Farm Progress

Understanding your leadership style is critical to an employee’s job satsifaction.

Lori Culler, Blogger

November 17, 2016

3 Min Read

There is a lot to be said about employee’s satisfaction with their job being tied directly to how well they get along with their manager.  While it isn’t the only component of satisfaction, it is a heavy hitter. Understanding your leadership style and how to work with people given this style is crucial to becoming an effective manager.

What do I mean -- leadership style?

Social psychologist Douglas McGregor has done extensive research on types of leaders. He has identified the two extremes of management style that are often referred to in many leadership training courses. They are the X and Y manager, which are derived from the manager’s beliefs and the culture that they work in. 


Where do you fit?

An extreme X manager is more of a dictator - they feel that people need to be pushed to work and manage through discipline and control. This manager rules with an ‘iron fist.’  They make the decisions and manage people by instilling fear and structure. In a setting of brainstorming, this manager would rule the conversation and negate or degrade any other suggestions provided.

An extreme Y manager believes that people naturally want to do their job and will excel when given responsibility and freedom to do so. They are sometimes considered spineless and easily taken advantage of. These managers often lack the ability to provide direction and objectives for completing work. These managers can lack accountability and offer unwarranted praise. In a brainstorming session, this manager would praise all ideas (good or bad) and not be able to help the group come to a conclusion.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to both. We know that there are people out there that need to be pushed or guided in order to get work done. And, on the flip side, there are those who would take advantage of the situation where the boss is spineless. 

Many of those who are managed by an extreme X will feel disheartened and unable to grow. They are afraid to share ideas for fear of being shot-down; stifling creativity and potential opportunities for the operation.  For those managed by an extreme Y, they will question the sincerity of a compliment or be upset that everyone is rewarded equally even though they complete varying levels of work. This will encourage everyone to work at a lower level because they will receive the same reward.

There is not a ‘best’ style. We know that sometimes there are times when you need to be more assertive with employees and take an ‘X’ approach. However, in certain situations a ‘Y’ approach may be more appropriate. The goal is to land somewhere in the middle or have a small range on the continuum. 

Working from the middle, managers might help employees identify what the problem/objectives are and then seek recommendations from staff before deciding. Or, they may listen to solutions to a problem provided by an employee and offer up additional ideas and/or provide a recommendation.  They may join their staff in the decision or problem-solving process of a project.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Lori Culler


Lori Culler owns and manages AgProVise, a management consulting firm dedicated to providing leadership and direction to farms and agribusinesses focusing on business development, human capital strategies, organizational development and talent management. She also founded AgHires, a job board for the ag industry where employers can post open positions and candidates can apply to jobs. AgHires offers hybrid sourcing recruitment solutions to help clients find candidates. Lori’s family has a third-generation, 7,500 acre potato and grain farm with locations in Michigan and Indiana. Reach her at [email protected].

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