I now have four adult children in the work force. They often talk to me about their bosses. I am a bit surprised at how much time they spend analyzing their bosses’ leadership styles. It is a bit intimidating to me to realize that I probably have been similarly studied and evaluated by people reporting to me during my more than three decades in management. Nevertheless, I am delighted to talk to my family members. Their perspectives are enlightening and instructive.

Currently, one is discontent with an autocratic boss. This manager has a clear sense of what he wants done and how he wants it done. He clearly communicates his expectations to his reports and uses threats and demeaning language to gain their compliance. I am not sure if this boss is obsessed with power and delusional or if he genuinely believes the best way to “motivate” people is to tightly control them and punish them whenever they step out of line. He is so deliberate with his leadership actions, that I tend to think he believes he is doing what is best for his direct reports and for his organization. Unfortunately, based on the response of at least one of his reports, his efforts are not working. This employee does not respect him, confesses that he has more to offer than the organization is receiving, and is actively looking for a way out.

A second adult-child is delighted with a boss whose leadership style is paternalistic. This leader also maintains tight control over his organization, but he does it without abuse. Instead, he is generous with his direct reports. Rather than focusing on punishment, he is more likely to motivate with expressions of personal interest and words of encouragement. He expects and accepts a certain degree of error and chooses to reward positive behaviors and results. His employee respects him, dreams about ways to make the organization better, and demonstrates a high degree of loyalty.

Situational Leadership theory has convinced most people who study management that the best managers adjust their style to fit the situation — the follower’s readiness in particular. Both of these managers are dealing with young employees who lack experience. One manager is doing a good job and is getting a large return from his employee. The other one is doing a poor job that is costing his organization dearly.

How are you doing in your management roles? Are you creating an environment where your people are offering their best? What can you do to become more of a servant leader?