6 Types of Management Styles for Effective Leadership

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With so many types of management styles to choose from, you can (and should) revel in the many leadership styles at your disposal.
Rejoice! Our modern concept of ideal management has grown far past the one-size-fits-none model embraced by traditional, top-down organizations.
Take a moment to absorb this article – and the freedom and creativity of the modern workplace!
Ask yourself:

  • Which leadership styles suit you best?
  • Which management styles do your bosses prefer you to use?
  • Which styles of leadership work best in your industry?
  • What types of management styles best suit your team members?
  • What do managers do to customize their workflows and workplaces?

How to Be a Good Manager

Being a good manager in today’s innovative, information-rich workplaces means getting the right information and making the most of it.
As you explore the six leadership styles below, take some time to examine this comprehensive list of project management methodologies. This information about leadership styles and management structures can help you address leadership interview questions and form winning teams. It can help you understand the different management styles used by leaders on all levels of your business – and how best to interact with them.

So, what makes a good manager?

The best managers know it isn’t about systems and theories – it’s about people.
They know the rules – and when to break them.
They know when to be flexible and when to hold the line.
They know which management styles suit different situations and various types of teams.
The key is to choose management styles and structures that suit your team, your industry, your USP, and your goals. How can you lead your group through a project with the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders, from executives to team members to end users?

How to nurture your team

Nothing teaches like experience. While you experiment with the six styles below, take notice of their effect on your group (of course). However, you can make better sense of team dynamics and workflows after learning about these 5 stages of team development.
Teams go through natural phases of growth (and conflict) which aren’t directly caused by your leadership style.
Yes, you can make a difficult stage in your team’s development more difficult by choosing an inappropriate management style or structure. Just don’t misinterpret normal and necessary adjustment periods (however dramatic) as mistakes on your part.

Working with leadership styles

Crafting an effective management style involves balance.

Of course, you should gain a clear understanding of the management style types that suit your strengths and best practices. However, you can develop a global perspective on what is management by exploring all of these six leadership styles – including the ones that don’t seem like a good fit for your situation.
Daniel Goleman put forward the idea of six leadership styles in the early 2000s. The exact number of types isn’t the point; various experts break down management styles into many (or few) categories.
Most of all, managers can benefit from this material by acknowledging the diversity of approaches available to them and remembering one size rarely fits all.
Smart leaders know they have something to learn from everyone – and all ways of doing business.

1) Autocratic Management Style

Let’s get this strictly (and old-fashioned) management style out of the way first – and quickly! Though it is the best choice in certain extreme environments, this leadership method does little to leverage worker creativity and facilitate growth. It also carries with it substantial planning, communication, and oversight costs.
Definition
I prefer this simple autocrat definition: Any leader with a “Because I told you so…” mentality. Authoritative leadership means a manager takes complete control of (and responsibility for) a situation.
Application
This directive leadership style can suit your team when members have little or no experience. Of course, it also becomes necessary in high-risk fields. For example, firefighters parachuting out of airplanes into wildfires need to follow orders without question or delay.
If your situation calls for an authoritative management style, use the path-goal method of leadership. Set (and communicate) clear and immediate goals for your team. Ensure they know exactly how to carry out your instructions – and have all the resources they need. Everyone in your team should understand their roles and responsibilities – and how to handle any obstacles that may arise.
Depending on your work environment, you may find this leadership style works well in small doses – and in specifically-targeted cases.
In a manufacturing plant, for example, new workers must follow their supervisors’ instructions carefully (and without creativity) to avoid injuring themselves and others. Over time, however, these neophyte workers will grow into shift leaders. A smart manager would provide ongoing training/education opportunities, determine each worker’s level of expertise, and occasionally meet team members (away from heavy machinery) to get their feedback on procedures and systems.
As work teams gain skill and reliability, smart managers shift from strict, top-down methods to other, more flexible, leadership styles.
Suitability
This traditional (and often uncomfortable) leadership style does have its place. Subordinates need to obey instructions without question in many life-or-death environments:

  • Military Deployments
  • Search and Rescue Operations
  • Heavy Industry
  • Sensitive Laboratory Experiments
  • First Responder Situations
  • Emergency Rooms/Surgical Settings

Sometimes, complying without thinking or questioning authority figures creates the best outcomes for all stakeholders.

2) Affiliative Management Style

Affiliative managers promote connection and harmony between team members. They solve personality conflicts between team members, praise good work, and maintain healthy morale.
Definition
Management researchers associate the affiliative approach to leadership with the creation of trusting relationships. Imagine the faltering but talented team in the first act of your favorite sports movie. The coach comes in, helps everyone work together, and makes something great out of an impossible situation.
Application
Focus on relationships and collaboration during stressful transitions and peak output. Use affiliative management strategies after setbacks – and when personality conflicts damage productivity.
Use affiliative management when creating a new team from scratch (unlike authoritative management, which works best when introducing new workers into existing, high-risk environments). Give everyone time to learn their roles and work out the personality conflicts which naturally arise in the early stages of team development.
When reorganizing a department, take special care to understand how each team member works best.
Some people will want to work in the comfortable niches they created for themselves under previous systems and managers.
Others see transitions as opportunities for rapid change – and address their pet peeves.
Smart managers take things slowly. They challenge entrenched workers to adapt and help creative types remain patient.
Healthy change takes time.
Group cohesion requires trust, which is only earned over time. Affiliative leaders stand in the middle of the seesaw – leaning to one side or the other to create balance. They know everyone needs to feel a little uncomfortable during times of instability – but no one should feel out-of-place or unappreciated.
Suitability
Some managers believe poor performance goes unnoticed (or, at least, unchallenged) by affiliative managers. Use this style of leadership sparingly, just as you would the authoritative leadership style. In many ways, these two methods represent the two ends of the management spectrum.
Use extreme patience and tolerance to heal your team and get them back on track. Employ affiliative management techniques when team members need to identify their strengths and weaknesses, sort out their roles and responsibilities, and put aside their ego battles. When things start working smoothly again, transition into a more goal-based management style and challenge your team to increase their productivity and efficiency!

3) Coaching Management Style

Leaders and managers act as coaches to inspire, encourage, and guide their teams to greater outputs and efficiencies.
Definition
Coaching leaders balance authoritative and affiliative management styles. They make decisions themselves, but with feedback from the group. They facilitate positive interactions between team members but also let people know where they stand.
Application
The coaching model works best with maturing teams. For instance, once a new wilderness firefighter has been through a few seasons, they don’t need specific instructions. They need information about new technology, terrain, etc. but can be trusted to work independently – or even begin leading small groups.
Managers that work with new teams (or departments in transition) can shift from affiliative to coaching leadership styles once their teams get through the earlyphases of development (i.e. initial eagerness and personality conflicts). Once teams experience success and learn to work well together, they can benefit from a greater level of managerial expectation.
Smart leaders know when their teams have the cohesion and trust to handle new challenges – and new responsibilities.
Suitability
Coaching works best with employees who have demonstrated competency and earned their coworkers’ trust. Use this hybrid model to guide teams toward higher performance after using an extremely strict or lenient management style to accommodate new employees and difficult environments.
leadership styles

4) Democratic Management Style

Democratic leaders value listening, collaboration, and investment. They allow people time and space to create the best possible products and services.
Definition
Simply put, democratic leadership involves getting everyone’s consensus on decisions.
Application
If every voice is heard, leaders know they’re getting the most possible information and feedback. In situations that require the investment of all stakeholders (startup companies, for example), building consensus can mean the difference between success and failure. Projects—and even entire companies—in high-quality and high-tech markets can go big or go bust depending on employee engagement.
Suitability
Democratic leaders work best in situations where time and resources don’t limit brainstorming and debate. However, even teams in rigid and dangerous environments can benefit from occasional democratic decisions. A leader of a surgical team could encourage the group to choose the location of their next training retreat by vote – or just the location of an after-hours hangout.

5) Pacesetting Management Style

Pacesetting leaders use their experience in a certain market/niche to get the most they can from highly-motivated workers.
Definition
Often high achievers themselves, pacesetters lead by example and ask a lot from their followers. They set high standards, though they lead best by setting both short and long-term goals.
Application
Unlike other management styles, this strategy often involves restraining achievers with big egos to avoid burnout and increase sustainability. Leaders who embrace this method often use detailed performance metrics to get the best possible outputs from their teams. Certain employees in certain fields (such as sales) thrive when recognized and rewarded for their specific achievements.
Pacesetting has a hidden benefit: encouraging overachievers to work hard andremain aware of long-term perspectives. By setting reasonable goals, they can avoid costly employee burnout and turnover.
Suitability
In fast-paced environments such as sales, certain production facilities, and food service/retail, serving a large number of customers (or creating a great number of widgets) matters. Smart managers balance the need for high performance while fostering healthy competition – not an unhealthy obsession with short-term results.

6) Visionary Management Style

When managers need teams to invest heavily, but situations don’t allow for democratic leadership, visionaries rise to the occasion.
Definition
Visionary leaders help people see the impossible as possible. They facilitate engagement and inspire trust in high-risk, high-reward settings.
Application
Visionary leadership relies on strong central leadership to maintain cohesion. If you use this tactic, you can realize incredible results and experience massive organizational growth.
However, you must take time to listen.

Inspirational leaders attract people who enjoy being part of big and meaningful ventures.

These followers can form a cult of personality around their managers/CEOs, which can create results at the expense of perspective.
Suitability
Smart visionaries know when to inspire – and when to empower.
They can create impressive movements, but must use the trust they gain wisely.
By identifying and promoting strong leaders (including those who use the othermethods I’ve described here), they can create long-lasting organizations that maintain momentum well after they achieve their first big successes.

Putting It All Together

You may resonate with one or many of these management styles. If you find something valuable in all of these methods, take a second look. Narrow your ideas down to the few that suit your industry and team the best.
No one wants to be the cliché manager who tries to implement a great new idea every Monday morning.
Conversely, if you recognize yourself as only one of these management types, consider a hybrid approach.
Stick with your strengths but remember that every problem seems like a nail when all you have is a hammer.
Pick one or two management styles that seem opposed to your way of doing things and find ways to test them out. Start with rare, low-risk situations and see how your team reacts to a change of pace.
At the end of the day, management is all about balance. Find it in yourself, your leadership style(s) – and foster it in your team. Ultimately, you aren’t just leading – you’re modeling wisdom for future leaders!
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