The term was coined in Ken Blanchard's book, "Leadership and the One Minute Manager." It refers to leaders who fly in, make noise, dump on everyone and fly out leaving their staff to clean things up.
They are unattached from the day-to-day operations and thus have no idea the havoc they create. They are very self-centered (remember the seagulls in the Disney movie, "Finding Nemo," who said, "Mine!" all the time?). They keep performing actions to bring different results; but they only produce poor performance, lack of motivation and enmity among staff.
For instance, you can't make everyone work longer hours (and work more) expecting better performance if their work habits are bad in the first place. You will only produce longer episodes of poor habits. Trust me on that one
Seagull managers have no clue what is going on in their organization. They want to know why THEIR company isn't producing. They want to fix THEIR employees. They want to make more money for THEMSELVES. It is all about them, not you or me...
Fixing them is harder than cleaning up the repeated messes they create. You dread their appearance. When they fly in, employees fly out, shut their doors or put their phones on "Do Not Disturb, privacy" settings. Most employees either learn to work around them or leave to find someone who is less maintenance as a leader.
Are you a "Seagull Manager?" Do you notice people avoiding your infrequent visits to the office? Are you leaving a mess for everyone else to clean up behind you?
Think again. They are over it!