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May 28, 2019


Types of management styles for business leaders.

Boss and employee

“Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.” - Simon Sinek

If you’ve worked in a company for long enough, you understand the meaning behind this quote. Everyone has had managers or bosses in their office, that they wouldn’t say are good leaders.

Managers are the people that are put in charge. They have received a promotion, often have direct reports, and have more responsibilities.

But leaders are different.

Leaders are the people who employees look up to. They promote a positive culture, and people want to follow them because they believe in their ideas and direction.

Currently American workers lack engagement with their jobs and colleagues. Research shows that many workers don’t find fulfillment in their career or their relationships with their managers. Not feeling like they can approach their boss for help or motivation just adds to the negative emotions many people feel about their careers, and bring home to their personal life and relationships.

82% of the time organizations find that they hired the wrong person to be the manager. Issues with retention, project success, and communication are just a few ways that organizations realize they have hired the wrong manager. Few people going out for management jobs have the talent and skills to succeed, and help drive success.

So how can managers focus on becoming effective and impactful leaders, and not just managers in name?

Understanding management styles, proper education, and experience are just a few ways that managers or hopeful, future managers can be prepared to exemplify great leadership.


The different management styles.

There are many different types of management styles, and three main categories separate the leadership types. Understanding these management styles is a first, crucial step to becoming a better manager.



Autocratic managers make the decisions in the workplace, and communication is a top-down method from managers to employees. Roles and tasks are clearly defined in this leadership style, and workers are expected to follow directions consistently, and be ready for supervision and check-ins.

There are some pros for this management style. New, unskilled, or unmotivated employees can really benefit from this direct, supervised kind of leadership.

Managers who are struggling with chaos or time constraints find that autocratic management is extremely efficient. Quick decision making is another huge benefit of autocratic leadership.

While there are pros to this style there are many cons. Many people dislike this style because they don’t have direct input. Employee turnover tends to be higher with this style because workers recognize they have no say in the decision making process or ways to bring change to the organization. This can lower morale quickly.

Similarly, not everyone wants and needs extensive supervision so the micro-management that sometimes accompanies this style of leaders causes issues. An ‘us vs. them’ mentality can exist in organizations with autocratic management as workers and managers don’t collaborate, and this can create tension.



Democratic management involves employees giving input to managers, and the managers themselves making the final decision. Communication in this leadership style is both top-down, and bottom-up, creating a cohesive team with opportunities for feedback.

There are many pros for a democratic management style. With everyone on your team involved in collaboration and decision-making, there will be more diverse ideas and you're more likely to achieve positive outcomes. Research suggests that the more people who have a voice in discussions and collaborations, the broader the vision will be, and can develop into great possibilities.

Employees of democratic style managers have a say in their organization and its future, which makes them much more invested in their job. They also feel valued, which can motivate them to increased productivity

Managers are also better able to understand their employees, their wants and needs, and their motivations. By listening to them as they are preparing to make decisions, they can get the best insight on what will benefit the team and organization as a whole.

There are some disadvantages to democratic management. When employees and managers work together to discussion options, there is added time before decisions are made.

Additionally, conflicts in viewpoints can add tension between employees and managers. When employees make suggestions and their input isn’t taken, they can be upset and frustrated with leadership for not taking their suggestions. Decreased productivity, decreased motivation, and hurt feelings are all potential issues for democratic managers.



Laissez-faire management style means that managers have very little involvement with employees and their day-to-day work. The staff under laissez-faire leadership are usually highly skilled so they don’t need supervision. Problem-solving and decision making are generally left to the workers themselves.

This style does especially well in larger organizations with highly-skilled workers. Flatter, decentralized management organizations are usually where this will do well. Employees are trusted to set the bar for their own innovation and objectives.

Increased innovation, vision, focus, feedback, and creativity is usually the result of laissez-faire leadership. Autonomy makes workers more excited about their future and potential in an organization. They feel excited and highly motivated to do their job, and do it well.

Employees under this style also feel they've achieved trust in the workplace. And feeling trusted helps increase employee engagement and productivity, because they aren’t worried about who is looking over their shoulder.

There are instances where laissez-faire management leads to loss of direction and low productivity because staff isn’t supervised. There are also times when employees under this management type take an idea or project in a direction the management doesn’t like or want to pursue, which means time and energy can be wasted.


Management hands

What is your management style?

So now that you understand the types of management styles that exist in most organizations, it’s time to learn what leadership style will work best for you.

It’s important to note that if you’re not willing to be honest with yourself, and realistically assess yourself, you won’t truly recognize your management style and be able to learn. Self-evaluation can be difficult, but in this situation it’s the best way to truly understand how you work, and what you can improve to be a successful manager.

First, consider your strengths and weaknesses. Are you good at communicating? Do you struggle with setting expectations? How is your time-management, organization, and decision-making? Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses you believe you possess. This will help you identify what type of leadership style you naturally tend to follow just based on the things you’re good at.

Then, consider your employees. How do you relate to them? Consider your relationships and how they work. This is the point where it’s really important to be honest. Do you listen to employees? Does their opinion matter to you? How often do you supervise their work? These questions are hugely important in identifying which management style you follow.

Take a look at the list above, and see if your leadership tendencies fall within one of the three categories. If you think they don’t, look closer. The three broad categories above will house nearly every managing and management tendency. It’s just a matter of being sincere with yourself and analyzing how you lead your employees.

Identifying your management style is a huge step for managing success. If you know what kind of boss you are, you’re more likely to recognize how employees are feeling and their relationship to you, making you better able to help meet their needs.


Adapting your management style for your employees.

Understanding your management style isn’t the final destination. If you understand how you manage, it’s time to evaluate if this is the most effective option for you and your employees.

From here, it’s a good idea to identify the way you like to be managed. Maybe your current boss is a great example to you of management style. Consider a good manager you’ve loved in the past, or maybe consider the things you’ve disliked about leadership. Write down the ways you like, and dislike, being managed as an employee. This will help you recognize if the way that you manage is a good fit for employees that would be like you.

It may be time for you to adjust your management style to better serve your specific employees. There are times when certain employees won’t react well to specific management types, so it’s worth a try to switch it up.


Generational differences.

In the past, autocratic leadership ruled the office. In nearly every organization you went to, the boss was in charge, and employees knew they needed to do exactly what they were told and nothing else.

While this may work for older employees, many younger employees want independence and trust. They want to be able to come up with ideas, be trusted with more responsibility, and not be directly supervised. This can mean an adjustment to management style is needed to attract younger workers.

Millennials and younger generations are directly changing the workforce, and their desire for hands-off leadership is just one of the ways they’re doing it. If you’re a boss looking to connect with younger employees, or hoping to hire more younger employees, looking at your management style is a great place to start.


Industry differences.

Across different industries, different management styles are more acceptable. For example, the auto industry is an older, more seasoned industry. There are often older workers and employees in this industry. And in the auto industry, more autocratic and democratic management styles can be seen, due to the history and tradition within that industry.

But in younger industries like digital marketing, the laissez-faire management style is more the norm. Understanding that different industries will have unique expectations for management styles will help you determine the best route for you to take with employees. Know that something that worked in one office and industry, likely won’t work in another.


If your self-evaluation leads you to believe that your management style isn’t working, change it! Try new ways to connect with employees. Consider which management style you’d like to embody and then work to implement that new style in small ways until they become habits.

Time will help you adjust your management style, but there are other things you can do. Going back to school is a great way to learn about proper management, and ensure you have the skills to have good management, and leadership skills.

Business programs at WGU will not only help you learn about your management style, but will give you specific tools to work on your leadership abilities. If you’re able to be a good manager who is great at their specific job tasks, and a leader who is good at working with employees and helping them want to follow you, your career will take off.

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