Management Antipatterns – how NOT to manage teams

Some example antipatterns from our book “Antipatterns: Indentification, Refactoring and Management” a guide to effective team and project management.

Management antipatterns are the result of bad managers, management teams or executives. In some cases it might just be tolerating or amplifying the debilitating behavior of another team member, such as in Golden Child, Rising Upstart, or Warm Bodies. At other times it’s a misguided, incompetent, or even malicious supervisor.

MMj02839200000[1] Leader Not Manager 


Central Concept


Manager Not Leader stresses the importance of effective leadership by supervisors, managers and executives, but being a great leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a great manager. This antipattern illustrates the problem of having vision but no plan.




An absence of effective management manifests itself in:





Since many workers resent administration and those that work in it, they rarely give credit to great managers. Indeed, they rarely even notice them. Consequently it is also rare for people to notice poor administration unless it is accompanied by a lack of leadership or an abundance of aggression, derision, control or suppression. These problems are the source of most of the other antipatterns, however. This antipattern is concerned with the well-intentioned, perhaps even inspirational leader that, through either a lack of aptitude, training or concern, struggles with the daily administration required in teams or on projects.


Perhaps the most famous example of a Leader Not Manager was Sir Winston Churchill. His leadership through the Second World War was critical to the Allied success, but his lack of planning and preparation were the source of many mistakes including the Allied invasion of Norway in 1940. He was also considered a lamentable Prime Minister in peace time following the war and is thought by many to be responsible for the collapse of the British Empire.


While not as inspirational and transformational as Churchill, one Department Head we’ve known equally epitomized the Leader Not Manager. Martin was a charismatic, funny guy who was universally respected and liked by his staff and peers. He oozed positivism and charm but matched it with:



Essentially, Martin was incapable of planning his own day and this extended into his department. Without a plan the staff were never focused on a particular task or project and instead worked on anything that interested them at the time. Martin’s enthusiasm for innovation and creativity prevented him from intervening so he never leveraged his considerable influence. He didn’t last.




Inspiring leadership is very important, but so are the day-to-day operations of an organization, project, or team and to do them effectively requires management acumen that even great leaders can lack. Some might view these tasks as drudgery, but while leaders inspire, managers organize, plan, supervise and advise.


Jill Geisler condensed the observations of two of the most prominent leadership scholars as show in Table 5.1 [Geisler]:


According to…

A Manager…

A Leader…

Warren Bennis

§  promotes efficiency

§  is a good soldier

§  imitates

§  accepts the status quo

§  does things right

§  promotes effectiveness

§  is his or her own person

§  originates

§  challenges

§  does the right things

John Kotter

§  copes with complexity

§  plans and budgets

§  organizes and staffs

§  controls and problem-solves

§  copes with change

§  sets a direction

§  aligns people

§  motivates people


Table 5.1 Giesler’s illustration of leadership versus management competences.


She goes on to remark that these characterizations would make being a manager, and not a leader, sound almost derogatory…that the term “manager” is almost pejorative. This is not true at all. We certainly hope that our leaders are managers just as we hope our managers are leaders, but leadership does not subsume management, it complements it. Management is concerned with:



It should be emphasized that while many management and administrative tasks are not exactly exhilarating, it is a grave disservice to, as Joseph C. Rost put it, "denigrate management to ennoble leadership.”[Rost].




Get an great administrative assistant that can help with schedules and budgets.


Band Aid


Divide and conquer. Give the management tasks to someone else, leaving the leader to focus on broader issues. This is actually a great opportunity to mentor a junior- or middle-manager.

Text Box: Self-Repair
Get an administrative assistant that can help with schedules and budgets.



Effective leaders are in short supply so discarding them is usually not an option; far better to rehabilitate them. It can be as simple as encouraging professional development in the areas of budgeting, organizational management and planning. These are taught in business schools, but many emergent leaders are not business majors or MBAs, they are promoted from their professional areas into management positions.


Of course, not everyone is detail-oriented and task-focused so despite training some will not be able to plan, budget or schedule. In these situations the band aid might be the only option. For those few leaders that refuse to modify their habits – the ones that actually like chaos because it obfuscates their personal objectives and activities – it might be time for them to move on.




[Geisler] J. Geisler. “Are you a Manager, Leader, or Both?” Poynter Online.

The Poynter Institute. Available at


[Rost] J.C. Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, Praeger, NY. 1991.




MCj00827830000[1] Manager Not Leader   


"Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing." –

 Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader.


Text Box: "Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing." –
 Warren Bennis, "On Becoming a Leader" [Bennis]

Central Concept


The manager that is proficient at their administrative and managerial duties, but lacks leadership ability.




When things are going well the leadership shortcomings of those in charge are diminished and the organization can function satisfactorily. In tough times, however, it takes a leader to rally the troops, maintain morale, and ultimately to make the difficult decisions. When the managerial staff lacks leadership the natural leaders in the group will become apparent. This can be a significant hindrance to the manager and can cause conflict, dissension, and possibly even insurrection.


Of course a coup d’etat is an extreme reaction against poor leadership, and spectacular failure of an organization is unlikely. A lack of leadership can result in a number of negative consequences, however:





This antipattern can occur at many levels within an organization and, in fact, is unfortunately too prevalent. Managerial positions are coveted by power-hungry individuals with little leadership potential, but considerable drive and ruthless endeavor. In one small department of a medium sized enterprise we know both the department head and their senior associate were Managers Not Leaders as was the chief executive.


Too many times the senior associate would complain how their assistants were never working hard enough. Whenever they were not in direct line of sight they would become distracted, instant messaging their friends, making personal telephone calls or off to the coffee machine was his claim. “I’ll give them tasks to do, but I don’t know if they ever get them done” was a common refrain as he bemoaned the reporting structure to the department head, who nodded in agreement. “If they don’t report to me, how can I control them,” he continued. “Well they are all lazy down there, and they don’t respect their superiors,” replied the head as he nodded further.


Both failed to recognize that if they were really leaders their subordinates would be followers. They had no personal leverage with the staff to ensure that work got done; they had failed to motivate their staff and to instill personal satisfaction and reward for completing tasks. In fact, their first and last resort was direct oversight, command and control.


This type of Manager Not Leader can be found in abundance on reality televisions shows. Boyd Coddington, the owner of the hotrod builders featured in American Hotrod on The Discovery Channel, constantly berates and subjugates his employees while proclaiming he maintains a positive working atmosphere. Ninya Perna, the Hotel Operations Manager from American Casino on the same channel is often portrayed in an even worse light.


In one episode she is berated by her supervisor, the late Michael Tata, because the arrival schedules and plans for some "high-rollers" arriving at the hotel that day were not up to standard. She called her junior managers to a meeting and hauled them over the carpet for getting it wrong and told them she expected better. When there was another problem with the next day's plan the gloves really came off. Perna practically keel-hauled her junior managers with relentless, crude and derogatory abuse and she did this in front of the Vice President so that she could demonstrate her own passion and fire. The tongue-lashing culminated in Perna telling her staff that since they were incapable of performing their duties in a five day week, she was extending it to a six day working week and anyone that didn’t turn up on their six day was effectively resigning!



I called another mandatory meeting with my managers because of all the errors that were made last evening in light of the packet.


Ninya had a meeting with you guys, and it was a very serious meeting. It's gotten to the point where she needs my help, so she's come to me.


They get paid a certain amount of money to do a job that they are here to do, and they don't do it. I’m not gonna tolerate any more ignorance. This morning we distributed a packet with a sight-inspection sheet that no one could read.


It couldn't get any darker. I went to every copier, and that's just how it printed out.


You print it off of your computer, or you type it out. I expect Justin, as a senior member of this management team, to help us solve the problem, but once again, he was sitting there, saying nothing and not offering any solutions. Seriously, Michael made a big recommendation today.


I told Ninya, "at this point, if I were you, I would put everyone on a 6-day work week."


Absolutely not. There’s no way.


Well, too bad.


I’m working 10-, 12-hour days. There’s no way I’m gonna do a 6-day week.


Then you need to find alternative employment, because it's not an option for any of you. You will all work 6 days. What the [bleep] do I need to do in this operation to make it run? Why don't you three understand that this is affecting this operation, and it is no longer acceptable? This lack of urgency is no longer acceptable, and if all of you need to put in your resignation, fill it out right now and resign your position, I am sick of it. Done, finished, over. I had a meeting yesterday and discussed these issues. Why do I have to discuss them again today? What is your rebuttal? Seriously. This is ridiculous. I’m being confronted by the vice president as to why this operation doesn't run. It is no longer gonna be tolerated. And you will work six [bleep] days a week, or all of you put in your resignation right now. I will work your shift, I will work your shift, and I will work your shift, because then I will at least be accountable for what the hell happens here.


I think you guys are being very unreasonable. We work very hard for you. We work 10 hours a day.


Don't be insubordinate. If you're not here on Sunday...


There's no way. I work way too hard.


Thank you to the senior manager of this operation for making a [bleep] of yourself.


I’m the [bleep]?




We couldn't ask for a more obvious demonstration of Manager Not Leader than Captain Bligh, the overthrown Captain of the HMS Bounty. Bligh has been described as someone of "poor leadership, uneven temper, insensitive, humorless, abusive and prone to nag worse than a fishwife" but also as an "excellent navigator, brilliant cartographer, superior seaman, brave in the face of danger and follows his orders to a fault." While Fletcher Christian was perhaps not the most enigmatic leader either, his empathy for his fellow crew members, and his vision for a better life demonstrated sufficient leadership potential for him to lead the mutiny and overthrow Bligh's command.


We talk a lot about poor management or lack of leadership as though we are describing the same thing, but while they are very related and we always hope for bosses and decision-makers to have considerable ability in both, they are not the same. Effective management is the efficient use of resources to effectively execute a plan. The larger the plan the greater the scope and responsibility of the manager...hence middle-managers. There are no middle-leaders though. Leadership is a much less tangible, yet far more obvious, attribute. Some of us lead, some follow and that is how it should be. Can someone be an effective manager without being an inspiring leader? Absolutely. Equally someone not managing can be an effective leader...indeed, leaders emerge regardless of their rank in an organization.


John Gardner examined the concept of leadership and determined there are a number of functions and attributes of leadership [Gardner]:


Leadership Functions

Leadership attributes

§  Envisioning goals

§  Motivating others towards those goals

§  Managing the process for reaching those goals

§  Affirming and regenerating group values

§  Achieving unity

§  Creating an atmosphere of trust

§  Explaining and teaching

§  Serving as a symbol of the group’s identity

§  Representing the group’s interests to external entities

§  Adapting the organization to the changing world


  • Action-oriented
  • Adaptable
  • Assertive
  • Courageous
  • Decisive
  • Eager to accept responsibility
  • Empathetic
  • Great people-skills
  • Motivator
  • Physically fit
  • Self-confident
  • Task competent
  • Trustworthy




Adopt a leader. If you can’t become one, you’ll need to find one: a friend with natural leadership ability that shares your philosophy and beliefs.


Band Aid


Generally, although certainly not ideal, being supervised or managed by a Manager Not Leader will not be the downfall of an organization, department or team, so fear not. It is unlikely that as an individual you can change the situation unless you are a natural leader, in which case your influence will eventually come to the fore anyway.




Despite common perceptions, leadership is not a simile for control, responsibility, power or official authority. One does not become a leader merely because they have direct reports or a chain of command, the potential must be innate. Leadership, as the functions and attributes listed above indicate, is about motivation, vision, unity and trust, so these must be the focus of any refactorings.





[Gardner] J.W. Gardner, On Leadership,” Free Press, NY. 1989.


[Bennis] Warren Bennis, "On Becoming a Leader," Perseus Books Group, 1994.