Each manager has his own way of managing. The management style depends on the personality of the manager, the type of company as well as the profile of the team members. There is no such thing as a fundamentally bad management style, or an ideal management style.
However, even if each person has his own preferred style, good managers know how to adapt their management according to a specific situation or person. To do this, managers must be able to embrace different management styles in order to address each situation in the most appropriate way.
What are the main management styles? What are their advantages and disadvantages?
The four typical profiles of a manager
In the 1960s, the American psychologist Rensis Likert defined four major management styles that are still relevant today: directive, persuasive, participative and delegative.
1. Directive management, or authoritarian management, gives maximum power to the manager. As opposed to participative management, it is a vertical top-down approach of managing people, very hierarchical. Managers clearly define the expected results and the team must execute. Directive managers do not expect their employees to question the action plan, nor to give their opinion.
Advantages: quick decision making, productivity. This profile can be beneficial when the company is going through a difficult period and needs to be turned around.
Disadvantages: global and not individual communication and a lack of humanity in relationships, often leading to interpersonal issues. It is a management style focused on results, with limited focus on relationships. Decisions are not always understood by the team members, because they are not really explained. This way of doing things can be detrimental to the well-being of employees who feel neither listened to nor understood. They may feel demotivated and lose their sense of purpose. If they do not follow the instructions, employees can be sidelined. This attitude, a bit rigid, can block innovation as well as the emergence of new ideas.
Such a top-down management tends to discourage millennials, a generation that expects for autonomy and independence. They are rather looking for guidance from a mentor who can train and inspire them.
2. The participative manager is on the rise. It echoes the expectations of younger generations and offers flexibility and dialogue - a key aspect in the period of increasing remote work - which directive management does not allow. It is a more democratic way of managing a team, where the manager cares, listens and gives support.
This type of management encourages information sharing and new ideas. Each employee gives his or her opinion: the work is collaborative, the manager is a coach. Team members have the opportunity to express themselves, whether in team meetings or 1:1 discussions. Decisions are taken in a transversal way and feedback is essential.
The advantages: a human and open management that encourages the responsibility and involvement of each employee. Employee motivation contributes to the company's competitiveness and innovation.
Disadvantages: by trying to find the best compromise, decision-making can be slower and a certain disorganization can be felt if the manager does not remain well structured. One must also be careful not to completely put aside performance. The manager can fall into the trap of spending too much time listening and discussing than delivering the work to be done.
3. The persuasive manager is more paternalistic. He is more involved than the participative manager and plays the role of a real guide to his team. Persuasive managers encourage their team members to excel, and try to convince them with a well-crafted argument. They listen to their team members but always keep their objectives in mind and take the final decision.
Advantages: persuasive managers go straight to the point, do not get lost in the details, while helping their team members to achieve their objectives. They know how to unite their team and set clear missions to be delivered. This mix of authority and benevolence can motivate the teams and create a sense of loyalty.
Disadvantages: they are less authoritarian than the directive manager but they sometimes do not listen enough to their team.
4. The delegative manager gives his team independence and space. Delegative managers are in the back seat. They share information and the important objectives and then they trust their team to achieve them. Also called "consultative management", this type of management is based on thoughtful delegation.
The advantages: autonomy is almost total, initiative is encouraged, trust is the key word! There is a strong team cohesion.
Disadvantages: employees can feel disproportionate pressure and be stressed by the objectives to be reached. Some may be a bit lost and not dare to ask questions. By letting employees do their work without being too much involved, delegative managers run the risk of losing their team members down the road. How can you perform without a clear vision or objectives?
A concrete case study
A team member has not met the deadline you set for the finalisation of an important presentation. This puts you in an awkward situation with a very demanding client.
💥 Directive manager: you tell the team member that this behavior is unacceptable, that he must reconsider and change his or her attitude
🗣 Participative manager: you make an appointment with him for a one-to-one discussion, analyze the situation and try to understand, together, his behavior. You also explain that this situation puts at risk your relationship with this client. Why did he return the file late? Without telling you in advance? How could he have avoided this situation? What does the employee need to work on to prevent this from happening again?
ℹ️ Persuasive manager: you explain to the employee that respecting deadlines would be more optimal, not only for his work and situation in the company, but also for the rest of the team.
⏳ Delegative manager: you trust him, give him the chance to catch up and understand his mistake. You then observe to see if his behavior improves.
So, what type of management do you recognize yourself in? Even if you have a preferred management style, don't forget the advantages of the others, to adapt your leadership style to the personality of your team members.
Also, don’t hesitate to rely on the framework and method of a tool like Popwork. By offering a balanced approach (monitoring performance and objectives but also taking into account more human dimensions such as mood), you can make sure to adopt a well balanced managerial posture.
Anything is possible, it's up to you to become the manager that you want to be and that your team needs!