Mintzberg’s ten managerial roles

Who are the managers?

How do people tend to think of managers?

 People tend to think of managers according to their position in an organization which helps them have some idea about their role and responsibilities.

The need for different types of managers to carry out different roles and responsibilities has always existed.

The top managers of an organization mostly concern themselves with strategy formulation and the mission and vision.

There is also another set of managers that includes the functional managers, team managers, and general managers.

The functional managers are concerned with a particular function and its efficient functioning like the marketing and HR functions.

The supervisors or team managers coordinate a subgroup of a function or a team composed of members from different parts of an organization.

Similarly, line managers lead functions contributing directly to the products and services created by an organization.

For example, a line manager at an FMCG brand may be responsible for the production, marketing and profitable sales of a particular product line.

There are staff managers too that lead functions providing indirect inputs like those heading the accounting or finance departments.

The project managers on the other hand are responsible for the planning and execution of particular projects and are commonly found across construction, telecommunications, consulting and other industries.

General managers are generally responsible for individual revenue producing units like product lines or a business unit and oversee different functions. Their rewards are tied to the performance of the entire unit. They work under the top executives and set goals for their departments according to the top level’s plan. They set the goals and the supervisors (supervisory managers) bear the responsibility to see that these goals are met.

The nature of managerial work (Mintzberg’s research)

The nature of managerial work can best be described through the POLC framework – Planning, Organizing, leading and controlling. Managers are responsible for setting goals and getting tasks completed through others.

Several studies have been carried out in an effort to understand the nature of managerial work. One of the most famous among such studies is the one carried out by Henry Mintzberg in the early 1970s.

Since then, the nature of managerial work has changed only a bit, excluding the changes brought about by technological developments and the change in employee-manager relationships. It is why Mintzberg’s research is still considered highly influential in terms of understanding the role of managers in driving organizational competitiveness and productivity.

In his research, Mintzberg identified ten roles that were common to the nature of all managerial work.

He divided these roles into three groups: Interpersonal, Informational and decisional. The first two categories include three roles each and the third category includes four roles.

We will describe each role in detail below.

The ten managerial roles by Henry Mintzberg

Mintzberg's ten managerial roles

Interpersonal roles:

There are three roles included in this category which mainly cover interpersonal relationships. It includes the set of behaviors and responsibilities related to managers’ interactions with employees and other stakeholders.

The three roles include figurehead, leader and liaison and in these roles, managers achieve the organizational goals through their interactions with employees and other stakeholders.

Figurehead:

In the figurehead role, the manager serves the role of a figurehead or a representative of the firm. It refers to the managerial responsibilities related to social and legal matters. A manager is expected to be a good role model and a source of inspiration for his subordinates who view him as a person with authority.

In this role, the manager is also expected to project a professional and responsible image since his image is tied with that of the company. For example, a manager attending a social event is there as a representative of the company and must project a professional image.

Leader:

This role is also related with manager’s relationships with subordinates and other stakeholders. As a leader, the manager is expected to guide, develop, motivate and empower his subordinates. Managers also oversee the performance of their subordinates as leaders and are responsible for managing their teams so that they can meet organizational goals effectively.

As leaders, managers are expected to be good communicators who can communicate the organizational goals clearly to their subordinates and provide guidance on critical matters. Managers communicate the goals to the team and ensure that each member understands it clearly.

As a manager, you may be responsible for leading a team, a function or an entire organization and managing everyone’s performance who is a part of the group.

Liaison:

In a liaison’s role, the managers are responsible for managing internal and external relationships.

They serve as the main connection between various groups including internal and external to ensure proper and smooth workflow.

The responsibility of the manager as a liaison is to facilitate a working relationship between various groups like employees and customers.

While internal relationships are important for any manager, external relationships or relationships with external stakeholders like customers, partners, suppliers and others are also important.

A manager communicates with his customers and clients regularly.

By communicating with the customers and clients, he gains insights into their needs and preferences and then communicates the information across the organization to make sure that his employees know what the customers need.

He also ensures that his subordinates are working to fulfil those needs and meeting the objectives.

In several situations, he also uses his external relationships to achieve organizational goals more effectively.

Informational Roles:

The three informational roles are largely concerned with the informational aspect of managerial work.

These roles are generally related to the situations in which a manger collects, receives or shares information with subordinates or seniors for achieving organizational objectives.

The three roles included in this category are monitor, disseminator and spokesperson.

Monitor:

As a monitor, the managers watch and actively seek information and changes that affect their business.

In such a situation, they research internal and external sources to seek information on developments that can potentially impact their business and its profitability in the short and the long run.

Changes keep happening across various industry sectors and managers as monitors seek information related to these changes so that they can identify opportunities and challenges and solve issues that can hurt business profitability.

They gather all the relevant information and analyze it to address potential issues.

Apart from gathering information, monitoring responsibilities of the managers also include overseeing the firm’s operations and identifying areas for improvement.

For example, customer service and marketing managers gather customer feedback to find areas needing improvement.

They and the top executives also research industry trends to increase the competitiveness of their business.

Watching the competition and monitoring the changes happening in their regulatory environment is also their responsibility.

These are important responsibilities that fall within the ambit of a manager’s role as a monitor and ensure the company’s competitiveness and smooth operational flow.

Disseminator:

Fundamentally, managers as disseminators disseminate information or simply convey the information they receive from the internal and external sources to appropriate individuals.

A manager gathers information related to latest developments in the industry and then prepares a proposal based on his research to create new technologies or products that can increase the firm’s profitability.

He can write a memo to his subordinates or have a meeting with his colleagues and seniors which means he can disseminate information verbally or in written form.

In their role as disseminators, the managers provide valuable information to increase the firm’s operating efficiency and profitability and help the employees accomplish particular tasks and objectives.

Suppose a manager has prepared a proposal for developing new technologies, and gains the approval from the upper management.

He then creates the project details and provides necessary information to his subordinates so that they have a clear and complete idea of the project at hand.

It will also enable the manager to assign roles and responsibilities according to the needs of the project.

Spokesperson:

In the spokesperson role, a manager works as the voice of the organization.  He conveys important information related to goals and policies to external stakeholders at various occasions.

Internally too, managers may be required to present information before their seniors or during meetings about the teams they lead and their performance.

For example, a top manager attending the annual shareholders meeting presents important information related to the company’s financial performance during the year.

He presents important quantifiable results related to the company’s operations and financial performance at the end of the year.

Apart from these things, he might discuss the operational and financial goals the company has set for the next year during the annual meeting.

Decisional Roles:

The second category of managerial roles that we discussed above included collecting and sharing information. In the third category of decisional roles, the managers make important decisions based on the information they have.

The managers’ responsibility also includes making strategic decisions based on the information they have gained.

There are four types of roles included in this category that include entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator.

Entrepreneur:

The role of managers is also akin to that of entrepreneurs in various ways.

In the role of entrepreneurs, managers are responsible for addressing challenges and managing business process. It can include developing new strategies, solving strategic challenges, and implementation of business strategy.

This role also involves innovative thinking and experimenting with ideas. You need to develop and present innovative ideas that can enhance the competitiveness of the organization and take it ahead of competitors. Managers also develop innovative resolutions for challenges hindering the firm’s growth.

For example, you are a manager for an FMCG company and notice that a certain product’s sales are declining. As you dig into the sales and customer service data insights related to the product, you come up with the idea of launching an innovative marketing campaign that can maximize digital engagement of customers.

Managers are expected to think innovatively so that the organization faces less competitive pressure and maintains its competitive edge in the market.

Disturbance Handler:

Managers also play the role of disturbance handlers. Whether it is an external challenge like a tumultuous market situation, a client switching to a rival or some internal conflict hampering operations and employee performance, their role requires them to handle such disturbances efficiently.

Managers are expected to handle and address such complex situations involving internal or external problems. They are expected to take charge of the situation and produce a resolution that will help the company maintain its productivity.

Several times companies also train managers to handle conflicts and find resolutions for common types of disturbances.

Particularly, the line managers or HR managers come across such situations more often where a conflict between two members can hurt their performance. In such a situation, they are required to act fast to minimize interruption to the operational flow.

Managers must focus on bringing resolutions that benefit all parties in the situation of a conflict.

Resource allocator:

Managers are also resource allocators or the people responsible for resource allocation for various projects. They are responsible in general for the management and distribution of resources.

It is crucial for managers to decide how both financial and non financial resources are allocated to minimize wastage, reduce operating expenses and achieve higher quality, efficiency and productivity.

Organizations own various types of resources and capabilities including machinery, equipment, warehouses, stores and other types of financial and nonfinancial resources. The allocation and management of human resources and is also a crucial responsibility of the managers.

For example, a top manager who controls the budget of the organization will decide how the marketing budget will be allocated to various campaigns and other marketing activities. Managers also decide how they will allocate resources for other activities like research and development or business expansion.

Overall, the role of managers with regards to resource allocation is very critical since it affects the profitability of the organization and its efficiency. They are responsible for managing costs and achieving the most from the available resources.

Negotiator:

Negotiations are an important part of business and managers are required to be great negotiators to be successful at their jobs. Rather than just a role, it has become an important skill.

Managers negotiate on the behalf of their organizations or direct others under them to carry out the negotiations. However, negotiation can involve both internal and external parties. Sometimes you might have to negotiate with external players like suppliers, vendors and distributors or clients. They represent the interest of their company before the external parties.

In other situations, a manager might be involved in internal negotiation. A manager also negotiates with his team members and other departments.

However, understanding the needs and interests of the other party involved in the negotiation is also critical to winning as a negotiator.

For example, you are an HR manager negotiating salary with a new hire. In case, you are unable to match his salary expectations, you try to increase the other benefits and financial or non financial perks to retain him. It is also a situation of negotiation where you are working to maintain the attractiveness of your proposal as a negotiator.