Do You Have a “Seagull Manager”?

A Seagull Manager describes one who raise alarms based on little knowledge, provide negative feedback, then leave others to clean up the mess. Sound familiar?

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An Angry Seagull ManagerIn Ken Blanchard’sThe One Minute Manager” the term “Seagull Manager” describes individuals who manage by raising alarms based on little knowledge, provide negative feedback, then leave others to clean up the mess. According the Blanchard:

“Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out.”

Here’s how you can determine if you have a Seagull Manager:

Fly In

A seagull boss likes to stay out of the details until there is trouble. However, at the sign of trouble, they fly in quickly in an attempt to appear as the hero who can save the day. These managers are motivated by appearances and attention rather than teamwork and serving the organization. If your manager has a tendency of swooping into issues with which they have not been involved at a detailed level, you may have a seagull manager.

Make a Lot of Noise

Great leaders provide consistent feedback and coaching. The seagull manager does not. Instead, these boss’s like to squawk a lot to call attention to themselves. Similar to managers who cry wolf, seagull managers want attention so they may perceived as someone important. As a result, if you have a manager who likes to raise their voice a lot, act shocked or send mass emails to broad distributions whenever there is a slight risk, you may have a seagull manager.

Dump On Everyone

Much like bullies on the playground, toxic leaders and seagull managers feel better about themselves when they criticize others. Therefore, times of trouble are perceived by these bosses as opportunities to tear down others while making themselves feel better. While a servant leader utilizes problems as coaching moments, the seagull manager masquerades as a coach while acting like a warden. If your boss likes to criticize in public, you may have a seagull manager.

Fly Out

The seagull manager interested in hard work. Like their namesake bird, these scavengers seek attention at the lowest possible effort. As a result, they fly out quickly after raising attention to themselves. The objective seems to be gathering sufficient to claim accountability for solving the problem later, while leaving sufficient doubt to deny accountability if the effort fails. If your boss likes leave abruptly with little support after raising alarms, you likely have a seagull manager.

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Does your boss like to fly in, make a lot of noise and dump on everyone before flying out? Then chances are you have seagull boss. In my next post, we’ll cover tips for dealing with this type of toxic leader.

Question: How have you dealt with seagull managers in the past?



Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

3 thoughts on “Do You Have a “Seagull Manager”?”

  1. You seem to have gotten the wrong idea about Seagull Managers.  Read my blog to see the counterpoint:

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