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Which Management Style Is Right For Your Workforce?

positive management styles in action

Choosing the right management style is crucial to maximising the productivity, satisfaction, and long-term development of your employees. There are multitude of management style types out there, and each one has its positives and negatives.

In this article, you'll learn:

  • What a management style is

  • Nine of the management style types

  • Best & worst management styles

  • And much more

How do your employees currently feel? Download our employee survey template to get a proper read on your organization today.

What Is a Management Style?

A management style is the way a manager works to achieve their objectives, especially in relation to the employees that report to them. This includes all the ways they plan and organise their work and the work of their employees: from decision-making to delegation to the day-to-day management of each staff member.

As you’ll see when we run through the types, management styles vary widely. Factors like the location, culture, company, industry, manager hierarchy, and the individual person can have big impacts on the management style.

In the end, using the right management style is how to get the best work possible out of each employee.

Types of Management Styles 

Management styles are not often chosen consciously, but it is possible to work toward adopting a style that will better fit your situation and needs. Below, we’ve put together a list of different management styles plus their pros and cons. That way, you can choose the most appropriate one for your corporate culture:

Style

Description

Pro

Con

Autocratic

This style is generally used in high-pressure environments where managers need absolute compliance. They make all the decisions and do not typically request feedback from employees.

This style is very effective when the job needs to be done quickly and efficiently. There’s no room for guessing (or error) as employees know exactly what is expected of them.

Employees may feel unheard and grow tired of not having a voice.

Consultative

Consultative managers tend to motivate their employees through persuasion and feedback. They often have an open-door policy and consult with employees but ultimately retain decision-making power.

This style often leads to higher employee loyalty as team members feel their opinions are heard and their input is valued.

More people are involved in making decisions, so this could potentially lead to misunderstandings based on differing viewpoints or delays to decision-making or action.

Democratic

This management style requires decisions to be made by a majority. Effective and open communication is crucial here as all levels of the organisation have equal input in how to reach their goals.

This style is highly effective when planning for the future and making important long-term decisions.

As decision-making involves many parties and potentially many debates, it can take quite some time to reach consensus on how to move forward.

Laissez-faire

Laissez-faire leaders believe in autonomy and prefer to act as mentors. They guide their employees in the right direction as opposed to instructing them what to do.

This style is very popular in creative fields where employees ‘need space’ to work.

Employees need to be highly self-motivated for this management style to work well.

Persuasive

Persuasive managers are in control of decision-making, but unlike autocratic leaders, take the time to explain their decisions and actions to their employees.

Employees are kept in the loop at all times.

Team members do not generally have an avenue to give feedback and influence decisions.

Transformational

This style is about creating an environment that supports innovation and change. In the tech industry, for example, managers use this style to help them adapt constantly to the ever-evolving market.

People in competitive industries may use this style if they thrive on constant change.

Employees may, at times, feel overwhelmed by big and quick changes.

Servant

A servant style of management puts people first and tasks second, always. These managers want to keep employees as happy as possible and expect that, in return, they’ll be motivated to work hard.

Employees will feel that their well-being is the top priority with their manager.

There’s no pressure or motivation to succeed, as the manager isn’t prioritising performance and avoids confronting or giving feedback to employees. This might lead to complacency and the team not reaching its full potential.

Transactional

Transactional management is exactly what it sounds like: “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.” These leaders use rewards and incentives (e.g., bonuses and equity) to motivate employees to do what they ask.

This style is popular with employees who appreciate extrinsic motivation (e.g. financial rewards).

Research shows that extrinsic motivation isn’t as long-lasting and can also hurt employees’ intrinsic motivation to succeed in their jobs.

Visionary

Visionary leaders define a purpose and vision that employees can believe in, which motivates the team to work hard so they can achieve that vision. Typically, once the vision and strategy have been communicated, these leaders allow employees to do the work on their own terms.

Employees feel a sense of inspiration and autonomy, which leads to higher satisfaction and motivation.

This style is hard to pull off effectively. If you don’t fully sell employees on your vision before asking them to execute, they won’t be inspired to help you achieve it.

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The Best Management Styles for Business 

As you can probably tell from the table above, some management styles are better than others (i.e. more pros than cons). Here are four of the best management styles out there:

Visionary Management Style 

Leaders with a visionary management style communicate a clear purpose and vision that employees can believe in and work toward. Employees then feel motivated to put in the hard work needed to reach that vision together.

After setting the vision and strategy for the team/organisation, visionary leaders will usually allow employees to work on their own terms. Managers will hold check-ins with team members to ensure they’re being productive and are on the right path, as well as to offer feedback on performance and give praise when they meet or exceed the expectations of their role.

Consultative Management Style 

Consultative managers will spend a lot of time consulting with their team to find out their thoughts and opinions. While the leader still maintains decision-making control, they are sure to consider all viewpoints offered by employees before doing so.

With this management style, managers can motivate their employees through persuasion and feedback. Employees feel more loyal and fulfilled because they are being heard and their input is valued by leadership.

Consultative management is especially effective on teams where staff are experts in their field. In these cases, management really needs their input in order to make solid decisions.

Democratic Management Style

Democratic management runs like a democratic government: majority rules. Leaders will not only ask for their employees’ input, but they involve them in the decision-making process. While the manager will still approve decisions in the end, having employees so involved gives them a lot of influence over what happens in the team.

Democratic managers value the diverse ideas within their team and ultimately believe each person is crucial for the team’s overall success. Employees feel valued and trusted, as they’re given a lot of responsibility and impactful work – all to execute on a vision and plan that they helped create.

Transformational Management Style

Transformational leaders aim to transform not only their organisation, but their employees as well. They aim for innovation, change, and growth, and they push their employees to achieve more than they thought possible. Having a manager that believes in their potential motivates employees to then push themselves, raising the performance of the entire team.

How does transformational management impact employees? According to the Harvard Business Review, it makes them happier and more dedicated. Managers will be right alongside their employees, contributing to their growth and success however possible.

The Worst Management Styles for Business

Not all management styles are positive. Most of us have experienced at least one “bad” manager during our careers, and many of them may have been using one of these four management styles:

Autocratic Management Style 

Autocratic leadership is typically considered a “bad” management style due to its 100% top-down power structure and little to no autonomy for subordinates.

When decisions are made at the top, autocratic leaders expect the employees below them to immediately accept the decision and execute on it. If they don’t, they could be punished by being yelled at or having their job threatened. The manager may use weapons like fear, shame, and guilt to “motivate” employees.

Persuasive Management Style 

Leaders with a persuasive management style use their skills of persuasion to convince employees that the decisions they have made are the right ones for the team or organisation. Persuasive managers wouldn’t flat-out order employees to perform tasks; instead, they’d leave room for questions and would explain how they came to their decision. 

While that may all sound fine, the manager is still unilaterally making decisions and convincing their team to accept them after the fact, rather than collaborating and collecting input from the team. Employees may resent the restrictions they’ll have to operate under, and there will likely be frustration that they aren’t able to give their feedback/opinions or be a part of developing solutions.

Laissez-faire Management Style 

“Laissez-faire” is French for “let it be” or “hands off”, and the management style is exactly that. A laissez-faire manager will monitor what their team is doing, but they remain hands-off. The expectation is that employees will meet performance expectations but without any help or check-ins from their manager.

While employees under this management style hold more autonomy to make decisions (a nice benefit), the team is given no guidance and likely lacks a compelling vision. This leaves employees feeling neglected and makes it hard for them to achieve anything meaningful.

Transactional Management Style

This management style is exactly like a transactional relationship: “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.” Transactional leaders are all about extrinsic motivation – driving behaviour with external rewards. 

Under this management style, employees will be offered incentives and financial rewards (like bonuses, raises, and stock options) in return for doing what their manager asks of them. While receiving rewards might be nice in the short-term for employees, a management style based solely on extrinsic motivation will wear off eventually and even hurt the team’s intrinsic (internal) motivation to succeed.

Why Do Management Styles Matter?

Today, managers need to be more than just delegators. It’s no longer good enough for people to only know how to do their job, they also want to know why they are doing it. In other words, they need a sense of purpose.

This is why managing a team can be challenging. It’s important for leaders to motivate every team member to willingly work towards one goal – their shared purpose. 

A good place to start is by identifying and communicating your company’s core values. As we describe in this blog post on corporate values, company culture is not something that happens overnight.

It takes time, but it also takes thought and strategy. However, when corporate culture aligns with management styles and employee expectations, magic can happen.

Should Your Management Styles Change? 

Management styles are never static. For example, in organisations where change is necessary, a transformational style might be required temporarily.

Managers leading employees through change might also have to use a persuasive style. They may need to switch between a consultative management style and an autocratic one. It all depends on the stage of change.

The challenge is to choose the right management style for the situation that allows you to show great leadership and get the most out of your employees – all within the context of your corporate culture.

Common Challenges of Management Styles 

Challenges often arise when management styles don’t match up with corporate culture. Or, when leaders are not able to identify the challenges that a specific management style might create. 

Here are a few tips on how to overcome the challenges (in the familiar format of the 5Ws) that might be facing the managers at your company:

Who – the different personalities

We are all different. We have different needs and goals. And these vary, depending on the environment, context, and situation. However, great managers realise the importance of both using (and changing) their management styles to empower and motivate their employees appropriately. 

What – the task individuals are required to undertake

People are good at different things. Great managers make sure that, wherever possible, their employees are allocated the tasks they can do most easily and effectively. This democratic approach instils confidence and boosts employee satisfaction. In a collaborative environment, good leaders should always encourage their employees to play to their strengths. 

When – the time of day, week, or year

We all have times of peak productivity. For example, employees might be more stressed towards the end of a quarter, so managers might have to balance the need for an autocratic style (“Get things done now!”) with a consultative one (“Where can I help you, so this gets done?”).

Where – the context: working from home or in the office

Bear in mind that the location of where an employee engagement takes place will affect how it is perceived. In a pandemic world where the majority of employees were working from home, informal communication methods (or the lack thereof) became a hot topic. 

It’s also important to realise that employees working remotely may need additional motivation, regular check-ins, or different management tactics to help keep them on track amidst life’s distractions. Alternatively, they might actually need to be reminded to leave their desk and not work so many hours.

Why – the purpose 

Some employees need more or less background information or context to help them know what they’re doing and why. Be sure to use the appropriate management and communication style to help people feel like they have the right level of information to help them do their jobs. 

Once you are familiar with the different management styles that can be used to match your corporate culture, you just need to decide which one is appropriate for your team and organisation in the current context.

Management Styles: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do You Know Your Management Style?

Choosing the right management style for you will depend on your organisation, your goals, and the people you’ll be managing. There are many styles (even more than we listed) and each one has its pros and cons. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you.

Consider factors like your temperament, your personality traits, the personalities and motivations of the people you manage, and your business demands. It may even be that combining a few management styles will be the right option for you.

What Is the Best Management Style?

The best management style depends on the person and needs of the company, but Personio’s favoured option is visionary management. Visionary leaders communicate a purpose and vision that the whole team can believe in and work toward. This motivates employees to work hard in order to reach that vision together.

What Are the Most Common Management Styles?

Five of the most common management styles include:

  • Autocratic

  • Democratic

  • Transactional

  • Laissez-faire

  • Visionary

What Makes a Good Manager?

The key traits of a good manager will depend on the team they are managing and the needs of the business, but some of the top attributes are:

  • Good communicator

  • Invested in development of employees

  • Fair treatment of all

  • Tries to create a healthy culture and environment

  • Challenges employees to reach their full potential

  • Supportive and trusting

The Biggest Management Challenge: Time

No matter what management style you use, the biggest challenge faced by most managers and leaders is a shortage of time. Many managers believe that if they had more time to focus on their management of employees, they could do a better (or more profitable) job.

Help your managers take back more time each day by ensuring the routine tasks related to hiring, maintaining, and documenting each employee’s working life are stored in a single system that makes it easier to work. 

Book a personalised Personio demo to see how an HR information system can give you back your time and support better management across your organisation.

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