4 Management Styles To Lead Your Team: Which One Is For You?

According to Gallup, only about 30% of employees feel engaged at work.

That’s a terrible number, and much of it can be traced back to how they are being managed.

Considering that most companies are always trying to find ways to keep employees engaged, because they know the productivity and accuracy levels among engaged employees is high, it’s surprising that the percentage stays so low. Even knowing what management styles and traits employees are looking for doesn’t seem to move the needle on that low engagement number.

There’s a lot riding on management style, that simple process of accomplishing set goals by how a manager runs their team.

It’s not fair to place the entire burden and blame on management. It’s virtually an impossible task to keep all employees fully connected and productive at work. Not only are you dealing with personality and work styles that clash, but depending on your job, you have to manage a complicated shift-based workforce.

But you have to at least be aware of what your management style is, and if it’s part of the problem or the solution. There are many types of managers, and management methods. Do you know what your management style is? Do you know if it’s appropriate or effective for the workforce you’re trying to manage?

Let us help you discover your management style. See what changes you might need to make to be a more effective manager of your team.

#1 – Democratic vs. autocratic management styles

The democratic management style is all about feedback and input from your employees.

While the final decisions are ultimately left up to management (unless you allow employees to build a consensus for decisions) employees can make suggestions to feed that final decision. This is a very collaborative approach. If your team feels comfortable with each other, it will give you the most diverse input.

Employees whose managers take a democratic approach will have higher morale. They may also feel like they have a say in their company’s future. Because employee engagement and motivation is naturally high with this management style, they feel valued and are more likely to stick around because they get to help steer the ship.

The negative to a democratic approach is that it takes more time to make decisions. The process involved in getting and fairly evaluating input also has its own pitfalls.

The opposite of a democratic management style?

Autocratic.

If you’re an autocratic manager, you insist on absolutely everything coming from the top down. All decisions and role descriptions come from you. Managers expect employees to follow instructions exactly, with the understanding that you might pop in at any moment to see what they’re doing.

Your personality has an effect on how the autocratic approach is done. Some managers come with an iron fist (“my way or the highway!”) while others achieve the same autocratic results in a more gentle way, with varying mixes of persuasion and a kind-of-friendly paternal approach, which bears the burden of all decisions.

The autocratic management style is great in that decisions can be made quickly. It can also be helpful if there’s a lot of chaos and turmoil in your organization that you need to clear up fast. In a shift-based setting where there are a lot of shift changes, overlap, and an always-changing mix of who works with whom, there may be room for an autocratic approach. This is particularly true for industries producing a product or service that must meet strict requirements in quality and output. 

But generally, people don’t like it, even if you take a gentler approach. 

People chafe at management controlling them so completely. This is especially true if you have that authoritarian personality that tends to want power and control. They have no input, and most employees will resent the micromanagement that comes with this management style. Those who don’t resent it may come to rely on you for everything and in a sense, disengage because they can. Autocratic management can easily lead to higher employee turnover and low morale.

#2 – Transformational vs. coaching management styles

On the surface, there are similarities to transformational and coaching management styles, because both of them are concerned about employee growth and betterment. Think of transformational managers like the accelerator pedal of a car, while the coaching manager is the steering wheel.

Transformational managers push employees to grow, with a desire to stay ahead of trends and always be on the cutting edge. They want to see their employees achieve great things instead of getting comfortable and sticking with what they know.

Employees with these types of managers may be highly engaged and happy, excited to come to work to see what new and exciting things they get to accomplish that day. On the other hand, if you’re always pushing and driving your team, they’ll burn out.

Coaching managers want their team to grow as well, but they put their team’s priorities ahead of the organization. So instead of being driven to excel because of innovation and trends, they focus on professional development with a long view of things.

Employees with a coaching manager will feel valued and connected to their manager. They’ll want to do their best work. The downside is that some employees will figure out how to game the system and create division among the team. It’s also tough to stay agile and get quick-turn projects done when the long view is more important.

#3 – Visionary management styles

Visionary managers are mostly concerned with communicating a high-level view of what they want their employees to accomplish. 

It’s not enough to consider yourself a visionary when it comes to managing this way. You must also avoid micro-managing people and forcing them to accomplish your vision your way. Instead, your task is to correctly present the vision so that employees can run with it.

There’s a significant amount of trust placed in the employees, that they will both catch the vision and run with it in a way that accomplishes the big picture. Employees who like autonomy and creative freedom will love visionary managers. Those who want specific instructions will struggle. 

If you like more control, this will be a difficult management approach. If you are managing a business with well-defined output goals and limits, including quality controls that must meet industry standards, a pure visionary approach may also make that difficult.

#4 – Hands-off management styles

Sometimes referred to as a “laissez-faire” approach, this management style deliberately takes a step back to allow employees more control (and more responsibility). This kind of manager might use delegation, assigning work, and then trusting employees to get it done. There is also some overlap with the visionary approach in that they communicate broad expectations and let employees decide how to meet them.

If you have a workforce that doesn’t have a lot of new hires, has proven themselves reliable, and functions well together as a team that knows what they need to do, this management style works. With a team of highly skilled workers, constant supervision isn’t needed.

With this approach, you get increased leadership from within the team, as well as innovation, simply because employees know you trust them. High trust means high employee retention levels.

This management style doesn’t work if you have employees who aren’t engaged, who have bad attitudes, who aren’t motivated, or who require specific instructions or structure in order to complete their work. If there’s any division in the team, or employees think you’re being lazy and leaving the work to them, you’ll end up with chaos and in-fighting on your hands. If you need a uniform approach or output, this management style would also be a poor fit.

Biggest management and leadership no nos

As you can see, most people are probably going to end up as a mix of different management types. Depending on their personality, the kinds of managers who modeled behavior for them, and the requirements of their industry, you probably recognize bits and pieces from several of these management styles.

While there’s no perfect management style (or mix of styles), there are some good rules of thumb when it comes to avoiding creating serious problems in your team based on your management style:

  • Is there favoritism? Employees can game or abuse just about every management style. Watch out that you aren’t favoring some more than others, whether unintentionally or not.
  • Is there trouble brewing? Watch (and listen) for signs of troubles originating from your management approach. It might be internal division, an inability to complete quick-turn projects, rushed/delayed decisions, etc.
  • What’s happening with turnover? Keep an eye on employee turnover, because that’s a good indicator of a management style that isn’t working. Do exit interviews, and listen to what employees give as a reason for leaving.
  • Is productivity up to par? Keep an eye on productivity and quality control. You have to find the right mix between happily managed employees and productivity.

Perhaps a good question to ask yourself is if you are managing your team, leading your team, or both?

Leadership is about modeling the qualities you want to see in others. This means both leading and serving your team by helping them reach the next level. Management is about how you keep everyone on task to accomplish a goal. Thinking of yourself as a leader and a manager, with the best qualities of each, is ideal.

How do you get there?

Consider taking a management style quiz to find out more about your own strengths and weaknesses in this area. Learn more about your personality, and how you tend to interact with people. Read books and consider career development classes or coaching on management techniques. If you do employee reviews, take the time to ask about management preferences or feedback. Let it be anonymous if that helps. Find out what is working and what isn’t.

Being a manager is hard. It’s one of the most difficult jobs there is. You can’t expect to please everyone, or be a perfect manager in every scenario. However, simply being aware of your management style and what that means can help make a difference for your employees.

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