our management style will depend on your specific goals, your organization and the people involved. Each style has its own benefits and drawbacks—you won’t find a one-size-fits-all style that will suit every situation. Instead, you need to identify your character traits, your temperament, the types of employees you have and your business needs to choose the right approach.
In this article, we explain eight types of management styles for effective leadership and their advantages and disadvantages, plus list a few ways for improving your personal management style.
What is a management style?
A management style describes the methods a person uses to manage an individual, meeting, project, group of people or organization. Your management style might inform others how you organize work, make decisions, plan and use authority. You might use a variety of management styles in your professional life depending on various scenarios.
Effective managers use different management styles to support their needs and goals at any given time. When deciding which management style to use, they might consider some of the following factors:
The volume of work to complete and how quickly it must be done
Their industry and company culture
Their personality and management qualities
Their team and company goals
The attitudes and personalities of the people they’re managing
Types of management styles
While you may use a blend of management styles, here are a few common ones for organizing and leading a team, with potential advantages and disadvantages listed for each:
An authoritative manager follows a top-down approach to leading. In this style, managers make decisions almost entirely alone. They set clear and specific policies that everyone must follow, and they typically don’t request feedback from employees.
Advantages: This style is useful when efficiency is important and in crisis situations when it’s necessary to make effective decisions quickly.
Disadvantages: New and innovative ideas rarely emerge in an authoritative management style, and when applied in the wrong circumstances it can also lead to higher turnover.
Example: Many restaurants use an authoritative management style. Diners come in expecting orderly service and quality food. Since most restaurants run on slim margins and suffer from even small mistakes, authoritative management works well to keep everyone focused on results and efficiency.
Consultative managers ask employees for feedback consistently and take employee concerns seriously. They often have an open-door policy that encourages employees to share what is and isn’t working in the organization. While managers will consult with employees, they ultimately retain sole decision-making power.
Advantages: This type of management style often leads to higher employee engagement, stronger problem-solving as a team and less turnover.
Disadvantages: A consultative management style isn’t always as efficient as an autocratic style since more people are involved in making decisions.
Example: A team leader of a project holds weekly one-on-one meetings with each of the other team members. They are asked to share progress on their responsibilities, what they think is going well and what they think needs improvement. The team leader uses this feedback to set schedules, allocate resources and prioritize goals for the following week.
3. Democratic or participative
A democratic or participative manager’s decision-making process is heavily influenced by their employees. This style includes effective communication and openness through all levels of the organization, and employees and managers work together to reach the goals of their vision. Democratic management style is especially effective when it comes to making long-term decisions that impact the whole company.
Advantages: This style typically leaves employees feeling valued and empowered to contribute in meaningful ways. It also encourages them to tap into their full potential at work.
Disadvantages: Like the consultative management style, it’s also not as efficient. Decision-making often involves debates and consulting multiple parties, which can take time.
Example: Store managers often use the democratic or participative management style. They’ll hire team members who can work together to complete store layouts, marketing campaigns and customer service. These managers act as a moderator to help their team move forward with their ideas and are available to answer questions.
In the laissez-faire management style, managers are more like mentors than leaders. They’re available when employees need guidance, but they often let employees make decisions on their own about how to move forward with projects. Laissez-faire management has numerous similarities with another style called “management by wandering around.” In this management style, managers monitor what’s happening with employees, but don’t become too involved with the day-to-day tasks or projects.
Advantages: The laissez-faire style can be effective because it gives self-motivated employees the autonomy and space they need to be productive. This could be particularly useful in a creative environment.
Disadvantages: Because this management style is hands-off, it can leave some employees feeling neglected or in need of guidance and direction.
Example: Given the unpredictable nature of the fashion industry, allowing fashion buyers the freedom to choose their own products often works best. As long as they are knowledgeable and passionate, individual buyers are typically much more in tune with fashion trends than management.
Persuasive managers hold control of decision-making but work to help employees understand why decisions made by management are best for the company. They share an honest rationale behind decision-making policies that can foster an inclusive and trusting environment. When an organization is successful, employees generally accept top-down decisions and work hard to implement them.
Advantages: This style instructs and motivates employees with reason and logic, which some individuals prefer to authoritative management. It can be especially helpful when leading a less experienced team.
Disadvantages: While persuasive management isn’t as dominating as authoritative management, it’s still a one-way communication process and employees don’t necessarily have an avenue to give feedback.
Example: Consider what happens when an outside expert, such as an independent consultant, comes in to analyze the operations of the company. Employees might be skeptical of what the consultant has to say and they might be reluctant to implement the suggested changes. Persuasive managers will be able to convince employees that the expert’s criticisms and recommendations are valid.
A transformational management style focuses on creating an environment that supports innovation. Leaders with this style often push their employees to set and reach goals even if it makes them slightly uncomfortable. These managers collaborate with and inspire direct reports to reach past their full potential and aim for professional growth.
Advantages: Adaptability, problem-solving and innovation typically increase with this management style. It can be especially useful for companies in competitive industries that change quickly.
Disadvantages: This management style requires the right kind of employees. If they’re not ready to adapt or too many changes occur too quickly, they might not be willing to follow top-down ideas.
Example: You can often find transformational managers in the technology industry. These managers are constantly adapting to the market, and they challenge and inspire their employees to create extraordinary products.
Transactional leadership is a results-oriented style that relies on attaining goals through structure, supervision and a system of rewards and punishments. Transactional leadership focuses on short-term goals and works well with self-motivated employees.
Advantages: This style works well with self-motivated employees and establishes unity throughout the company.
Disadvantages: This style does not address overall company goals or long-term goals and may not motivate all types of employees.
Example: You can find transactional management style in sales departments where employees are rewarded for hitting certain sales quotas within a specified period of time.
Collaborative leaders work closely with their team members and believe that when people feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to produce great work regularly. Because of their emphasis on employee satisfaction and teamwork, they tend to achieve higher levels of respect.
A collaborative leader is an excellent leadership style for organizations of any industry and size but is especially prevalent within nonprofits. These types of leaders are exceptionally skilled in building employee morale and helping people re-engage with their work.
Advantages: Collaborative leaders have the capacity to boost employee loyalty and productivity, improve employee development and decision-making, cultivate trust and create future leaders. They are also typically more in-the-know when it comes to the challenges of getting work done on their team.
Disadvantages: Collaborative leaders can become burnt out as they attempt to boost collaboration with and between their team members. They might also find it difficult to create time and space for high-level, strategic planning.
Example: A nonprofit product manager hosts monthly one-on-one coffee meetings with everyone that has concerns, questions or thoughts about improving or using the product. This time is meant for her to address the needs of and help those who are using the product in any capacity.