Management Style: Coach K vs. Coach Knight

As a graduate of the University of Kentucky, I don't particularly care for either of these coaches. However, there is an interesting article from Harvard Business School this week that compares the management style of the two, and makes a very interesting point. The article discusses the positive reinforcement style of Krzyzewski with the discipline and intimidation style of Knight. Insiders that know much about either coach would probably say these are strawman portrayals, but it still raises a good question. Should you be loved, hated, or somewhere in between?

The article doesn't really provide an answer, but there is one snipped that struck me as very important.

What you believe about human nature, says Snook, influences your leadership style. "If you believe people are fundamentally good-good meaning that they're trying to do their best, they're self-motivated, they want to perform-then your fundamental leadership style will be one way. It will be empowering them, getting obstacles out of the way, and setting high goals while maintaining standards.

"If you believe people are fundamentally bad-if you believe people are constantly looking to get over and get by and won't do anything unless they're watched-then you'll tend to lead with a very transactional management style that's built primarily around rewards and punishments. Tight supervision, a controlling type of leadership style characterized by a great deal of social distance between leaders and led."

Your style says a lot about what you really think of your employees. I've worked with many managers that don't realize this. If you pay lip service to one thing but practice another, most people will see right through you. You can't empower employees with freedom and authority because it's the fad of the week, only to worry about whether or not they are really working or if they are goofing off.

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The lesson to take from this isn't about two management styles. It's about analyzing yourself and being consistent in the way you approach management. Mixed messages lead to poor execution, which leads to finger pointing and bad attitudes and then you end up scratching your head wondering why your words don't matter. Be sure they match your actions.