Managerial Roles according to Mintzberg

Mintzberg then identified ten separate roles in managerial work, each role defined as an organized collection of behaviours belonging to an identifiable function or position. He separated these roles into three subcategories: interpersonal contact, information processing and decision making.

1. Informational

*Monitor - Seek and acquire work-related information

Ex. Scan/read trade press, periodicals, reports; attend seminars and
training; maintain personal contacts

* Disseminator - Communicate/ disseminate information to others within the organization

Ex. Send memos and reports; inform staffers and subordinates of decisions

* Spokesperson - Communicate/transmit information to outsiders

Ex. Pass on memos, reports and informational materials; participate in
conferences/meetings and report progress

2. Interpersonal

* Figurehead - Perform social and legal duties, act as symbolic leader

Ex. Greet visitors, sign legal documents, attend ribbon cutting ceremonies,
host receptions, etc.

* Leader - Direct and motivate subordinates, select and train employees

Ex. Includes almost all interactions with subordinates

* Liaison - Establish and maintain contacts within and outside the organization

Ex. Business correspondence, participation in meetings with representatives
of other divisions or organizations.

3 .Decisional

* Entrepreneur - Identify new ideas and initiate improvement projects

Ex. Implement innovations; Plan for the future

* Disturbance Handler - Deals with disputes or problems and takes corrective action.

Ex. Settle conflicts between subordinates; Choose strategic alternatives;
Overcome crisis situations

* Resource Allocator - Decide where to apply resources

Ex. Draft and approve of plans, schedules, budgets; Set priorities

* Negotiator - participates in negotiation activities with other organisations and individuals

In the real world, these roles overlap and a manager must learn to balance them in order to manage effectively. While a manager’s work can be analyzed by these individual roles, in practice they are intermixed and interdependent. According to Mintzberg:

“The manager who only communicates or only conceives never gets anything done, while the manager who only ‘does’ ends up doing it all alone.”

Mintzberg next analysed individual manager's use and mix of the ten roles according to the six work related characteristics. He identified four clusters of independent variables: external, function related, individual and situational. He concluded that eight role combinations were 'natural' configurations of the job:

1. contact manager -- figurehead and liaison
2. political manager -- spokesperson and negotiator
3. entrepreneur -- entrepreneur and negotiator
4. insider -- resource allocator
5. real-time manager -- disturbance handler
6. team manager -- leader
7. expert manager -- monitor and spokesperson
8. new manager -- liaison and monitor

Mintzberg's study on the 'nature of managerial work' exposed many managerial myths requiring change such as replacing the aura of reflective strategists carefully planning their firm's next move with one of fallible humans who are continuously interrupted. Indeed, half of the managerial activities studied lasted less than nine minutes. Mintzberg also found that although individual capabilities influence the implementation of a role, it is the organisation that determines the need for a particular role, addressing the common belief that it predominantly a manager's skill set that determines success. Effective managers develop protocols for action given their job description and personal preference, and match these with the situation at hand.


The reality of management is that 'the pressures of the job drive the manager to take on too much work, encourage interruption, respond to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, make decisions in small increments'. Mintzberg's key contribution was to highlight the importance of understanding CEOs' time management and tasks in order to be able to improve their work and develop their skills appropriately.

The most valued theoretical contribution was Mintzberg's role typology. Its validity was demonstrated in consecutive studies and thus created a common language. His contingency model linking management types to roles was less valuable.

Mintzberg's aim was to observe unbiased managerial behaviour and analyse it through empirical research. Before his research, the normative frameworks produced by Fayol's 'administrative management'and Gulick's POSDCORB were dominant. Mintzberg's role typology 'debunked' these normative systems.


Mintzberg does not assume ex-ante what an (in)effective or (non)successful manager entails. He also neglects the relationship between managerial behaviour and organisational effectiveness.

Furthermore, he takes a 'neutral' position on the managerial role omitting influences such as ownership and power. Identified contingency factors explain differences in the make-up of managerial work.

The empirical study is based on five organisations in action. The small sample size means that the results should not be applied to all industry, organisations or management positions.

In his 1973 study, Mintzberg declared that the manager's position is always the starting point in organisational analysis. He also argued that managerial roles are sequential - a manager first makes interpersonal contact through his formal status which in turn allows information processing and leads to decision making. Mintzberg later rejected this relationship based on new empirical data.