As we continue our series on High Impact Leadership, Strategic Partner Diane Janovsky brings us this comparison of two very different management styles characterized as the Watchmaker and the Beekeeper. In our ultra-competitive business world, which one is most likely to support long-term profitable and sustainable growth? Read on to find out.


As a business owner, whether you are in a start-up, growth or maturity phase, your main goal is to create an enterprise that produces sustainable profits over a long period of time. In order to achieve that result, you must make an intentional choice about how you will lead the people in your organization.

In his book, Navigating the Growth Curve, James Fischer describes two very different leadership styles. The first is referred to as a Watchmaker. Watchmakers want a predictable environment where they can run their business like a precision machine. They believe that to be effective, a machine must be controlled by its operators, and so they subscribe to the philosophy that the purpose of management is to control the enterprise. They likely also believe that the machine exists for the sole purpose of making as much money as possible for its owners, with little to no regard for the needs of interdependent stakeholders such as customers, employees and suppliers.

A better approach lies in becoming more like a Beekeeper. Beekeepers tend to be future oriented, and they have a natural ability to manage the risky elements of growth: complexity and chaos. They are also more likely to give the broader intelligence of the team or ‘hive’ the freedom to operate, instead of controlling every decision themselves. Beekeepers understand that their business is a living intelligent organism, and if allowed, it will come up with far more ideas and solutions than they ever could. Left to its own devices, the beekeeper’s business will continually self organize around and through its problems and challenges. Now that is sustainability!

It seems we run into more Watchmakers than Beekeepers. Why? Operating under old management paradigms and theories, most leaders tend to assume that they should know all the answers, and that asking for input may put them in a negative light in the eyes of their employees.

We would suggest that there is a Beekeeper in all of us but that in our day-to-day struggles to ‘do the right thing’, be ‘responsible’ and ‘act like a leader’, the Watchmaker takes over more often than any of us would like. Especially now with Millennials becoming a larger and larger percentage of the workforce, creating a Beekeeper culture of collaboration and involvement is critical to attracting and retaining the best talent.

If you are experiencing symptoms like low morale, insufficient profits, lack of staff engagement or high turnover, you may be managing like a Watchmaker. If so, contact us at for a free consultation and find out how to change your approach and embrace your inner Beekeeper!