The way a manager leads a team is a driving factor behind what their team accomplishes and produces. It can impact the productivity of their staff and the overall output of the organization. Organizational efficiency is a byproduct of each department, which can be significantly influenced by the different forms that management can take.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal standard or approach, when it comes to management styles. The most appropriate approach ultimately depends on the structure of your team, including your people—their experience and expectations—and situational factors such as short- or long-term growth and organizational goals.
While there is no definite way that managers can apply every organizational style to their management technique, it’s best for leaders to at least be aware of a range of leadership characteristics so that they can appropriately apply facets of the techniques to specific situations.
Also known as the coercive style, the directive management technique has a primary objective of obtaining compliance from employees. This authoritarian approach closely monitors employees, motivates employees through discipline, and generally positions the manager at the center of the organizational structure. While this management technique is effective when there is a crisis or potentially perilous situation in the mix, it is not effective as a long-term management strategy if you wish to further develop employees.
Ultimately, this managerial style is useful when deviation from the norm is a risky decision. In highly litigious industries or situations, the directive manager drives their team to success. However, if employees are highly skilled, or you’re looking to develop certain skill sets, this management preference can stifle growth. Little to no learning happens within this style, and employees often become frustrated and unresponsive to the micromanagement that occurs.
Authoritative managers lead with the idea of implementing long-term direction and foresight across their teams. Also referred to as visionary leaders, these managers embody the “firm but fair” mentality. While they provide employees with clear explanation and direction, they may choose to motivate by persuasion. These leaders include a large amount of feedback on their employees’ performance.
Authoritative leaders are effective when clear direction and standards are needed. These leaders lead by example and manage with a high level of conviction. When leaders are credible, employees are apt to follow their guidance. While this leadership technique works in some situations, like directive management, it does not develop employees to their fullest ability. Because management provides guidance, employee insight and opinions often take a backseat, which can limit collaboration.
Affiliative leaders work to develop strong teams. This style of management is concerned with creating harmony between employees, management, and departments. These leaders promote open communication and place an emphasis on building cross-departmental, interpersonal relationships. Often, managers work hard to avoid conflict and motivate their employees by keeping them happy.
This management style generates positive results across companies that rely on structured teams. When combined with other management styles, affiliative leadership can help coach employees. Leaders manage and mitigate conflict, which ultimately fosters a collaborative work environment that produces results. While this management technique does build harmony, it does not create much accountability. Therefore, this style is most effective in work environments in which tasks are routine and performance is reliable.
Commonly recognized as democratic leadership, participative management has an overarching objective of fostering commitment and consensus across a team. In this style, management actively encourages every employee to voice their opinions in the decision-making process. As opposed to directive and authoritative leadership—in which management emphasizes individual performance—participative managers motivate by rewarding team effort.
This honest, transparent work environment can inspire employees to feel involved and part of their organization. It’s especially effective when an organization has a structure in which experienced, credible employees work together in a steady, stable environment. Participative managers can foster collaboration and drive creative solutions. However, much like affiliative management, this style does not work well in environments that need to be closely monitored.
The coaching technique is a self-explanatory style that centers on learning. Much like the authoritative leadership, this management style has a primary objective of fostering long-term professional growth and development. Managers spend significant time training, evaluating, and coaching employees. By encouraging employees to develop specific skill sets and strengths, managers can positively influence the performance and output of their team members.
While this style doesn’t directly contradict team-driven approaches such as participative and affiliative management, it does tend to drive a one-on-one mindset. Taken to an extreme, managers that deploy coaching techniques can be misinterpreted as micromanages. In this regard, it’s important for managers to offer coaching opportunities to every employee, which, in some situations, may be time-consuming.
While each of these leadership traits has something different to offer, not every management style will suit your organization. How would you describe your own management style?
About the author
Since 1991, John has acquired extensive experience in the design and delivery of a diverse portfolio of programs. In addition to his executive responsibilities as President of Leadership and Learning Events, John is considered a valued partner to many executive teams. His insight and experience enable him to effectively diagnose, design, and implement complex culture change initiatives in a collaborative and engaging manner. Moreover, John’s experience in global implementations allows him to draw from a deep well of history to create unique and customized solutions. John’s passion for developing people makes him a sought after speaker, partner and coach and is evident in the high praise he receives from clients.