout. As a result, his team had been winnowed away to a fraction of the size it used to be."
Under the leadership of a nice boss, innovation may be stymied as the status quo is accepted as A-OK. And without innovation or challenges, direct reports simply, blissfully float along in their career, but never really go anywhere.
Give McKeown’s column a read, it’s quick and well worth your time.