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2 minutes

The big topic

Whether it’s business journals grilling big-name CEOs, newspapers covering corporate scandals or sports commentators quizzing top coaches, one of the main topics that comes up is ‘management style.’

So, what is your management style, the one that you use most often? Knowing the other options available to you can help you tackle different situations to get the best outcomes. We’re going to look at the style management leaders can use when different scenarios confront them, especially the challenging ones, like those we cover in our Managing People courses.

But what does that term actually mean? And how can understanding it help managers in their daily work?

Well, the concept of management style works on two levels. Firstly, it describes how individual managers approach decision-making within their teams. But on a wider level, it also relates to how the combined decision-making of many managers looks and feels across entire organisations.

In our Managing People courses, we challenge learners to say how they would approach a number of different management scenarios that crop up in our fictional workplace, Rise and Dine Deli. How learners choose to handle those scenarios tells us a lot about what sort of management style they’re drawn to.

However, it’s important to note that, like workplace culture, management style is not static. Yes, some managers will find a groove they’re happy with and stick to it most of the time. But the best, most successful managers will know how to be flexible and adjust their management style to suit whatever’s going on around them and the needs of the moment.

Again, like culture, a host of different factors help to shape management style. One is the manager’s personality. Perhaps they feel more comfortable with an authoritarian approach, as that helps them feel more secure. In which case, they are likely to be quite strict. A fairly relaxed manager, meanwhile, may be warmer and more lenient.

Other managers, though, may leave their own personality out of it completely. That gives them the freedom to switch between moods and be strict or lenient, depending on the situation they and their team are facing.

Then there’s the nature of the organisation. A long-running, traditional business – let’s say a law firm set up in the early 20th Century – might have a hierarchical structure. In that type of firm, word from the top carries weight. Orders are orders, and no one goes over their superior’s head.

But if we turn to a young and agile tech start-up founded and staffed by people in their mid-20s, the structure is bound to be much flatter. That will mean employees are far more open to collaboration and less concerned with seniority. In fact, the whole idea of who’s doing the managing and who’s doing the doing will shift around, even on a daily basis.

Another important factor is the task at hand. A business that’s on the crucial, final stretch of a transformation project for a major, corporate client may need an authoritarian boost to get itself over the line. But a nimble start-up that’s thrashing out ideas for how to improve its internal workflow would approach that process with everyone being totally focused on the goal.

So, a lot of management style comes down to communication: HOW managers encourage employees to tackle critical tasks, deliver for clients and rally round for the organisation. Managers who understand that will grasp that they can flex between styles and adjust their management approach to fit with the situation in front of them. And that ability to ‘speak’ different management styles fluently, and know when to switch between them, will be a tremendous asset in their daily work.

Management style is a toolkit. Similar situations cropping up in five, different companies of various sizes in the same sector may require a different style for each firm. So, mastering the art of style makes managers more adaptable – and their skillsets more marketable.

Style families

Over time, management experts have come up with names for different management styles – some of which have become classic labels. We can think of those labels as being grouped together into three ‘families’:

Styles that take the focus off the manager and put it much more on those who are being managed. To both small and large extents, these require managers to take more of a hands-off approach to decision-making and grant their teams more authority:

  • Situational
  • Democratic
  • Laissez-faire

These styles supercharge morale. Managers are not just fully invested in the growth of their teams, but lead them forward with a high degree of personal panache:

  • Servant
  • Coaching
  • Charismatic
  • Transformational

Styles that are mainly concerned with the functional or systems-based aspects of work – or that are themselves very process-related:

  • Command and control
  • Bureaucratic
  • Transactional

To find out more about each family of management styles, check out our mini-guides:

Ready to take on our Managing People courses?

Now you know more about management styles in leadership and probably have more answers to the question ‘what is your management style’, the next step is to upskill your managers with our Managing People courses. The series of seven courses shows you how to put management styles into practise using our online learning platform to track your progress.

Sound like what you’re looking for? You can find out about our Managing People courses right now. If it’s time to upgrade what you’re currently doing, get in touch to see how we can help your team.