Decoding Leadership Strategies: Unveiling the Secrets of Management Styles
Decoding Leadership Strategies: Unveiling the Secrets of Management Styles
8 jun 2023
Managers differ in how they organize the work of their team members, communicate, make decisions and assign tasks. Experts have analyzed these patterns and came up with a term to describe them - management styles.
Why do people have different ways of organizing the work of their subordinates? Why do two managers with a similar style have different outcomes in running their team? What is your style and which is the best for you?
This article answers these and many other questions and provides several management styles examples.
What is management style?
We can view management style from two perspectives: individual and organizational.
From an individual perspective, management style is the body of principles, approaches, and practices used by a certain manager to attain business objectives.
From an organizational perspective, management style is the approach to organizing the work of people that fits best and/or has historically formed within the organization.
Management style manifests itself in:
Communication with employees
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing people. Different management styles fit different types of organizations and different people.
At some point, an organization might come to an understanding that their management style impedes the attainment of business goals.
A good manager can adapt their style to a particular situation. Obviously, they can do it only to a certain extent. People with a democratic management style will find it hard to transition to the autocratic and vice versa. And here’s why:
How management styles are formed in individuals and organizations
Individual management style in most cases is formed based on a person’s beliefs, values, and personality.
For example, people who cherish freedom and think that human beings are responsible by nature and capable of making decisions on their own are more likely to have laissez-faire or democratic style. Meanwhile, people with a great need for control will probably be great at autocratic management.
To a certain extent, the individual management styles depend on the person’s culture of origin and on the company they work in. For example, cultures that support strict hierarchies within the family and society, are more likely to produce persons with an autocratic type of management styles.
As concerns organizations, there are multiple internal and external factors that impact their style.
Internal factors that form organizational management styles include:
The skillset, knowledge level and motivation of the workforce
The management style of an organization’s head and top management.
Company’s positions on the market, the general state of business.
External factors are:
Existing culture within the society
The body of laws
Current socio-economical and/or political situation
Theory X and Theory Y
Introduced in 1957 by Douglass McGregor, the Theory X and Theory Y is a way to explain how management style is formed. It presents two different points of view on management.
The Theory X proponents assume that employees are unmotivated to work and lack responsibility. You can distill this set of beliefs into one phrase “nobody wants to work anymore.” The managers with this perception tend to rule hard and strict.
On the other hand, Theory Y claims that people are inherently motivated to work and can actualize their creativity in what they do given the necessary conditions.
There are several misconceptions surrounding McGregor’s work. First, many professionals perceive it as a guidance rather than a proposition to discuss the sets of management’s beliefs, assumptions and biases as the author intended.
Second, Theory X and Theory Y are polar extremes with no undertones in between. Meanwhile, most psychological studies of humans show that we all exist somewhere on a spectrum.
Management style vs. leadership style
Often management and leadership styles are used interchangeably. Furthermore, the main types of these styles are the same (democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire). However, in our opinion leadership style is a broader term as it includes all types of leaders, including political, military, religion, and other areas of human organized activities.
Types of Management Styles
Modern researchers describe many different styles of management. However, they can all be classified into four main categories. Let's review the four different types of management styles and also talk about "bossless" teams and MBWA practice.
Autocratic is a strictly hierarchical top-down type of management style. Here’s how it manifests in different areas of management:
Decision-making is predominantly if not always the province of the manager. Subordinates have little to no influence on it.
When organizing work, managers give direct and clear orders to the employees and expect them to strictly follow these orders without question. There’s no space for employee self-organization. Often such managers do not care if a task they assigned cannot be completed due to objective factors like the lack of time or resources. They also control the performance more often than people with other types of management.
In communication with employees, autocratic managers stop any attempt of subordinates to provide feedback or opinion. They never or rarely consult with the team. The key assumption is that the boss always knows better and therefore guides their employees.
The delegation of certain tasks is sometimes highly limited but mostly non-existent.
Where autocratic leadership fits:
Unskilled and unmotivated workforce
Managing employees that have just joined the company or profession
Best for employees who do not want to take responsibility for their work and people who grew up within autocratic agents of socialization.
Pros of Autocratic management style:
Low level of uncertainty for the team
Employees are not responsible for the team failure
Increased performance under supervision.
Cons of Autocratic style:
1. Higher chance of mistake in decision-making process
2. High levels of stress of managers and employees
3. No use of the potential of individual team members and the group
4. Low adaptivity to change
5. Low innovation potential
6. No room for professional growth
7. High turnover
8. Low quality of work
Democratic is a top-down bottom-up management style that pursues more horizontal communication and collaboration between the manager and the employees.
Decision-making still lies on the managers however they tend to listen and take into account the opinions of the employees. In some cases, the decision-making process (and the responsibility) lies on the team.
When it comes to organizing work, the majority of tasks are given by a manager. However, employees can assign some of the tasks to themselves and other team members. Managers control employees at certain predetermined stages of performance.
In communication with employees, democratic managers encourage their feedback and opinion. They also consult with their subordinates. The key assumption is that all team members possess valuable knowledge about their work and their point of view can enrich the team’s vision.
The delegation of tasks is a regular practice.
Where democratic leadership fits:
1. Mixed teams of knowledgeable employees and those lacking expertise and experience
2. Organizations with flat hierarchies
3. Companies that require high flexibility and innovation
4. Individualistic cultures
Best for individuals who can take responsibility for and self-actualize through their work but still need guidance.
Pros of democratic management style:
1. Decision-making process benefits from multiple perspectives
2. Higher levels of employee satisfaction
3. Large potential for growth for team members, management and company
4. Room for innovation of business processes
5. High adaptivity to change in socio-economic or political conditions
6. High quality of work
7. Lower turnover
Cons of democratic style:
1. Slower decision-making
2. Higher information security risks
3. Possibility for political struggle between teammates
4. Higher stress around team’s responsibility for the results
5. In cases when “unpopular decision” is desirable, managers can feel a lot of peer pressure from the team.
In times of crisis, the switch to autocratic leadership might be tough for the team to accept.
Servant is a type of bottom-up management style where bosses care more about the team's well-being than the overall goals of the organization.
Decision-making often lies on the team. The manager can often act as an intermediary between the members. When organizing work, managers try to take into account their employees’ best interests. In communication with employees, they prioritize the needs of each team member and try to harmonize the team. They listen a lot and spend much time on team-building activities. The delegation of tasks is a regular practice.
Where servant leadership fits:
1. Knowledgeable and motivated workforce
2. Organizations with flat hierarchies
3. Non-governmental organizations
Best for individuals who struggle within hierarchical institutions, require much independence and team harmony.
Pros of servant management style:
1. Employees strive in such environments
2. Conflict solving process is great.
Cons of servant style:
1. Slower decision-making
2. Higher information security risks
3. Managers can take full responsibility for the well-being of their team on themselves and it can be exhausting
4. The lack of manager’s authority can have a negative impact on the team when hard decisions need to be made.
5. Hard transition from making a decision to implementing it.
Laissez-faire is a very different type of management styles from the previous ones. It’s a hand-free approach when the manager is involved in the process as little as possible. The term derives from the French phrase that can be loosely translated as “Let go” or “Leave somebody be” or “Let somebody do something (as they see fit).”
Decision-making lies entirely on the team. The managers rarely interfere or mediate as they have highly-professional and motivated employees who do not need guidance.
Organizing work is mostly the responsibility of each employee. Laissez-faire managers trust their subordinates and know that they can set and implement their tasks on their own.
The communication with employees is minimal. The managers inform on the vision and general business objectives of the business and then contact when the task is completed. They also provide some help when it is required. Most of the tasks are delegated.
Where laissez-faire leadership fits:
1. Highly-knowledgeable, motivated and experienced workforce
2. Decentralized organizations with flat hierarchies
3. Companies that require creativity and/or innovation to strive
4. Individualistic cultures
Best for individuals who require independence, can take responsibility for and self-actualize through their work.
Pros of laissez-faire management style:
1. Management doesn’t take up too much resources from a manger
2. Employee creative and innovative potential is unlocked
Cons of laissez-faire style:
1. Slow decision-making process
2. Employees do not have a single guidance or vision and it might be hard for them to achieve consensus on it.
3. This approach might also lack clear strategy and in some areas of work (like marketing) it is extremely inefficient.
4. No supervision might influence the performance negatively.
5. Team collaboration might stagnate due to the lack of leadership.
Self-management or bossless teams are teams that do not have one leader to guide them. They make decisions collectively and can report directly to the CEO. The key advantage of such an approach is that it creates egalitarian environments where everyone’s opinion should be heard and each member is an equally important part.
In practice, such groups tend to have unofficial leaders whose opinion will be respected more. People who feel more in public speaking will take more room in regular discussions and moderation will solve this problem only partially.
Voting-based decision-making can be dissatisfying for many individuals. They might feel that the majority doesn’t take their interests into account despite the declared values.
Such groups are more prone to a post-discussion performance “block.” This block happens when a team discusses an issue, makes decisions, but fails to assign clear tasks to participants and accomplish them. Sometimes, the most proactive people will carry out all the tasks to attain a certain goal.
Overall, this practice is great for teams where individuals are highly motivated, knowledgeable, and responsible, have great expertise and experience, and self actualize in their job.
Management by walking around (MBWA) is a practice rather than a separate style. MBWA Managers believe that they need to communicate closely and regularly check in on their employees. They want to remain in contact and provide support. However, sometimes it can be stressful for subordinates and distract from work.
Now that we've reviewed the major types of management styles, let's take a closer look at their subtypes.
Think about management styles as a spectrum. On the one extreme you have the one-sided, top-down and strictly controlling approach (autocratic). On the other side you have a hands-off, horizontal, and minimum control approach. The democratic style lies somewhere in between. We used similar logic when grouping the different management styles in this section.
Authoritative management style is the most controlling style within the autocratic type (and on the spectrum). Managers give orders and punish for the failure to comply with them. The team has a strict hierarchy. And no suggestions from the subordinates are welcome.
Persuasive managers engage employees in the decision-making process. They start discussions and then use their skills of persuasion to impose their decisions on the team. Certain employees might think that they have some say in the process. But many understand that they have no say in this process.
Paternalistic managers act like “fathers” to their employees. However this is the type of a father that knows best and doesn’t believe in the children’s capabilities to come up with smart ideas. Such managers spend some time explaining to the team why a certain decision is in the team’s best interest but won’t listen to the opposing thoughts.
People with consultative management style will listen to the opinions of all their teammates before making a final decision. The decision-making process still retains the province of the manager. However, the opinions of employees can influence and change it.
Participative managers encourage their teams to take part in the decision-making process. They not only listen to the proposed ideas but also ask the team to come up with the best solutions to the problems. They clearly communicate the goals of business so that employees can align their solutions with these goals.
Collaborative style is similar to the participative one. However, in this case, the team makes decisions based on democratic voting. The team also bears more responsibility for the results of the work.
These managers set tasks, check their completion and consult the employees if needed. However, they do not set clear directions on how the task should be accomplished. The team makes decisions and bears responsibility on the results of their work.
Visionary managers are similar to the delegative ones. However, they also focus on the company vision. They see their role as the inspiration and providing education when necessary.
Some of the management styles can’t be put on the autocratic-democratic-laissez-faire spectrum. They identify specific behavioral patterns that can be very familiar to us.
Micromanagers tend to control the tiniest aspects of their employee work. They will give orders and want things to be done in a very specific way. Some will redo the task after an employee because it hasn’t been done the way they envisioned it. Obviously, many managers redid the task after the subordinate at least once in their life. However, micromanagers do it on a regular basis.
This management style is sometimes confused with laissez-faire. However, there are key differences. Absent managers are not engaged in the work process at all. They do not create clear plans, give no guidance and do not get feedback from the employees. They often miss work and can’t be reached over the phone or email. Finally, they do not check the results of their team’s work.
Deceptive managers present two different stories to their boss (or top management) and to their employees. They can take credit for the team’s success and at the same time blame their subordinates for the team’s loss. At the same time, in communication with team members, they will present themselves as supportive and caring.
Agile managers are rare. These people are able to adapt to many different organizations, teams and individual employees. They are able to apply divergent management styles depending on the situation.
Coaching managers set a goal to induce and support the professional development of each team member. They actively take part in the life of the team and have a high level of work ethic as an inspiration for employees. You can think of them as a coach of a sports team that nurtures members to success.
Transformational managers liken the coaching ones. However, they focus more on nurturing a team in accordance with the goals of the organization. They do it to generate innovative and creative solutions and transform the organization and the way it operates.
Which management style is best suited for you?
As we mentioned earlier, individual management style is formed on a solid ground of personality, innate traits and socialization experience. It can replicate the culture of origin, be in opposition to it, or take some parts of it that a person values.
That's why people can find it difficult to change the way they manage people. The transition is exceptionally hard between the types of management styles. If you are a consultative leader and want to become a collaborative one, you will just have to delegate your decision-making power to the team.
Meanwhile, if you are a laissez-faire manager, and you want to transition to the autocratic type of leadership, you’ll need to transform your entire communication with employees and the methods of work. And most importantly, you will need to change your values and the way you think and feel. Is it really worth it?
In our opinion, it’s best to find a company where your management style will fit in well rather than try to change yourself.
How to determine your management style:
There are several ways to determine your management style:
1. Ask other managers in your companies.
2. Read about management styles and see what style likens yours the most.
3. Get a test.
We prepared a short downloadable test of 6 questions to determine your management style.
If you work in HR department, you can also use it to test your potential candidates and consult on employee promotions.
How to improve your management
The success of your team heavily depends on your ability to manage it. We hand-picked 5 ways to improve your management skills and three tools to boost your performance as a team leader.
Tips to improve skills
1. Ask for feedback from your employees and top management
Be ready to hear negative feedback. It’s the most valuable one. Not all your employees will be ready to share. Show them that there will be no consequences for negative feedback.
2. Learn more about your employees.
What kind of people are they outside work? What are their interests? What challenges do they face in work and day-to-day life? It will help you understand them better and build relationships within the team.
3. Analyze the decision-making process in your team
Determine whether you take the employee's opinions into account. Identify the blockers to this process. Brainstorm with your team about creative ways to overcome them.
4. Assess how performance control is done in your team
Do you control too much or too little? Do you set clear goals and expectations? Do you “punish” your employees for failures and how?
5. Get training
Courses are one of the easiest ways to boost your management skills. You will have a coach and a community of people ready to help you in your growth.
Current SaaS market offer thousands of tools to boost your team productivity. We picked solutions that will help you with task management and prevent information loss. Additionally, they will facilitate your communication with employees and provide great environment for team collaboration.
One of the challenges that managers face is the inability to transform the decisions that have been made during an online meeting into clear tasks for their employees. People find it difficult to recall the contents of the call, and up to 50% of information is lost within an hour.
Unfortunately, many bright ideas, innovative solutions and important decisions fall through the cracks. Noty.ai helps managers tackle this problem by transcribing the online meetings in Google Meet or Zoom. Noty AI Assistant will transform the transcript into a summary, list of decisions, action items, or tasks.
Managing your team will be much easier with this tool at your service.
Asana is a great project management tool. You can assign tasks to your team members and create dependent connections between them. It has great visibility on project advancement. In addition to that, Asana enables your team to discuss the ongoing tasks right on spot.
One of the key needs for team success is to have one source of truth for all company data and ongoing projects. Notion is a cloud solution that enables you to keep and organize your information. It is available from any device from any place in the world where you have Internet access.
In addition to this, Notion is a great tool for team collaboration on files. Its document layouts are more flexible. It is easier to add different types of information (like video or image) than in Google Docs or Word.
Wrapping It Up
Management styles refer to the various approaches that managers use to oversee and direct their teams. These styles can significantly impact team dynamics, productivity, and overall workplace atmosphere. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses, and the most effective managers often adapt their approach based on the situation, team dynamics, and organizational goals.