Management styles: why it matters
As a manager, I learned about different management styles some time ago. Back then I told myself: "Cool, this one looked good, this one was less fun. I feel I did more of this... So what?"
Once, I got to manage a new team and I thought: "Well, I had a successful track record with a playbook that worked before so I would apply a similar management approach there and magically things would work."
The challenges with a new team were the following:
- They were remote.
- They didn't deliver what was expected.
- They felt stretched.
- They had internal friction and historic interpersonal problems.
- They had a big tech debt.
- They had a low feeling of job security.
- And the low level of seniority.
The team was clearly demotivated.
I was keen to help and to turn this team around. The truth was the playbook I applied didn't work out for them and in the short term, it was not received well. Then I realised that the management style I had was not right for them at the time...
There is no single classification of management styles. But on the internet, you will find some lists of 4, 6, and 8 different styles. The names may slightly vary. Let's look at them.
- Autocratic Management Style: This style is characterized by a manager who makes all the decisions, with little or no input from their team. This approach can be effective in situations where quick decisions are needed, or when dealing with employees who lack motivation or expertise. However, it can lead to a lack of trust and respect from employees and may result in low morale and high turnover rates. One of my past managers had elements of this style. When he had an opinion on something it was pretty difficult to influence it and he expected the teams "take it or leave" it. At times, it undermined trust.
- Democratic Management Style: In this style, the manager encourages input from their team, seeking to involve them in decision-making processes. This approach can lead to better decision-making and improved employee engagement, but it can also result in slower decision-making processes and potential conflict if team members do not agree on a course of action.
- Laissez-faire Management Style: This style is characterized by a hands-off approach, where the manager provides minimal guidance or direction, allowing the team to operate independently. This approach can lead to higher employee satisfaction, as team members are given more autonomy and control over their work. However, it can also result in a lack of accountability and direction, leading to lower productivity and missed deadlines. One of my past managers had elements of both Democratic and Laissez-faire styles. On one side, it inspired a sense of autonomy. But at times, there was clearly a lack of direction and vision of where we are all going impacting the motivation of the team. In an environment which a high level of uncertainty this style was not great.
- Charismatic Management style: That is characterized by a leader who has a compelling personality and a strong ability to inspire and motivate their team. Charismatic leaders possess an aura of confidence, energy, and enthusiasm that inspires their followers to work towards a common goal. This style of leadership is often associated with transformational leadership, as charismatic leaders are focused on achieving a vision and inspiring their team to work towards it. While the charismatic management style can be effective in motivating employees and achieving results, it is not without its drawbacks. One potential issue with this style is that it can lead to a reliance on the leader, with team members relying on the leader for direction and guidance. I had a manager with the elements of this style. From my experience, it was a pleasure to work with such a manager. People trusted him a lot and were ready to move mountains with him. His energy helped to inspire and motivate their teams.
- Pacesetting Management style: It is characterized by a leader who sets a high bar for their team and expects their team to meet or exceed it. The pacesetting leader is often a high achiever themselves and has strong attention to detail. This style of leadership is often associated with transactional leadership, as pacesetting leaders set clear goals and expectations and reward or punish team members based on their performance. While the pacesetting management style can be effective in driving results and achieving goals, it is not without its drawbacks. One potential issue with this style is that it can lead to a high-pressure work environment, where team members feel constantly under scrutiny and may struggle to meet the high standards set by the leader. This can result in low morale, burnout, and high turnover rates.
For the team above, I had a dominating pacesetting management style. It didn't work out because of the challenges above. This style is not good for teams that are:
- not high-performing
- not collaborative
- already under pressure
- do not trust the company or the manager
In my case, the following management styles would have worked better (in some combination):
- Democratic management
- Charismatic Management
That team needed the inspiration to improve things in their domain. They were looking for signals of trust and reassurance of their abilities. They were looking for empowerment to tackle the challenges they faced.
The pacesetting management style works well in high-performing teams with a high level of engagement and maturity. At the same time, it should not be used constantly as it leads to burnout quickly.
Each management style has its own pros and cons and should be used in the right situation and at the right time. It depends on type of the business and the state of the team. Great leaders are adaptable and adjust their style in different circumstances. They have a high level of self-awareness and know what their default style is and what style needs some development. There is no one-fit-all management style. A leader should gather ample information about the state of the team before picking the right style.