The strategies and behaviors of a manager can impact the performance and productivity of a team, and therefore the whole organization. Most would agree that managers who effectively leverage employee strengths and rally individuals around team goals will achieve a more favorable performance outcome than those who withhold feedback or provide little support to team members. A person’s management style can also impact overall employee engagement. According to Gallup research, managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement, and can adversely or positively impact employees’ commitment to their work and the company.
While one kind of management style may work better in certain work environments than others, managers often rely on a mix of styles, depending on the situation and circumstances. Here are four examples of different management styles and how they affect the workplace:
Authoritarian Management Style
An authoritarian management style is one that relies on an individual’s position of authority in the organizational structure. Managers who lead with authority typically assign tasks and deliverables with little room for debate or questioning, which, if not done in the right situations, can lead employees to feel micromanaged, undervalued, and replaceable. Authoritarian management can also negatively impact employee behavior. One research study found that an authoritarian leader in a manufacturing environment contributed to higher incidents of negative employee behavior such as theft, personal internet surfing, and misuse of overtime.
While an authoritarian work style may negatively impact employee productivity and engagement, there are times when it is necessary. Environments that frequently deal with emergencies or equipment failures—for example, hospital emergency rooms or power plant facilities—require strict adherence to management directives. In those environments, an authoritarian style can help ensure staff consistently follow required procedures and protocol.
Laissez-Faire Management Style
At the other end of the spectrum is one style that is far more hands-off. A leader who employs the laissez-faire management style empowers employees and trusts that they have the adequate skills, knowledge, and judgment to execute goals without much direct oversight. Self-reliant teams and individuals who prefer to work with a lot of freedom typically respond well to this type of leader.
While this management style leaves a lot of leeway for employees to be creative, collaborate, and take risks, it can also have a negative impact in the workplace when used inconsistently or in an environment where teams need close supervision. Employees who are new to their role or accustomed to more hands-on management may feel abandoned and unsupported by a manager using a laissez-faire approach.
Coaching Management Style
A coaching management style focuses more on employee learning and creating opportunities for individuals to perform to their full potential. Leaders who coach their employees to improve their performance provide necessary support, encouragement, and guidance. Leaders that act as coaches use their one-on-one time with employees to give praise, deliver feedback, and brainstorm ways to improve, which can help employees develop a sense of trust and loyalty.
While this style is very beneficial, it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Leaders need to manage day-to-day operations, which can sometimes limit opportunities and time for coaching. It’s a fantastic way to manage, if you are intentional about it! Also, keep in mind that coaching employees requires first making a connection with employees, so that the coaching isn’t confused with criticism or condescension.
Collaborative Management Style
A collaborative management style focuses on encouraging the free exchange of ideas within and between teams. Since collaboration in the workplace can have many positive benefits, including increased innovation and the break down of organizational silos, a collaborative management style can be invaluable to helping to build a high-performance culture and a workforce that embraces change. A collaborative manager listens to employees’ ideas and suggestions before making a final decision independently, but also relies on consensus decision-making, which gives employees a voice of influence and a sense of empowerment.
While a collaborative management style can bring employees together and help to establish a strong sense of team in the workplace, it can also sometimes lengthen the time it takes to make decisions. This style may even negatively impact productivity during times of crisis when quick, decisive leadership from one individual may be more appropriate.
Depending on the workplace culture, company goals, and the roles and experience of employees, the use of different combinations of management styles can be effective at different times. Leaders can be most effective when they understand that they can employ a unique mix of styles to use in a range of scenarios in the workplace. A good first step in helping to expand leaders’ knowledge and skills is leadership development that helps them discover the many ways they can motivate, coach, and support employees to perform to their maximum potential.