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Management Styles

23 Aug 2021

A person in a suit writing on a stick-it note pinned to a cork board.

During your career, you’re going to discover all sorts of different ways that different departments manage and handle the general management and operations of the companies that you find yourself working for. As you navigate your career, you’re also going to be exposed to many different styles of management from many different managers. 

Some of these managers are going to be your mentors and others, not so much, but you can learn equal amounts of positive and negative aspects from each of these managers, and all of these lessons are going to be beneficial towards shaping your future career and ultimately, the type of manager that you want to become.  

In this post, we’re going to discuss the different styles of management that you may encounter on your journey to the top.  When you’ve learned how to identify these differences in style and approach, you’ll also be better prepared to deal with the manager you currently have, because you’ll know a little more about their style of leadership, giving you, an inside track.

Why is it important to know about the different types of management styles?

Everyone is different. We all have different needs and different ways in which we experience life. You may look at a problem one way and see a certain set of solutions, while someone else can look at the same scenario and imagine an entirely different set of options.  This is as true in life as it is in business and when we can understand and recognize different management styles, we’re better placed to create guidelines for the kind of managers that are best suited to certain roles and divisions.

As your business grows or your department evolves, you’re going to be employing more people and with a larger headcount comes differing personalities, frames of reference, and experience levels, and these all have a direct impact on how you mean to lead your team.

What are the 6 basic management styles?

In truth, there are many different styles of management, each with its idiosyncrasies and recognizable traits, but we’re going to get to know the 6 basic styles of management a little better, and between these styles, you’ll be able to identify the most of the managers that you’re likely to encounter throughout your career or as a business owner.

The 6 basic management styles are:

  • Autocratic
  • Consultative
  • Democratic
  • Laissez-Faire
  • Persuasive and,
  • Transformational

Between these styles of managerial approaches, you’ll be able to identify a solid cross-section of business leadership that will go some way in helping you determine if you have the right 

mix of senior-level employees or aid you in identifying which of these you’re currently subordinate to.

AUTOCRATIC MANAGEMENT

Autocratic styles function on a “top-down” approach which means that communication tends to flow in one direction only, that being from the “boss” to the employee or subordinate. This style is very much a power focused on a leadership style that tends to view employees as “worker-bees” that should be following instructions sans complaint or feedback and within clearly designed limits.

Power is concentrated with management leaving very little (if any) room for feedback, critique, or discussion amongst the workforce.  This is a very controlling level of management. Job satisfaction amongst the workforce is not particularly conducive towards inspiring employee well-being. This style can be interpreted as being old-fashioned and antagonistic and one would be cautioned for its use in the modern-day workspace where there is an increasingly high emphasis being placed on employees’ rights and wellbeing at work. 

CONSULTATIVE MANAGEMENT

As the name indicates, this style of management is a lot more open than its autocratic predecessor.  Here, managers ask for and value the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of their teams and spend a good amount of time consulting around the individual viewpoints of each team member and even though the buck stops with management, team member participation in the process is highly valued.

You’ll often find that this style of management is found in industries or services where a high degree of specialization is required as feedback from various experts is needed to empower decision-making.  It inspires a much greater level of team engagement but leaders should be sure to make effective time management a built-in component of this leadership style to avoid time wastage caused by over consultation.

DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT

Two-way communication is one of the hallmarks of this management style. Employee or team member contributions are not just valued but actively encouraged even though the final decision, will be made by management. This style of management allows for greater autonomy amongst the workforce while still ensuring that overall leadership rests with the executive.

This style calls for a diversity of ideas and skill sets that can ultimately lead to higher productivity and greater department and company efficiency but as with consultative management, leaders need to take care in ensuring that all of that communication does not come at a cost to deliverables and efficiency goals.

LAISSEZ-FAIRE MANAGEMENT

When you have an organization or department whose team members are highly skilled in their duties and functions or highly qualified for that matter, you could find that management offers a more “hands-off” approach to leadership.  

This is because staff can be trusted to bring high levels of innovation, dedication, discipline, and compliance to the workroom. Here, managers tend to assign tasks, check for time efficiency and make themselves available when executive decision making is required, but the day-to-day running of the workflow is left to the staff.

This type of management is generally not suited to most working environments as most people need high levels of motivation and direction.

PERSUASIVE MANAGEMENT

If you know that you hold the ultimate skillset in your division or business, then you might find this style of management effective. Persuasive management invites questions, feedback, or even critique from team members and helps staff to feel as if they’re a part of the decision-making process but that ultimately, the final decision rests in the hands of the leadership team.

Employees can feel as if they are labored under a leadership team that is having them execute functions as opposed to carry out those functions but combined with smart and creative management, this can feel like collaborative leadership and inspire greater feelings of well-being amongst team members.

TRANSFORMATIONAL MANAGEMENT

This is very much a “leadership by example” style of management as managers work alongside their team members to demonstrate their commitment to harder and smarter working. Team members are encouraged to think outside of the box and innovate by leading from the front.

In organizations that work to strict deadlines and with tight deliverables or with a high demand for innovation and cutting edge outcomes, you could find this style particularly beneficial as it removes the “power structure” from the team, thereby eliminating archaic or hierarchical operations that could waste time when decision-makers need to be reached, fast.

Examples of companies that have been very successful with this type of leadership include Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Intel.

What are some of the “pros” and “cons” of each of these management styles?

Autocratic Management - While it could at first seem as if this style of management is stifling and restrictive, it could work well in environments where decisions have to be made quickly and decisively with little room for error. If a team is not overly skilled or trained in appropriate specialization, then this approach could also be useful.

However, this style also typically leads to issues with retaining staff as there isn’t much room for growth or self-improvement, and individuals that don’t function incredibly well under tight control and direction could feel frustrated and undervalued and this will have a direct impact on productivity and service standards.

Consultative Management - These managers tend to enjoy high levels of employee well-being and satisfaction as team members feel valued and heard. You could find that as a result of greater management visibility and team connection, that management and their teams “grow together” and in a unified direction. This aligns purpose with the company’s mission statement.

On the other hand, it can be laborious and time-intensive and if not executed correctly, employees could feel bogged down by the constant questioning and discussions taking place, when all they want to do is just get on with it.

Democratic Management -  Here, employees feel valued but also feel like integral parts of the decision-making processes and can contribute freely without fear of recrimination or judgment. They feel as if companies take their professional development seriously and thus are inclined to work harder and more creatively.

Not everyone wants to be part of every discussion and some team members are quite happy to be lead and follow instructions. This could lead to feelings of resentment. If your company or business deals with sensitive or “secret” information then having a forum that is too open could present challenges and problems along the way.

Laissez-Faire Management - Where there are team members who are highly skilled and professional in the execution of their job functions, this approach can lead to high levels of innovation and productivity. When employees are given the freedom to problem solve and troubleshoot without too much autocratic governance, we tend to see stronger teams and increased levels of job satisfaction.

But then some employees can also feel “deserted” or abandoned and without any leadership (or the perception of not having leadership), be more inclined to take advantage of the situation and not contribute as much as they should be. Teams that don’t have clear direction can “opt-out” of performance goals and this could lead to conflicts and internal strife.

Persuasive management -  In most situations, employees will generally respond better and more positively to reasoned thought and logic as opposed to unquestionable direction, and this improves well-being, productivity, collaboration, and greater efficiency.

But, if employees are aware of their lack of actual influence on key decisions and operations, this could also lead to resentment, frustration, and less than desirable productivity.

Transformational management -  In situations where creative thinking is encouraged and valued, companies generally enjoy higher levels of innovation and development than their competitors who don’t embrace this style of management. When it works, it works very well, and more and more companies are beginning to adapt to this type of leadership structure.

A potential downside is that when staff are in the constant glare of their managers and feel as if they need to “keep up” all the time, they could suffer from burnout or the feeling that they’re being monitored as opposed to supported causing feelings of suspicion or resentment. This management style demands a high level of “buy-in” from staff and if you don’t have the majority of your team on your side, then this can cause issues.

Overcoming the challenges of management styles

As we’ve already seen, it can be incredibly useful to know which management styles most reflect the diversity of your workplace and also the type of function your division has, the service provided by your company, or the business that your enterprise is in. But, just like we outlined in the “pros” and “cons” section, there can be some challenges in differing styles too. 

There is a relatively simple process to follow here and it does like this:

Who is responsible for leading your teams, what is the management style they employ, when does this style manifest (in other words at which part of the operational process), where is this way of leadership likely to be implemented, and why is this the most effective way in which to deliver that particular departments (or companies) goals?

That rather long sentence is an easy way to understand the holistic nature of the management style that you’re dealing with and this, in turn, allows you to identify the challenges that are most relevant to you and more importantly, know how to do so.

As you learn more about your management team (or yourself for that matter), you can inspire your leadership direction in different ways like staying humble, displaying self-confidence from a point of maturity and not “threat”, being consistent with your “follow-through” despite the challenges your teams may face, staying motivated in the face of high pressure or stressful situations and above all else, trusting your teams and inviting them to trust you in return by staying honest, consistent and transparent.

Understanding what motivates your teams

“Motivation” is a word that can often come dangerously close to being overused without really understanding its impact but there are no two ways about it, leaders who take the time to understand their staff on an individual level and find out what motivates them to get up and come to work each day is going to go a long way to helping you get the best out of them.

Now, this pursuit can also be used for far more nefarious ends than the noble goal of “motivation” for the purposes of growth. Some leaders can also extract information from their teams to manipulate performance and while this may get you the result, you won’t have your team members around for too long, as employees see through this sort of thing and there is no example of successful leadership that uses this effectively.

But when you know why your teams are in the roles they’re in on a personal level, you’ll also be able to understand not just the skillset of the people you’re working with, but what their levels of emotional intelligence are and when you know what those elements are, you’ll know which management styles are the most appropriate. You should know that you don’t necessarily have to employ one particular style of management, in some cases a combination of two or more different management styles could be used to drive your department or business.

When you know the individual circumstances of your team members, you will also know how to tailor development and training opportunities and how to create incentive programs that work to empower as well as reward.

Conclusion - bringing it all together

In today’s highly competitive world there is never going to be a one size fits all approach to anything, those days (if they ever truly existed at all), are well behind us.  Smart leaders know that when collaborative decision making is utilized as a part of your companies “best management styles” staff feel valued and encouraged.

Creating a corporate culture that inspires employee well-being starts with knowing who your teams are and meeting them where they’re at. Demonstrating that team member’s professional development is taken seriously turns good leaders into great leaders because when your teams look good, you look great.

There could be several reasons why departments are not functioning at peak level performance and a lack of knowledge of how your leadership team is executing the managing of their teams could be a reason why, knowledge is power after all and when you ask the most questions, you control the conversation.

There are scientific ways that companies determine which style is most appropriate and relevant based on prevailing circumstances, but you can figure this out without too much need for overly sophisticated processes.

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