Throughout our lives, we encounter people who’ll lead and teach us the ways of the world. First, our parents then our teachers. And when the time comes to join the workforce, we’ll meet our bosses. Having worked in several companies, I’ve had several managers and they each had a different way of managing people. Looking back, their management style had a direct impact on my relationship with them and my performance at work.
Those who provided clear goals and mentorship brought out the best in me. While those who were micromanaging and bossy often made me feel dreadful about coming to work.
So just how do management styles affect employee engagement? What management style is the best? And why is it important to be more aware of our management styles? Let’s find out.
Why Your Management Style Matters
There’s this saying, “People don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad managers.” There’s some truth in this in that managers directly affect employee engagement towards work. The Predictive Index People Management Study shows that about 77% of employees with bad managers are planning to quit their jobs within the next 12 months.
While several factors can affect a person’s management style, a great chunk of it is highly dependent on one’s personality and work ethics. And if you’re not aware of how you’re handling people, you might end up being disliked and not empowering your team to meet your goals. In the end, not only do employees and managers suffer because of an ineffective management style but the organization as a whole.
Becoming aware of your management style allows you to adapt your approach to the needs of your employees and organization. This enables you to engage your employees better. This introspection exposes your weaknesses as a manager and helps you come up with plans to overcome them.
Types of Management Styles and When to Use Them
Here we discuss 7 types of management styles. You might be surprised to find that you’re already practicing one or a combination of them. Let’s see how each management style works and when it’s ideal to use them.
The authoritative management style is often described as a command-and-control approach. An authoritative manager strongly asserts authority, performs decision-making without involving subordinates, and assigns orders and tasks. Here are situations that may need an authoritative management style:
- Leading inexperienced employees or new teams
- Lack of order or structure leading to confusion or disarray in the workplace
- Unproductive work environments where employees seem to be slacking off
- Executing big-picture visions often from C-executives or higher-ups
- Instances where decisions need to be made fast
An authoritative style, when taken extremely, can cause undesirable effects on the business. Controlling your employee’s every move and decision can eventually lead to burnout. It may work in the short-term but as your employees get skilled, they’d also expect to be given responsibilities and execute work the best way they know-how. The scenarios given above should aim at transforming crises, upskilling employees, and translating your vision. But once those conditions have been met, it’s time to balance out an authoritative management style with a more consultative one.
The democratic management style is the opposite of the authoritative management style. Democratic managers involve employees in decision-making which shows that they trust their team’s capabilities and inputs. Democratic managers accept that they do not know everything and so they welcome ideas from their teams and allow them to exercise their expertise. This results in highly engaged, independent, and empowered employees.
While the democratic style certainly has its benefits, the process of involving everyone can be slow. As a democratic manager, you can solicit feedback from your employees and build consensus on company decisions. But you also have the authority to ultimately decide on things if the situation calls for speedy action. But when you do involve your employees and get their inputs, be sure to follow through and make them feel that they are contributing to your business. Else, they will feel that your management style is just a front.
A democratic management style can be beneficial for these situations:
- Managing highly skilled and experienced employees
- When you need to generate buy-in on long-term company plans
This management style focuses on efficiency and puts lesser emphasis on the how. Results-based managers effectively communicate their goals, objectives, and vision to their employees and allow them to perform work the best way they know how. It doesn’t matter what method they use, as long as they meet the requirements and deliver as fast as possible. This management style requires monitoring and evaluation of results using key performance indicators.
- Implementing this management style has many benefits:
- Proper allocation of resources based on desired results
- Offers flexibility to employees
- Boosts employee morale
- Exposes inefficiencies in the process
- Increases employee retention
- Provides equal opportunities for career progression
Laissez-faire managers give full autonomy to their employees. They let employees do their jobs with little to no intervention. Though they can be pulled in for a consultation, employees still have full control over their work. This is beneficial for situations where creativity and innovation are required as employees need the flexibility and freedom to explore their ideas. But in general, a laissez-faire management style can be dismissed as neglect. While it’s good to let your employees explore their talents and ideas, they also need your direction and guidance. Take caution when using this management style and invoke it only when necessary.
Leading by example is what this management style is about. Example-setting managers roll-up their sleeves and show their employees how to get things done. This sets the tone in any work environment and communicates what kinds of standards and results are expected from employees.
This management style is ideal for highly capable teams or when you want to take your teams out of their comfort zone. Be careful though with burning out your team and setting unrealistic standards and goals. Be prepared to accept that not everyone works exactly the same way you do but they can shine bright in their way.
The affiliative management style focuses on building relationships with employees. Affiliative managers put people first and do their best to foster a harmonious working environment. This management style is ideal for resolving conflicts and managing organizational changes that can cause anxiety or panic. For example, layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, and budget cuts.
The affiliative style is a good complement to other management styles like results-based and example-setting management styles. As a stand-alone approach, focusing too much on relationship-building can take away from providing direction and constructive feedback that employees need.
The visionary management style focuses on communicating the leader’s overall vision of the company, business unit, or team. Visionary managers aim to motivate and inspire their employees to rally behind their vision and goals for the business. While they don’t meddle in the day-to-day work of their employees, they provide the overall direction to keep their teams aligned and on track.
Visionary managers are innately charismatic, commands attention, and inspirational. They use these qualities to encourage their employees and hold them together. These types of managers are comfortable with letting their employees execute their vision.
The visionary style is ideal to be used with experienced employees who don’t need much supervision and guidance. A visionary leader is also beneficial when companies need to set the tone for their organizational culture or will need to undergo a radical change.
Finding Out What Management Style is For You
I’ve also had opportunities to manage people. In those instances, I thought about what I want my manager to be and applied that to how I handled people. At the same time, I also asked my direct reports for feedback and how they think I can best help them. I realized that no one management style’s better than the other. Often, I had to channel different styles depending on the needs of my team, the situation I’m faced with, and the requirements of the business. I also find that I use management styles that resonate with my work ethic, principles, and beliefs.
If you’re starting as a manager, it’s good to consider these factors when finding out what management style to use.
- Your organization’s culture
- Your personality and innate management abilities
- The personalities and needs of your employees
- The business need that you have to address
- The business results that you want to get
While you might have a dominant management style, you’ll find yourself pulling strategies and ideas from different management styles to adapt to the situation. This is perfectly fine and can happen to any manager. What’s important is that you assess the effectiveness of your management style then adjust and adapt when needed.