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6 Common Management Styles: Find the Most Effective One for You

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If you have at least one person reporting to you, you’re a manager.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working as a freelancer or a salaried employee, or if you work remotely or on-site in a company.

As long as one other person is your direct report, you are a boss who has a management style, whether you realize it or not.

A good manager will intentionally adopt a style for maximum employee engagement, leading the team to achieve great results, with maximum productivity and profitability for the company.

Managers play such an important role that they account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, according to Gallup.

Just as there are different personalities, there are different management styles.

As you’ll find out in this article, the beauty about management styles is that they’re not rigid or fixed — you can change and adapt it depending on the company culture, the personality of the team you’re leading, and even the particular project that you’re working on.

The 6 Types of Management Styles

While your personality will determine the type of management style that’ll come to you naturally and suit you better, as a good manager, you’ll recognize that there’s more than one way to motivate a team, some of which may be more effective than others.

Take the time to read your team — what motivates them, what they value, how they work — and then decide which of the following six styles below you should adopt at any point in time.

1. Laissez-Faire Management Style

This is probably one of the most hands-off style of management as employees are often left to their own devices to do whatever they want.

A laissez-faire manager will give teams the approval to pursue particular projects at the beginning, and potentially provide guidelines and answer initial questions.

However, that’s the extent of the manager’s input.

As the focus of this style is on employee freedom, managers will avoid interfering or overseeing projects.

Instead, teams are encouraged to direct themselves, seeking managerial input and help when they require it.

The laissez-faire manager will be consulted again at the end of the project, to review the results and give recommendations.

Laissez-faire managing works extremely well with highly skilled professionals who are motivated and enthusiastic about innovation, creativity, and problem-solving.

At the same time, it may also create problems when employees don’t have the skillset to solve problems or manage projects, and who may end up with nothing to show for their time.

2. Democratic Management Style

Sometimes also referred to as an affiliative management style, the democratic style is all about consulting with team members.

It sends the message that everybody’s input is important and valued, as employees are encouraged to share their ideas and suggestions to help the company grow.

The democratic manager, or affiliative manager, still holds the final decision-making power, but will take into account the recommendations and thoughts of other employees.

This style of management emphasizes the happiness and well-being of the employee, as managers will seek to avoid conflict and ensure that everyone feels heard and satisfied.

At the same time, it can also achieve better solutions and achieve greater results thanks to everybody’s collective input.

While the democratic style can help employees to feel heard, it also runs the risk of alienating certain employees whose suggestions may never have been taken on board.

It can also be a long-winded affair to consult with everybody before making a decision.

Employees may also be more interested in giving input than actually putting in the effort to get things done.

3. Autocratic Management Style

This style of management is also known as coercive, directive, or authoritarian, and is characterized by its clear direction, with minimal input from employees.

Autocratic managers are fully in control of the decision-making process within the organization and are strong authority figures.

Employees will often need to obtain the manager’s approval to make any decisions.

A company with an autocratic management style will have very clear top-down hierarchical reporting structures.

This means employees know exactly who is responsible for what and those who are higher in the hierarchy will have more decision-making powers.

This style of management will work well if you’re just setting up a new business and your employees haven’t gotten a clear idea of the vision you have for the business.

It’s also effective for guiding new or inexperienced employees.

However, more experienced employees view this as micromanagement, and feel treated like little children who aren’t trusted to make any decisions.

Being an autocratic manager and micromanaging everything can also be time-consuming and energy-zapping, since everybody will turn to you for the final decision, you’re responsible for everything within the organization, and you’ll need to have thorough knowledge of what is happening within the entire organization.

4. Authoritative Management Style

Management styles: Woman pulling a sticky note off a wall in a meeting
The authoritative style, also known as transformational or visionary, is all about providing a clear direction to employees.

The difference between the authoritative and autocratic style lies in how much decisions employees are allowed to make.

Like autocratic managers, authoritative managers will provide a very clear direction and vision for the organization.

However, instead of being involved in the day-to-day details and being responsible for all the decisions of the company, authoritative managers allow team members to achieve the vision in a way they deem most effective.

Authoritative managers focus on building employee morale, so everybody buys the vision and stays motivated to achieve the company’s goals.

This means this management style will come more easily to those who are naturally charismatic, persuasive, and personable.

While the authoritative style of management can give employees a sense of freedom, there’s a risk of them taking slightly dubious shortcuts to achieve their goals.

If managers take too far a step back, they may also lose control of the operations of the company.

5. Pacesetting Management Style

On a group hiking expedition, the leader of the pack is generally the one who sets the pace: how fast or how slow you’ll go.

In a corporate setting, a pacesetting management style means the manager is the one leading the company, setting the work pace, and working to a high standard — and expecting everybody else to follow.

This style of management is usually helpful only when there’s one clear job or goal in place, and everybody has to achieve it.

The manager therefore shows how it’s achieved, sets a certain standard, and pushes team members towards the goal.

The trick lies in setting a goal (or pace) that is challenging enough to keep employees motivated, without causing discouragement or burnout.

6. Servant Leadership Management Style

Management styles: Manager explaining something to an employee
Servant leadership, sometimes called coaching, training, or mentoring, is as its name suggests, all about “serving” the employees.

Managers are focused on coaching mentoring their team, which means professional development is very high on the priority list.

The knowledge and experience of the manager is very important for the servant leader manager, since employees have to respect and trust you first before they’re interested in learning from you.

One of the greatest benefits of the servant leadership style is that it’ll develop a very strong bond between the manager and team members, making for better collaboration.

Since managers are focused on coaching or training, employees will also advance faster in skills and knowledge, which can translate to better productivity.

The main downside of a servant leader manager comes when there’s so much focus on development that actual work output is neglected — especially bad if the business is about producing goods or providing a service.

Employees may spend more time in researching new techniques or learning new skills, and fail to meet existing quotas.

Servant leaders will also need to spend a lot of one-on-one time with individual employees in order to provide the type of mentoring required.

Choosing the Most Effective Management Styles

Smiling man with "be happy" sticker on his forehead
As you can see, there’s no one-size-fits all out of these management styles.

Every style of management has its pros and cons, so you’ll need to weigh the costs and benefits of using one style over another.

Don’t make the mistake of picking one and sticking to it for all eternity.

As projects, circumstances, and team members change, you’ll need to adopt different styles to achieve better outcomes.

You may also need to use different styles for different team members at the same time.

The most effective of the management styles is one that’s fluid and flexible, and the most effective manager is one who is able to recognize which one to use to get results. 

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