10 common management styles: Which one is right for you?

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How you lead and interact with your team can be a balancing act even on a good day. It’s no surprise when there are so many factors at play. Some management styles may be more effective for particular team members, departments, or workplace cultures. Others may come naturally to you based on your personality, talents, or industry experience. 

Whichever approach you lean toward, it’s worth understanding all the common management styles. Needs and goals change, whether at the individual or company level. A great manager is versatile — ready to tailor their tactics to better support employee growth, productivity, and happiness. 

In this blog, we’ll do a deep dive into why management style matters so much. We’ll also take a closer look at 10 different styles of management to help you gain a heightened understanding — not only of how you manage, but also how you could be managing better.

Why choosing the right management style matters

Management style refers to how leaders perform the four functions of management. The four functions are categories for all the different ways you oversee and support your team members on a daily basis: through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. 

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Here’s a quick look at the four: 

  • Planning functions: Setting goals, identifying roadblocks, and making strategic improvements

  • Organizing functions: Deciding on staff levels, structuring the organization, assigning responsibilities, and allocating resources

  • Leading functions: Providing direction, delegating tasks, and motivating and inspiring team members

  • Controlling functions: Managing schedules and workloads, evaluating performance, providing upskill opportunities, and adjusting resources 

According to a three-year Harvard Business Review study, a manager’s leadership style is responsible for a staggering 30% of an organization’s profitability. Which begs the question: Why does it matter so much? Here’s what choosing the right management style helps you do: 

Boosts team members' engagement

According to the latest data from Gallup, only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. By Gallup’s definition, “engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.” Meanwhile, 17% are actively disengaged. These employees feel their workplace needs are unmet and may be looking for the exit door soon. 

The good news: Managers have a ton of tools to raise engagement right at their fingertips. 

At companies with the highest levels of engagement, employees said they had clear expectations and the resources they needed to do their jobs well. They felt like management supported their wellbeing, whether through flexible hours, generous health benefits and perks, skill development, or other initiatives. 

As a manager, you’re in the perfect position to get to know your team members’ unique needs, preferences, and working habits — and engage them.  

Encourages a positive work culture

While managers have a diverse range of responsibilities — from strategic planning, to managing budgets, to coaching — one of the most important is to help build a positive and healthy work culture.

That’s where management styles can come in. As we mentioned earlier, certain management styles can be better for certain workplaces, allowing everyone to feel comfortable and perform their best. For example, a participative style encourages everyone to innovate and weigh in. Leaders and team members have access to the same information and proactively work on ideas and solutions, side by side. This collaborative approach would help your team build relationships and trust.

Creates open communication throughout an organization

Skilled managers are excellent communicators. After all, much of the job is spent managing projects, answering employee questions, sharing key information and resources, leading meetings, and encouraging your team members. Depending on which project management methodology you use, you may spend more time messaging, calling, and meeting. (Agile project management is one highly collaborative option.) 

That said, healthy communication has to be a two-way conversation. A good management style should have you regularly ask for employee feedback and actively listen to what your team has to say, no matter how you choose to incorporate their input. 

You should also have tools to evaluate your team’s performance and give them constructive feedback. This might include yearly performance reviews or one-on-one meetings. This ensures everyone has opportunities to learn and grow. 

Helps retain high-quality talent

Employee retention has always been important, but it’s even more vital in the post-pandemic world. In the year ahead, Gartner predicts the annual voluntary turnover will spike by nearly 20% from pre-pandemic level. That’s roughly 5.5 million more employees quitting their jobs. 

And these numbers aren’t done rising. Gartner’s Chief of HR Research Brian Kropp recently cautioned companies to prepare for year-on-year turnover rates 50% to 75% higher than usual.

The profound impact of management style on retention becomes even more obvious when you factor in the changing priorities of workers who crave flexibility, work-life balance, and other non-compensation-based perks.

10 common management styles

From hiring and onboarding to communicating and motivating, managers cover a lot of ground. And while the overarching goals may be similar, paths to accomplishing them differ.

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Most managers subscribe to one of these 10 types of management styles. Here’s a brief breakdown of each: 

1. Authoritative management style

Perhaps the most traditional and rigid approach, the authoritative management style is a top-down system in which managers make the rules and employees are expected to follow them without question.

This autocratic management style often involves close oversight and micromanagement of employees due to the limited trust and confidence placed in them by managers.

Why it’s good

  • Decisions are made quickly

  • Roles and expectations are clearly defined

  • Clear expectations mean employees can operate without uncertainty

  • Productivity gains — but only in the presence of managers

Why it’s not so good

  • Cultivation of an “us” versus “them” dynamic

  • Can foster employee dissatisfaction, which leads to higher turnover rates 

  • Reduces risk but stifles innovation and feedback 

2. Democratic management style

With this leadership style, employees are equals in the decision-making process. Every member at every level has an equal vote. The majority always wins, but every team member still has a direct impact on each decision. 

This style can spur innovation because it welcomes a diversity of perspectives and encourages discussion and debate.

Why it’s good

  • Builds collaborative relationships between employees, teammates, and managers

  • Boosts employees’ morale

  • Can yield quick decisions because it’s a numbers game

  • Encourages innovation 

Why it’s not so good

  • The manager gives up ultimate decision-making authority (or else risks frustrating their employees)

  • Can result in lack of ownership among those whose vote did not win

  • Can be time-consuming

  • Can lead to dissent between team members with opposing viewpoints

3. Consultative management style

Similar to the democratic management style, this approach invites the input of your team members.

In this type of democratic style, leaders consult with the viewpoints of team members, then make the final decision based on their contributions to the conversation.

Why it’s good

  • Generates buy-in and improves team morale 

  • Promotes employee growth and lets them to use the full potential of their skills

  • Encourages creativity and innovative problem-solving

Why it’s not so good

  • Can be time-consuming and inefficient

  • Can lead to the feeling of “empty promises” if the majority decision is disregarded

  • Managers may need to do “damage control” with team members whose opinions and recommendations aren’t chosen

4. Laissez-faire management style

With this laid-back leadership style, managers take a very hands-off approach. Not only do they trust their employees to make their own decisions, but they don’t provide much guidance or instruction either.

This free-rein leadership style is built on trust and confidence in employees and their abilities. While employees have the ability to make decisions and are responsible for solving their own problems, they do receive constructive criticism from leaders, if necessary. And managers still retain responsibility for both actions and outcomes.

Why it’s good

  • Employees that prefer self-management can thrive, improving retention

  • Increases employee motivation and accountability

  • Often part of a relaxed company culture

  • Can foster creativity and innovation 

Why it’s not so good

  • Can be challenging for newcomers who desire more structure, clear direction, and direct support 

  • Can lead to confusion and miscommunication regarding who’s in charge

  • Leaders may appear uninvolved, which can compromise culture

  • May be difficult for groups

5. Collaborative management style

With this management style, leaders provide an open forum for discussion of all ideas prior to decision-making. A variation on majority rule, it relies on the majority perspective that emerges during this forum.

Why it’s good

  • Employees feel trusted, valued, and heard

  • Employees are inspired to explore collaborative solutions

  • Higher engagement

  • Open lines of communication can mitigate small conflicts before they turn into big ones

  • Can lead to decreased turnover

Why it’s not so good

  • Process can be time-consuming

  • Because majority rule is not always in the best interest of the business, managers sometimes need to step in, which can undercut the process and lead to resentment

6. Transformational management style

With this style, managers focus on growing their team’s skills and confidence. It’s a growth-minded approach that puts employee development at the forefront, taking the focus off specific goals and accomplishments. Instead, it relies on individual and intrinsic motivation based on a shared organizational vision which all team members — including managers — are actively working toward together.

The transformational management style is basically the opposite of the transactional management style, which is guided by extrinsic factors like reward and punishment. 

Why it’s good

  • Values-driven and ethics-focused

  • Employees may be more adaptable, flexible, and willing to try new things

  • Enhances creative thinking, problem-solving, and product development

  • Can lead to increased engagement and lower turnover

Why it’s not so good

  • Employees may feel like they can’t keep up between deliverables and big-picture items

  • Can lead to burnout without proper management

  • Not all employees like being pushed out of their comfort zone

  • Can be too disruptive if it leads to excessive risk and change

  • Requires a continuous feedback loop

  • Managers can lose power if their vision is not properly conveyed or agreed with

7. Coaching management style

This management style is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than a manager-employee relationship, it adopts a coach-team member perspective. (This label is literal and references the relationships between coaches and players on sports teams.)

In this approach, managers view themselves as coaches with the goal of guiding the professional development of their teams. The focus is on long-term development that prioritizes education and upskilling, which also helps you achieve company goals. 

Why it’s good

  • Employees are engaged and feel valued 

  • Greater opportunities for learning, development, and advancement, which can attract candidates 

  • Builds bonds between managers and employees, who want to deliver for their “coach”

  • Can lead to improved retention as employees grow with the company 

Why it’s not so good

  • Can overlook short-term goals

  • Can create a toxic dynamic in which team members compete for favored positions and better tasks

8. Delegative management style

With this management style, the manager’s primary focus is assigning tasks while an employee’s primary focus is executing them. While the manager maintains responsibility for the successful completion of employee tasks, employees are empowered with self-direction and the option to use their own processes to complete the work.

Anything goes with the delegative management style — as long as the manager approves of the work. (Upon completion of the task, the manager reviews the work and provides feedback that can be applied to future projects.)

Why it’s good

  • Increased autonomy often leads to increased job satisfaction

  • Fuels innovation and creativity

  • Strengthens problem-solving and teamwork

Why it’s not so good

  • Productivity may suffer without active management

  • Teams may feel like they lack focus, consistency, or direction

  • Some employees may feel that managers aren’t contributing to the effort

9. Visionary management style

This management style is all about vision — specifically, the leader’s vision for the company and team. It’s also about communicating that vision in a way that inspires team members to get on board with it.

Using this style, great leaders can convey their goals and convince team members to join them in working toward them. This also enables managers to be more hands-off in the day-to-day tasks of their employees. While there are opportunities for check-ins and constructive feedback along the way, managers trust the overarching vision will keep everyone productive and moving forward.

Why it’s good

  • Connects team members through a shared sense of purpose

  • Can be a high employee engagement tool 

  • Increased employee satisfaction and motivation, which reduces turnover 

  • More innovation and quicker problem-solving

Why it’s not so good

  • Being a visionary leader doesn’t come easy to all managers, and may also depend on the product, industry, and people involved

  • There’s no “Fake it ‘til you make it” — if managers and employees aren’t truly inspired, they won’t perform

10. Participative management style

With this management style, managers and staff are side-by-side and active in the decision-making process. All team members have access to the information and resources they need to understand the company and its goal(s). They then use this access to come up with innovative solutions.

Managers take a proactive approach in seeking the input of staff, then work together with them to decide and act.

Why it’s good

  • Higher engagement and greater connectedness to organizational goals

  • Employees feel valued

  • Increased team motivation and productivity

  • Greater innovation

  • Less resistance to changes and new policies

Why it’s not so good

  • Can be slow-moving

  • Employees with “bigger” personalities can dominate less assertive ones

  • Potential disagreements and conflicts between teammates

  • Giving staff access to sensitive information isn’t an option in certain industries

  • Not all employees want this level of responsibility or involvement

Manage your team efficiently with Teamwork.com

Now that you’ve had a look at the pros and cons of different management styles, you may notice that you lean more toward one approach, or that you tend to incorporate different elements. You may have also identified improvements and changes you’d like to make to your own management style.

In both cases, just as you expect your employees to be constantly growing and improving, you should take the same attitude toward how you manage. One way to do so? Exploring new and better management tools.

That’s where Teamwork.com comes in.

Hailed by one user as the “Swiss Army Knife of project management tools,” Teamwork.com offers client management software, task management software, and project management software. Our platform includes next-level task tracking and visibility, collaboration tools like instant chat and organized document sharing, capacity planning tools, and comprehensive reporting.

If you’re looking to level up your management game toward more engaged employees, enhanced productivity, a smoother workflow, and better business outcomes, you need Teamwork.com.

For a personalized walkthrough of how Teamwork.com can help you manage your team toward better problem-solving and more, sign up for a live demo today.

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