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3 minutes

4 inspirational management styles

These four styles can supercharge morale:

  • Servant management style
  • Coaching management style
  • Charismatic management style
  • Transformational management style

Managers are not just fully invested in the growth of their teams but lead them forward with a high degree of personal confidence. Read on to see some inspirational management style examples.

An example. A midsize architecture practice is just about staying on top of its busy roster of public and private-sector clients – but cracks are starting to show. Some staff, who have been stretching themselves on a host of different projects, have flagged up a need for skills development in several areas. Others have called for more support in growing to the next stage of their careers.

Not wanting to lose valuable team members in a competitive market, the architect manager completely throws themself into helping their staff. With strong communication skills, empathy and genuine concern, they meet with each team member to look in detail at how to improve their lot. Once they have completed that initial assessment, they respond with specially tailored action plans and a promise for further progress meetings. Their sincere and sensitive approach delights the weary team and sparks a welcome surge of morale.

What that shows us is that providing help and support in the workplace doesn’t have to flow in one direction. The servant style is what happens when help comes from the top. Here, the manager is fully invested in the team’s growth, development and wellbeing. Training and personal empowerment are key priorities, and dialogue between manager and staff is constant, honest and free-flowing. As they have so much direct contact with the manager, employees feel that they are seen, heard and understood – in short, that they are in safe hands.

A servant manager is a caring, collaborative listener who may strike staff as more of a counsellor than a boss. As a democratic style, it’s great for supporting inclusive values and giving work a human face. Indeed, it may remind jaded employees in high-pressure environments why they got into a particular career (like architecture) in the first place. However, it could also lead to slower decision-making.

An example. Thanks to some hard work at an industry fair, a large outdoor furniture brand has struck a deal to move into some new, foreign markets. That was the easy part. No one in the sales or marketing teams has any experience of dealing with these countries. To make matters even more complex, the brand is preparing to launch a hefty, new range that’s bigger than any product line it’s ever released.

Morale in those teams begins to wobble. How are they going to form great relationships with all the overseas retail partners and ad agencies they’ll need to translate the brand in a way the new markets will understand? Has the brand bitten off more than it can chew?

Aware of the issues, the senior team hires a new Head of Global Operations who’s got a whole career’s worth of experience in these very markets, and more. When it comes to retail, they have seen it and done it, but are far from jaded. Friendly and affable, they make it their mission to get out to the floor, speak to every last team member about their concerns and provide them with one-to-one guidance, support and – when they make some breakthroughs – generous praise. They know they can do this, and want them to know it, too.

What that shows us is that the manager who coaches is an encouraging, nurturing and empowering presence. With specialist knowledge, superb personal skills and a deep well of patience, they have the right blend of qualities to lead uncertain, but talented staff, step by step through what may be daunting new challenges. Not just a great speaker, but a great listener, the coaching manager will serve as a mentor to each employee they’re watching over. As part of that arrangement, they will help their mentees to focus on hitting a set of goals and achievements, all with an emphasis on positivity.

Under the coaching management style, a manager will develop employees, boost their self-confidence and reassure them about their skills. On a broader level, their guidance also aims to bring teammates closer together to meet strategic goals. As this style requires huge commitment from the manager concerned, and the results may take time to flourish, it’s not cut out for snappy decision-making.

An example. A non-government organisation, that was gearing up to launch an ambitious wellbeing drive for a community, has just had an alarming round of budget cuts. Some of the people who’d built the project and were set to lead it have had to go. A smattering of more junior staff have gone, too. Those left behind are shocked and worried. Residents’ groups they’d met for research knew that the project was on the way. But now it looks like it will have to be massively downscaled. It will be so hard to disappoint those who’d depended on it happening.

Sensing that morale has plunged, senior managers  locate a talented troubleshooter in another part of the organisation and move them across to look after the project team. Bringing seemingly boundless supplies of warmth, humour and energy, along with a knack for putting people at ease and making them feel good about themselves, they blow through the drab corridors like spring air. Lifted up by their sheer pizzaz, the team begins to believe it can do more with less, reshape its plans and give residents a very respectable ‘version two’ of the project.

What that shows us is that it’s tempting to say that, like any form of star quality, you’ve either got the charismatic style or you haven’t. This approach hinges heavily on the self-belief and personal magnetism of one, heroic individual who can storm into a gloomy situation, light up the room and cast around a generous dose of pep.

With deep reserves of passion, outstanding communication skills and sky-high emotional intelligence, the charismatic manager knows how to set out nerdy, complex plans while winning the troops’ hearts. The results: an incredible morale boost, mounting motivation, stellar teamwork and surging productivity. The drawbacks: what if the team gets hooked on this individual, who won’t be in post forever? And what if this person happens to believe in the wrong thing – and leads the troops passionately to a dead end?

An example. Bosses of a publisher that has made its name with beautifully designed crime and romance novels have decided that the firm needs to branch out. To capture new sources of income, it will move into business books and journals – and will also produce digital content, such as podcasts and short form videos. The decision has sent ripples of unease through the staff. Many will need to learn new things. Some will have to change their roles. Plus, new hires will have to come in to plug knowledge gaps. All in all, it’s a massive shakeup.

Aware of the challenges that employees are facing, the senior team appoints a Head of Innovation to guide staff into the new era, their main focus being to help the team envision the future shape of the business and see that they have a part to play in it. With unflappable positivity, they encourage and motivate the team to hit the training and knowledge goals they will need to meet for the new-look company. Gradually, staff begin to understand that what’s happening to the firm, and their skills, is a good thing. With the Head of Innovation’s support and role modelling, morale grows, and the team starts to come up with its own ideas of how the new-look business should work. The change project takes on a life of its own.

What that shows us is that with a strong future focus (not to mention a dollop of the charismatic style), the transformational manager helps staff to bring about change within themselves and their organisations. While employees may at first be caught up in what change means for them as individuals, the transformational manager will pull them into a unit, working together for a common good. Taking a leaf out of the coaching style, the transformational manager will become a trusted mentor. But the main thing they will seek to do is inspire staff to take ownership of change and drive it forward themselves.

Where next?

Why are management styles important to understand? What is your management style? Find out. There’s two other groups of styles to find out about, process-driven and people-orientated.

Using these different styles only comes with practice and that’s what our Managing People courses help managers and aspiring managers do, all in a safe, confidence-boosting environment.