It's never easy being the boss when it involves people you once called peers or co workers. Some might say "I know more than you and YOU got the promotion". Well, if you do know more, how come I got it and you didn't? or "You just got the promotion because you know how to kiss ass". OK, let's go with that one for arguments sake. IF I did know how to brown nose, it would only get me so far. IF I did brown nose, who was doing the work? and if your answer is "well, I guess you were doing the work but that means you were brown nosing" then, obviously someone has some green eyed issues. And the best response is this: Why should YOU have this job over ME? Odds are, most people just want to see their lips flapping but don't think about when someone will call them on it.
I experienced all of these things when I got a promotion in the Navy. The guys I used to work side by side with were now working for me. Another person got a promotion at the same time as me but we had drastic differences in our leadership styles. His was the coffee cup claw and a pointed finger like this:
You see, I was never a fan of the wagging finger when I was part of the gang that was getting down and dirty. I was never a fan of the boss who would micro manage us to death. I wasn't a fan of the boss who would whip us constantly to get a project done and then take all of the credit for the job well done. I also wasn't a fan of the manager who barked orders and automatically thought they were gods gift to the world. With that being said, here's what I was a fan of....
My approach was more like this:
I was ALWAYS a fan of the boss who would help out and get dirty (when they needed to) OR stayed away and let us do our job. I was a fan of the boss who when received accolades said something along the lines of "well sir/ma'am, without my team, it wouldn't have gotten done." I was a fan of the boss who sure deserved the promotion but didn't wave it around saying "Look at me, I'm important". They kept doing their job and let me do mine at the same time.
So here's my two cents on the nice manager or mean manager.... If you got the promotion, Congratulations! now get back to work. Remember that your team is what makes YOU better. It behooves you to have a team that is aspiring to have your job (because they made you look good and got another promotion and promoted one of them along the way). If your team wants to butt heads with you time and time again, call a timeout and ask them directly "What do I do that makes it difficult to work together?" or ask your entire team "On a scale of 1-10, rate me. If You don't give a 10, what can I do to make it so?" This strategy kills three birds with one stone. You get a depiction of what your team thinks about you, how to make it better, and a team that realizes you want to be better for them.
So when confronted with that time when your staff seems to be butting heads with you think about this: If you are a jerk, will they respond in the same manner? If you act politely and with respect, will they return the favor? Is this disagreement worth the time and energy? is the "Juice worth the squeeze?" and ultimately this is the best rule. YOU are the boss. You do get paid more to be the boss. That means making the hard choices. But you can still make the hard choices and still be the Nice Manager.
Remember, you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.