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Interpersonal Roles in Management: Types, Definition & Quiz

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Jennifer Wiley-Cordone

In this lesson, you'll identify the three categories of managerial roles: informational, decisional, and interpersonal. Look specifically at the roles within the interpersonal category and consider how you might respond when working in these roles.

We also recommend watching Management Roles and Principles and Productivity, Quality, Profitability and the Role of Managers

Interpersonal Managerial Roles in Context

If you've ever had responsibility for managing a project of any size, you'll remember several different skills you needed in order to accomplish your goals. Even if you aren't yet familiar with professor and author Henry Mintzberg's observation-based research of CEOs, you'll most likely recognize the ten different roles relevant to all managers. He has organized the roles into three categories:

Managerial roles
Managerial roles

  • Informational management roles are divided into three different communication-based roles.
  • Decisional management roles are sorted into four action-based roles for making and implementing decisions.
  • Interpersonal management roles are grouped into three roles involving working with other people.

Thinking about taking on ten different roles may be daunting, but after this lesson you'll have the precise vocabulary to describe how an effective manager uses the three interpersonal management roles of figurehead, leader, and liaison.

The Figurehead Managerial Role

Have you ever seen a mayor scooping a handful of dirt with a golden shovel at a ground-breaking ceremony? In that scene, the mayor is a figurehead conducting social, ceremonial, and legal responsibilities. A figurehead also provides inspiration by sharing the mission and vision of the organization and symbolizing authority.

The British Royal Family (photo by Ben_in_London)
British Royal Family

Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith and the other members of the British Royal Family are highly recognizable figureheads.

On a less grand scale, if you are a department head giving a motivational speech at a quarterly sales meeting, you are acting as a figurehead. The term 'figurehead' is frequently used to describe a powerless person who represents an organization without having real authority, but when the figurehead has responsibilities within the other nine managerial roles, there is not a negative connotation.

The Leader Managerial Role

While 'leader' is a generic term and the most widely examined of the ten roles, Mintzberg specifically defines the leader managerial role as the act of directing goals and evaluating employee performance. Mentoring, training, and motivating employees are all leadership activities. If you were to develop a new employee orientation program, you would be acting as a leader.

Coaches take on the leader role
Coach as leader

Former Oakland Raiders football coach John Madden, like many coaches, directed team goals by giving each individual specific performance milestones to meet during each practice. Afterwards, he would meet with players and provide concrete, detailed feedback. Madden also mentored individual players, implemented a team-wide training program, and maintained the collective drive and motivation necessary for his team to become Super Bowl champions.

The Liaison Managerial Role

A liaison networks by connecting people inside the company as well as externally. This role is not about dissemination of information. Being a liaison is about identifying the challenges and goals faced by others and connecting them with resources that will enable them to overcome obstacles or advance an agenda. 'It turns out,' you say, 'that the services provided by my company are just what you need!' Something as simple as giving a friend your hairdresser's name after you've been complimented on your haircut makes you a liaison.

Mark Zuckerberg (photo by Silverisdead)
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg revolutionized the liaison role by making social networking widely available. When your grandmother and the CEO of your company are posting status updates, you know social networks are no longer just for cutting-edge early adopters.

Lesson Summary

Working well with others is a significant component of a manger's responsibilities. Inspiring the troops and becoming a symbol for your area of responsibility would make you a figurehead, while mentoring, training, motivating, and evaluating your team puts you in the leader role. As a liaison, you'll connect others to helpful resources to round out your interpersonal management roles.

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