Old School vs. New School

Old School Management Style

Just as in life, there is never a single correct answer in management. There are multiple management styles in business. Depending on your personality and management style, you may feel more comfortable with what I call "old school" management style, or you may be more inclined to "new school" management style. One cannot say whether there is a right or wrong method – indeed, different situations may call for one or the other. Managers need the ability to use any tools that are at their command.

Angry boss yelling at someone

But what is the "old school" management style?

The way I think of it is the "my way or the highway" approach. A military approach. Old school managers will direct their team, improve efficiency and effectiveness, assume they know best, give orders, treat staff as subordinates, discourage dissent, promote themselves as the leader, and hate failure above all else. They may come across as more gruff, and less patient with their team.

How does that compare to "new school" management?

These managers look at things differently from their counterparts. They spend their time trying to inspire their team, find new approaches, gather the knowledge and skills of others, ask questions, treat staff as equals, encourage constructive dissent, share rewards and prestige with their team, and is more comfortable with failure. These managers are often easier to work for, but may be less effective – at least in the short term.

Which one is better?

Neither of these approaches by themselves will fit all situations. While the old management styles are tougher to work for, they often accomplish an awful lot. They also may alienate their workforce and have higher turnover. The second manager must be careful not to be taken advantage of, but will likely have a happier staff and less turnover. A healthy mix of the two styles puts a manager in the strongest possible position.

For example, a strong leader who inspires the group, trusts and empowers the team, while improving efficiency and effectiveness. Or soliciting opinions from their staff and encouraging healthy dissent, while caring about results and minimizing risks. Understanding when each style is warranted makes a truly great manager. Old school management styles and more modern approaches can each have their place. 

Think about the managers you’ve had and their impact on your own job performance or that of your peers. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What sort of manager do you want to be?