Lessonly’s Guide to Managment Styles

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Leadership and Management Styles

What is management? What makes one manager “good” and another manager “bad?” Are managers born great, or well-trained and integrated into the organization?

While every manager is different, there are certain categories of leadership. These categories are generally referred to as “management styles.” While there is some overlap, these differ from “leadership styles.” At its core, management is about controlling a group to move toward some goal. Leadership is about influencing a group to move toward a vision.

The idea of leadership is sometimes coveted as the more glamorous of the two. However, management implies a greater level of responsibility to stakeholders. That makes management an organizational necessity. A leader may successfully push many people across the finish line of a race. But a manager must file a report indicating the specific percentage of finishers and the average run times. Managers may also have to create a plan to reduce run times and increase the number of finishers.

Types of Management Styles Defined

The concept of management styles has become increasingly nuanced in recent decades. Conflict management styles, for example, are different from the types of management in business. Businesses tend to avoid unnecessary conflict. Some social organizations, on the other hand, are built around resolving intergroup conflict.

For the purposes of this article, we answer the question, “What are the four basic management styles?” We will focus on 4 types of management styles: Autocratic Management Style, Authoritative Management Style, Diplomat Leadership Style, and Servant Leadership. This summary of leadership styles is not exhaustive. For example, the democratic management style encourages input from subordinates as part of their decision-making process.

Autocratic Management Style

Autocratic managers unilaterally make all decisions for their group. They generally don’t consult or consider the opinions of their subordinates. They are Drill Sergeants and provide the strategy and goals for the unit and expect perfect compliance.

This style of management is most effective where two factors exist. First, the subordinates are inexperienced, in training, or not experts. This applies to meeting the manager’s strategies and goals. A person can have a decade of field experience, but no expertise meeting a specific manager’s expectations. Note that the manager decides the level of an employee’s expertise.

The second factor is the cost of failure. Militaries and emergency services departments often use autocratic managers. In these situations, if one person deviates from the instructions many people could die. Factories also use autocrats because each step in the assembly process must be completed exactly the same.

Authoritative Management Style

At first glance, the authoritative management style seems similar to the autocratic style. The major difference is that the authoritative manager’s control comes from the perception of authority. The subordinates follow the manager’s commands because they believe that the manager is the expert.

We can use football coaches as examples of the difference. Two coaches can be hired right out of college and both use autocratic management styles. But, once one coach wins several championships, that person’s style may naturally transition into authoritative.

Authoritative managers are found in the same fields as autocrats. Both styles can be uncomfortable for subordinates with higher levels of expertise. Neither style fosters high levels of creativity or provides useful leadership development among subordinates. Employees learn to do what they are told, and how to tell people what to do.

If a manager is truly an expertise-backed authority, employees can at least learn from that expertise. This learning confers an advantage to authoritative style leadership compared to autocratic. Employees are more likely to voluntarily work under an actual expert, versus a random autocrat giving orders. 

Diplomat Leadership Style

Diplomacy is often considered the language of international leaders and ambassadors. It involves the skills of relationship building, conflict management, and finding consensus. As the name implies, diplomat leaders manage their staff using the art of diplomacy.

These managers begin their tenures by getting to know their staff. They want to understand the motivations, strengths, and weaknesses of each person. They build trust by listening to the concerns of staff and incorporating team input into decisions.

This management style is great for teams with high levels of diversity, expertise, or creativity. Diplomats are experts at resolving conflicts within the teams. They can help each person understand the other perspective. They can resolve competing creative visions by building a consensus of purpose and common ground. A sports coach with multiple team superstars may use a diplomat leadership style.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is defined by the manager’s desire to place the needs of subordinates before their own. Servant managers, for example, may focus exclusively on developing the leadership potential and personal growth of their team.

This leadership style has the main advantage of creating an organization of healthy and loyal employees. When combined with selective hiring, it can also create a generation of powerful leaders and influential subject matter experts. Each employee has been encouraged to grow and learn to their full potential.

Servant managers can be an excellent component in organizations that want to grow into industry leaders. They can also foster creativity and inspire innovative solutions to existing problems. On the other hand, experimentation must include mistakes. Organizations with a high cost of failure may steer clear of servant leaders.

Which type of management style is best?

Now we tackle the most important question about the types of management styles in the workplace. Which of these 4 types of leadership styles in management is the best? The reality is, the best management styles are flexible. Each team member’s unique personality and skill-set requires a different approach. Each organizational goal may imply a different level of input from subordinates. Managers do a great disservice to an organization by forcing a one style fits all method.

A manager must be able to provide autocratic leadership to new hires until they learn the job. Employees without problem-solving skills may require a permanently autocratic manager. Critical tasks involving multiple teams or team members also need autocratic coordination.

The modern age of employee diversity and innovation also means the same manager must use diplomatic and servant styles. Organizations cannot thrive without retaining the best quality workers. Talented employees do not remain in places without healthy relationships or opportunities to grow.

Managers must help employees connect to the organization and their colleagues as a diplomat. They must recognize top talent and provide service toward developing that talent to their highest potential. This atmosphere of trust and mutual respect can further foster the authority of that manager.

In order to do better work, every manager should have different management styles in their toolbox. Want to learn more about management and leadership? Take a look at some of our leadership articles linked on this page!