How contagious is my Management Style?

Your management style infects everyone around you for better or worse. The way you behave, the language you use, your attitude and biases all influence others. As a manager, a role model, a person in authority, some people will copy you verbatim, so it’s worth thinking about just how much you influence others? The objective, of course, is to have a highly positive influence and, in so doing, make yourself an effective leader; after all, staff will seek to identify with and emulate you. Leadership behaviours propagate downwards, infecting the entire organization.


My management and team-building experience has shown me that there are some particular positive and negative influencers that have a substantial effect on people:

Positive influencers:

· A positive or negative mood

· An open-door policy

· The way you arrive at decisions

· Giving reasons for decisions and delegations

· The questions you ask and being curious

· The language you use (verbal and body)

Negative influencers:

· Being arrogant

· Showing a lack of respect

· Talking down to others

· Not giving reasons for decisions and delegations

· Showing off


Emotions are contagious. Research by UC San Diego’s James Fowler and Harvard’s Nicholas Christakis has shown that happiness is contagious, for example. If you have a happy friend, the probability that you will be happier rises by 25%.


We also know that behaviours are contagious. Christakis and Fowler determined that if you have overweight friends, you are more likely to be overweight yourself. If you quit smoking, your friends are more likely to quit. Rose McDermott of Brown University found that divorce is contagious. She concluded that if you have a close friend who’s divorced, you are 33% more likely to split with your spouse.

Management and Leadership contagion

First-class managers recruit first-class people; second class managers recruit third class people. Manfred de Kries.

“For good or ill, the senior leadership of every organization is infectious. By this, I mean that leaders’ behaviours tend to be transmitted to their direct reports, who pass them on to the next level, and so on down through their organizations. Over time, they permeate the organization from top to bottom, influencing activity at all levels. Eventually, they become embodied in the organizational culture, influencing the types of people who get promoted and hired into the organization, creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop — either positive or negative.” Michael Watkins’ The Leading Edge.

Contagious behaviours

Some behaviours are even more contagious than others. The behaviours that have the highest correlations between managers and their direct reports cluster around the following themes, listed in order of most contagious to least contagious:

· Developing self and others

· Technical skills

· Strategy skills

· Consideration and cooperation

· Integrity and honesty

· Global perspective

· Decisiveness

· Results focus

Good leaders make good leaders, and bad ones make bad

Does a good leader’s social contagion make the people around them more likely to become good leaders as well? Good, influential leaders have direct reports that are rated far above average inspiring better behaviours among their direct reports. In contrast, bad leaders do the opposite producing below-average direct report performers.

Simply put, it means that senior managers doing an ineffective job erode not only the engagement of their direct reports but also the engagement of the people working for them. The good news is that good senior managers produce good direct reports and good staff reporting to them.

“Reflect on this for a moment, think about the things you do poorly and the bad habits you can’t seem to change. Considering this research might increase your motivation to change since the things you do poorly have a reasonable probability of being copied by others. Your peers, direct reports, partner or spouse, and your children also have a high probability of practicing the example you set. Your children can’t do much about the effects of your genetic code. But there is plenty you can do to inoculate your family and your team from your blunders or unfortunate habits. You can change.

Sometimes leaders wonder whether they are making an impact. Struggling to see the impact we are having on others is typical, as the influence is subtle and occurs over time. Hopefully, this research demonstrates that leaders’ impact is greater than they might have suspected. You really do make a difference.” Zengar/Folkman.

Try it for yourself

Try the following experiment over two successive days.

Day 1. On the first day, smile all the time, be cheerful, compliment as many people as you can on a job well done. Be overtly positive about everything; see only the glass half full.

Day 2. On the second day, frown a lot, be irritable, focus only on problems and call people to account if they missed even the smallest detail or commitment. Be overtly negative in all your interactions.

Just look and feel the difference between the two; it should be evident how each style affects yourself and those around you (their performance and attitude). On the first day, people will almost certainly mirror your positive mood, and their energy levels will noticeably rise. On the second day, it will be like you sucked the oxygen out of the room. Your people will become increasingly anxious and struggle to figure out what’s wrong. Now imagine what it’s like to live constantly with leaders with these characteristics and the impact it has on themselves, their staff, and their organization.

My own experience

I have known for a long time how my mood affects others. Knowing this, I always made a conscious effort (at times massively difficult to do) to exhibit an extremely positive mood, along with giving motivational feedback and the use of good body and verbal language. (language is just so important, I can’t stress this enough) I know it worked because I could see the effect it had on others, and on more than one occasion, I was told by staff (and on two occasions by whole teams) that I radiated energy, that it was infectious and that they loved it because it inspired them to do better. What more could you possibly ask for?

What is your current Management Style?

Here is a quick way to work it out. Here is a list of management and leadership qualities keywords; select those that most describe you.

Management qualities Leadership qualities

  • My actions and decisions are transparent
  • Share information
  • Empower and increase collaboration
  • Facilitate open information
  • Mentor and coach
  • Pay special attention to each individual’s needs for achievement
  • Delegate tasks as a means of developing their staff.
  • Practise’ management by walking

What are you?

Here is my Management Style as an example: “I am an enthusiastic manager who is open and honest, fair and reasonable, someone who mentors, motivates and develops people to become professional in their chosen field.”

Now construct a keyword sentence to describe your current management style, then check to see if you are more a manager or a leader, or do you have these in balance. Then ask yourself, “I am admired, respected, and trusted?”

Effects of Management Style

There are many types of management styles:

· Traditional

· Charismatic

· Transformational

· Laissez-faire

· Transactional

· Supportive

· Democratic

The Traditional Manager

These managers' jobs are to plan, organize staff, direct, and control. They are mainly autocratic and sometimes viewed as intimidating and can rule with compulsion, force, control, and secrecy. They command respect through seniority and years of service and will, in extreme circumstances, use physical, psychological, and economic force. They set expectations for the employees below them who need to meet certain goals, but the manager receives the reward for achieving those goals. These managers also tend to experience a frequent turnover of employees, they do not always welcome new ideas and are often unaware of problems amongst their team members.

These are managers who have received no supervisory or management training and who have been subjected to traditional managers as their role models. Not knowing any better, they simply copy the traditional management style believing this is what the path to success looks like. These manager's success, attitudes, and approach to their employees is primarily based upon their personalities. Some can be highly effective whilst most are abnormal; they are the cause of much employee dissatisfaction.

The Copycat Manager

These are managers who have received no supervisory or management training and who have been subjected to traditional managers as their role models. Not knowing any better, they simply copy the traditional management style believing this is what the path to success looks like. These manager's success, attitudes, and approach to their employees is primarily based upon their personalities. Some can be highly effective whilst most are abnormal; they are the cause of much employee dissatisfaction. The Reluctant Manager

The Reluctant Manager

There are two types; the first is the manager appointed based on seniority or years of service where capability can be irrelevant; it is simply a matter of who is next in line. The second are people who don’t want to be a manager but accept or apply for a promotion for the pay or prestige. These people fundamentally lack any management potential; they are usually angry and frustrated as they have great difficulty in influencing and motivating others.

The Progressive Manager

These are managers who have adopted one of the newer management styles such as Servant, Democratic, Participative or Collaborative. Progressive managers have known for decades that the traditional, hierarchical pyramid model is outdated. It does not suit today’s fast-moving environment, nor does it suit today’s employees. Its rigidity cannot support agility, speed, or engagement, and then there is the troubling aspect of vesting of too much often-abusive power in managers over their employees. A progressive management style is marked by transparency and sharing information with employees where progressive leaders empower everyone. It is a leadership style that values sharing and collaboration.

The Transformational Manager

Transformational management is a progressive style with managers who are agile and who focus their efforts on pushing their team members to ever greater accomplishments through encouragement, pushing them regularly past their comfort zones and motivating them to raise their bar for achievements. They encourage their team members to do more than they thought was possible; they work alongside their employees, inspiring them to ever greater efforts by demonstrating their work ethic. Transformational managers set challenging expectations and typically achieve higher performance outcomes from their teams. They manage people as valuable individuals, identifying and developing their talents. They are role models who are respected and trusted, and they build High-Performance Teams.


Leaders need to think hard about their viral impact on the people who work for and surround them and their organization.

You need to ask yourself,

“What kind of contagion do I want to be?”

Originally published at on April 25, 2021.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store