Many of you have thought about what you would do differently than your boss when it's your turn to be in management. Or perhaps you're in management already and consciously trying to cultivate and evolve your own style and brand of leadership. But management is a simple word with many meanings. And because management can occur in many different contexts, you find yourself wondering if your natural and default management style is really appropriate for achieving all your goals.
Being a skilled manager is no joke. Many of us early on in our careers thought, “Why doesn’t my manager do this or that? When I’m a manager someday, I’ll be so much better.” While you may be right, being "better" is not so clear-cut when there are different situations and types of people you have to manage.
We’ve all got different ideas about the best management styles. And everyone needs variety in terms of how their managers work with them. Some of us work better under laissez-faire management while other subordinates can thrive under top-down leadership. For others of us, there are we may refuse to work iron grip and decisions of an autocratic leadership style, and instead expect two-way communication and participative management that collaborates with team members about shared goals.
Believe it or not, there is a time and place for each style. What works best depends on the people involved as well as the situations and problems at hand. In fact, the best managers are able to navigate through them effectively, adapting their style of leadership to the circumstances at hand.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each type and when it might be best to utilize. (Note that some sources describe additional leadership styles or use different terminology to describe the styles listed here.)
The Coercive manager gives clear directions and orders, keeping her team very closely managed. Some might even describe the behavior as micromanaging.
That said, there are advantages to the coercive management style. Your manager may know well how to accomplish a set of goals. This leadership style will ensure that her team is focused on executing the task while giving her control of the situation. On the other hand, the team may find this approach disheartening, encouraging little individual contribution. Employee morale could be very low. Plus, it can be exhausting to be that kind of manager. Teams who are highly skilled may find themselves frustrated.
An Authoritative manager tends to be a visionary, providing long-term direction for teams. The team tends to get clarity and receive feedback to keep them motivated. Innovation is encouraged if it supports the vision. A leader who can pull off this style tends to be credible and able to persuade.
This style is useful when you're facing creative problems requiring an out-of-the-box solution. Moreover, it can give employees the flexibility to pursue goals with a framework in mind — minus the micromanagement.
That said, if the team members are too junior, this type of manager might be too hands-off. There's little detailed guidance, and expectations are either that you already have experience or will figure it out. For mixed teams or confident individuals, however, this can be a great approach.
A leader who uses an Affiliative style is all about creating harmony on the team. As you can imagine, this style is awesome for collaborative work.
Among strong personalities, the affiliative manager stresses teamwork. Sometimes, a group of high-achieving Type As personalities can thrive under an affiliative leadership style when competitiveness could undermine group goals. That said, harmony isn't always possible. With this leadership style, a lot of time will be spent on trying to socialize ideas — which may be time taken away from execution.
This style may not work well when there are high-pressure goals that require sacrifice. Sometimes, hard decisions have to be made that will anger or members of the team, and an affiliative manager may shy away from making the tough calls in order to keep the peace. This type of management style, therefore, may work better in environments or for operating groups where pressures and stakes are lower.
A manager leading with a Democratic style seeks to build consensus. On this person’s team, everyone has input. This style works especially well when you require team effort and a group that has some experience. It can take time to hear everyone out and draw out everyone's contribution since some team members may be inherently more risk-averse to sharing their views and ideas.
This leadership style can be less helpful if the crew involved isn’t coordinated and has little time or experience. During times of crisis, it may be impossible to be a democratic leader. That's because sometimes hearing everyone out is actually a waste of time if an individual can solve something more efficiently.
The Pacesetter is driven to accomplish tasks according to a high standard and is extremely goal focused. She may delegate infrequently and lead by example. She expects excellence and self-direction from the members of the team and that their colleagues follow their own example through their similar actions.
This method works great when the team is very motivated and experienced! Moreover, if you don't require a lot of interdependence, then you can have the manager set the tone and everyone can follow suit.
When this management style doesn’t work is when you have a team that needs assistance in order to achieve their goals. Moreover, the pace a high-achieving manager sets may not be realistic for everyone and people can get burned out trying to keep up.
Similar to pacesetting managers, the Laissez-Faire manager gives her employees a high degree of autonomy in completing their work and projects. However, unlike the pacesetter, who leads by example, the laissez-faire manager largely stays out of day-to-day projects, responsibilities, and decisions. Still, she will take responsibility for the decision made by her employees should issues arise.
The laissez-faire manager will provide her employees with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively but will stay out of the process of completing projects and assignments. Employees of this type of manager need to to be self-motivated, skilled, and adept at solving problems on their own. In addition, they will need to be quick and capable decision-makers.
A manager with a Coaching approach focuses on the long-term development of their employees, helping them develop their strengths and improve. This can be great when there’s a true need to grow and it benefits the work at hand that the employee grows professionally. Employees have high job satisfaction if they feel their manager is investing in them. However, this requires the manager to actually have the expertise and be good at teaching others.
The coaching management style is less helpful when the manager avoids tough conversations with someone who is struggling, or an employee is not actually interested in learning. Other times, coaching managers may end up inadvertently playing favorites. While coaching is generally considered a good quality, in certain circumstances a manager must focus on actions to get the job done.
Transformational managers are all about inspiring their employees. While they may be hands-off managers, their goal is to inspire, motivate, and effect change throughout their organizations. They are not always present but create organizational initiatives and a general attitude that sets the tone for the entire business and its employees.
Often, these managers have very high demands of and expectations for their employees, and their vision may matter above all else. Employees of these managers need to be self-motivated while believing strongly in the company's vision and ways of approaching problems.
Similar to the transformation manager, Charismatic managers have a strong vision and believes in transforming the attitudes and beliefs in her employees.
However, in contrast to the transformation manager, this type of manager is heavily involved in day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, using her power to influence her employees and ensuring that the goals of the organization reflect her personal vision. With a charismatic manager at the helm, an organization may depend heavily on its leader to set the tone, vision, brand and even day-to-day schedule.
Supportive managers are hands-on managers who provide their employees with the essentials necessary for completing their work while still giving them the attention they need to solve problems. They tend to offer significant coaching and will work through problems with employees as needed. While employees may have autonomy, the supportive manager will step in when she is needed to help rectify issues.
Rarely is one person only one archetypal type of manager. Understanding what type of personality and leadership you gravitate towards can help you moderate or modify your behavior and tendencies for different situations and circumstances. Moreover, it may help you understand why you work better with certain management types than others.
At the end of the day, most managers have to wear many hats. Needless to say, we all have individualized decision-making processes. It can be a difficult job to manage and motivate people while accomplishing a business objective or solving a problem at work. Adapting approaches or management styles from one situation to the next, even with different groups of people, tailored to getting the best performance under the circumstances is certainly challenging.
Mastering the different leadership styles and skills to adopt different management styles can go a very long way to push, motivate and support a successful team and to ultimately be an effective leader. That's why it can be well worth the effort to practice and study these management styles!
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.