Seagull Managers


It’s almost 30 years since the book ‘Leadership and the One Minute Manager’ introduced the concept of seagull managers. Three decades on, they are more common than ever.

What is a seagull manager?

You know, the seagull manager – they fly in, hover about, squawk, make their presence felt, indiscriminately let you have it from a great height, pinch your chips, squawk, and then fly off again, leaving you to clean up after them. Happy days, heh?

Unsurprisingly, it’s not much fun being part of the seagull culture. Unless perhaps you’re the top gull.

seagull managers

Do seagull managers add any value to an organisation?

I think not and here are four good reasons why:

  1. Culture: Seagulls have a detrimental impact on organisational culture.
  2. Talent retention: People join organisations, but they leave their bosses. The brightest and best won’t work for fools. They get up and go. This has a big detrimental effect on talent retention.
  3. Non-value-adding activity: Seagulls consume considerable organisational time and resources, which they don’t convert into value-adding outputs and outcomes. Good resources in, rubbish out.
  4. Distraction: With all their squawking, it’s easy for seagulls to divert attention away from the organisational mission.


Why are some leaders seagull managers?

Very often, seagulls are trying to impose their control over a situation. By flying in, they can say that they have done their job – it was the ‘people on the ground’ who couldn’t perform. You can’t blame little old Teflon-coated me if the troops aren’t up to it.

As for the squawking and general carrying on, they have likely never received any leadership or management training. They may have accepted a position for an increased pay rise without being prepared for the additional responsibilities. If they are part of a workplace that doesn’t offer management development or mentorship, they make things up as they go along. They may also copy the management styles of their superiors or default to an autocratic ‘I say and you do’ way of doing things.

Leadership requires many intrapersonal skills – like communication, teamwork, and negotiating personality differences – and hard skills, such as time management, prioritisation, administration, and breaking down goals to achieve them. Some people possess these skills naturally; most do not.

Of course, your seagull manager may be a bad egg who is more focused on their own success than that of their team. But the likelier scenario to consider is that their frustrating flappery has more to do with their lack of skill and confidence than their personality. They haven’t been set up for success.

How to transform a seagull manager

If you have a seagull manager or you recognise some of these qualities in yourself, help isn’t far away. Anyone can learn how to become a good leader and you shouldn’t feel bad for not naturally possessing these skills (or judge someone too quickly for not managing well). There are many short courses you can take that will build specific skills – LinkedIn Learning and Masterclass offer a range of these. However, the best bang for your buck will be to undertake a Certificate IV or Diploma of Leadership & Management (BSB50420). These courses are perfect for those new to management, supervision, or team leadership and who want to learn how to become effective and efficient managers in a changing work environment.

Even if you’re not a seagull manager, leadership and management training can strengthen your skills and sharpen you to take the place of an ineffective seagull manager. You can also have a quiet word with your HR team to recommend your seagull manager receives training and support.

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