This article explains the Mintzberg Managerial Roles, developed by Henry Mintzberg, in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful management tool for a manager.
What are managerial roles?
The Canadian management expert Henry Mintzberg is an authority in the field of organizational structures and organizational design.
He has written many business books on various organisational management theories. Henry Mintzberg distinguishes ten key managerial roles that managers and executives fulfil. These Mintzberg Managerial Roles are subsequently divided up into three categories: the interpersonal category, the informational category and the decisional category.
Six work-related characteristics
In 1973 Henry Mintzberg carried out empirical studies into the managerial behaviour of CEOs in five private and semi-public organisations. From those first studies he was able to identify six characteristics that define the work life of managers. Later there had been criticism of these studies, because Henry Mintzberg had limited himself to five organisations only. It would only involve a small sample size as a result of which the results could not be representative for organisations in other industries or hierarchical management positions. The six characteristics are described below:
- Managers process open-ended workloads;they are capable of doing a lot of work under demanding time constraints.
- Managers start up their own activities and subsequent actions. These activities are varied and fragmented and they are relatively short in duration.
- Managers prefer to avoid information from reference materials such as notes and documents.
- Managers prefer verbal communication, such as one-on-one talks, telephone conversations and meetings.
- Managers maintain relationships primarily with subordinates and external parties and secondary with their superiors.
- Managers like being involved in preparatory decisions.
The studies show that the actual behaviour of managers is determined by their environment, is action drive and they do not always show ordered or methodical behaviour.
Managers have to deal with many varied and short-term activities. It appears that managers preferably transfer information verbally and that they do not always make fact-based decisions.
Even management techniques are not always applied effectively.
10 Mintzberg Managerial Roles
In addition, Henry Mintzberg describes the operational work of managers in terms of managerial roles.
The activities that are carried out by those managers are key elements. The way in which the Mintzberg Managerial Roles are carried out, are influenced by individual and situational factors. Henry Mintzberg initially divided the ten managerial Roles roles into three sub categories:
- Interpersonal contact
- Information processing
- Decision making
Interpersonal contact concerns the contact between the manager and the people in his environment. For example, subordinates, other managers, the board of directors, the works council, customers and suppliers.
The following Mintzberg Managerial Roles are primarily concerned with interpersonal contact:
As head of a department or an organisation, a manager is expected to carry out ceremonial and/or symbolic duties. A manager represents the company both internally and externally in all matters of formality.
He is a networker but he also serves as an exemplary role model. He is the one who addresses people celebrating their anniversaries, attends business dinners and receptions.
In his leading role, the manager motivates and develops staff and fosters a positive work environment. He coaches and supports staff, enters into (official) conversations with them, assesses them and offers education and training courses.
A manager serves as an intermediary and a linking pin between the high and low levels. In addition, he develops and maintains an external network.
As a networker he has external contacts and he brings the right parties together. This will ultimately result in a positive contribution to the organization.
According to Henry Mintzberg, the managerial role involves the processing of information which means that they send, pass on and analyze information. Managers are linking pins; they are expected to exchange flows of vertical information with their subordinates and horizontal flows of information with their fellow managers and the board of directors. Further more, managers have the responsibility to filter and transmit information that is important for both groups. The following Mintzberg Managerial Roles fall under process information:
As a monitor the manager gathers all internal and external information that is relevant to the organization.
He is also responsible for arranging, analyzing and assessing this information so that he can easily identify problems and opportunities and identify changes.
As a disseminator the manager transmits factual information to his subordinates and to other people within the organization.
This may be information that was obtained either internally or externally.
As a spokesman the manager represents the company and he communicates to the outside world on corporate policies, performance and other relevant information for external parties.
Managers are responsible for decision-making and they can do this in different ways at different levels. The leadership style is important in decision-making.
An authoritarian leader is sooner inclined to make decisions independently than a democratic leader. The following Mintzberg Managerial Roles fall under decision-making:
As an entrepreneur, the manager designs and initiates changes and strategies.
8. Disturbance handler
In his managerial role as disturbance handler, the manager will always immediately respond to unexpected events and operational breakdowns. He aims for usable solutions.
The problems may be internal or external, for example conflict situations or the scarcity of raw materials. .
9. Resource allocator
In his resource allocator role, the manager controls and authorizes the use of organizational resources.
He allocates finance, assigns employees, positions of power, machines, materials and other resources so that all activities can be well-executed within the organization.
As a negotiator, the manager participates in negotiations with other organizations and individuals and he represents the interests of the organization.
This may be in relation to his own staff as well as to third parties. For example salary negotiations or negotiations with respect to procurement terms.
According to Henry Mintzberg, the skills of individual managers do not always contribute to the success of an organization.
Effective managers develop themselves based on protocols for action. In addition, they use their leadership roles independently and they know to use the right role for the right situation.
The Mintzberg Managerial Roles make it easier to understand what the nature of their work is. Mintzberg’s objective was to observe and analyze managerial behaviour.
By studying the Mintzberg Managerial Roles, it is possible to find out in which areas managers can improve themselves and how they can develop the right skills.
Tool for managers
The 10 Mintzberg Managerial Roles provide a tool for managers and other people in leading positions. By understanding their own roles, they can find out how much time they devote to the activities below:
- Directing subordinates
- Attending meetings as a Liason
- Representing the organization
- Transmitting information
- Analyzing information
- Allocation of resources
- Negotiating resources
- Problem solving
- Developing new ideas
- Promoting the interests of the organization
Furthermore, it is important that the manager answers the following questions. This will provide more insight into his own qualities:
- Is the time distribution in sync with the manager’s own perception of it?
- Is there a balance between time flow and work distribution?
- Which tasks boost the manager’s energy?
- Which is the most satisfying task of a manager?
- Which task does the manager most unpleasant?
In practice a certain managerial role will more predominant than the other. In addition to preference, this also has to do with the interdependence of factors, such as the position of the manager within the organization, the activities, the composition of the team and the size of the organization.
One of the managerial roles mentioned is always visible and in some activities, multiple roles at the same time are possible.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the Mintzberg Managerial Roles in today’s companies? And if so, how do you understand and develop these? What are your general results and learning lessons? Are the basics the same or are there additional success factors?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Alexander, L. D. (1979). The Effect Level in the Hierarchy and Functional Area Have on the Extent Mintzberg’s Roles Are Required by Managerial Jobs. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 1979, No. 1, pp. 186-189). Academy of Management.
- Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Handbook of leadership. Free Press.
- Grover, V., Jeong, S. R., Kettinger, W. J., & Lee, C. C. (1993). The chief information officer: A study of managerial roles. Journal of Management Information Systems, 10(2), 107-130.
- Mintzberg, H. (1989). Mintzberg on management: Inside our strange world of organizations. Hungry Minds Inc.
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