Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Management styles in the real world

Image by GDS Productions
What is management?  It's a phrase we hear a lot in the business world, but are we sure we understand the purpose? Some people believe that management is the place they want to be so that they don't have to do the grunt work. For others it's a step on the ladder to achieving their personal goals. The best managers are the ones who realize that management is a place of both responsibility and accountability.

According to Merriam-Webster, management are "the people who make decisions about a business, departments, sports team, etc." While this is true, the way in which people manage can have a profound effect on both the success of the company and the well being of the employees.
Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability. - Anne Mulcahy, CEO Xerox
A good manager is able to adjust their style of management to fit the situation, project or employee personality to ensure that the department or company as a whole is able to work as a cohesive unit. There are several commonly accepted styles of management. Authoritative, Democratic, Laissez-Faire, Transactional and Transformal.

Let's look at a few of the defining characteristics for each style.


An authoritative or autocratic manager is one who is very strict and keeps close control over the company/department and staff. They make all of the final decisions and often do not allow for discussion on the way things are done. In the extreme they can be seen as micro managers who stifle their employees. Mangers who use this style exclusively are often seen as unapproachable and often make decisions without realizing the entire situation. 

This style is best used when dealing with an emergency or employees who need extensive supervision. For example the Director of Finance may be authoritative at tax time because the numbers must be perfect or catering manager who employees young staff that have not yet learned what is expected of them. 


A good democratic manager will share the decision making with employees by leading a team or committee. A bad one will blame the group when a project is delayed or fails. The democratic style allows the employees to have input and take ownership of the process but requires the manager to keep the group focused and ensures that the project moves forward. 

This style works best for projects that require several different departments to coordinate or to get feedback from employees as a group. For example a high level manger may use the democratic style to decide on policy changes that will affect multiple departments or to consider a new scheduling system. 


The laissez-faire, or hands off, manager will allow the employees to function on a day to day basis without a lot of immediate supervision. Mangers who use this style must be careful that they check-in and provide periodic feedback to employees about their progress or they will be labeled as lazy managers, which will lead to a lack of respect and progress. 

Employees in highly creative fields, or who have a strong personal work ethic. often benefit from this type of management. It allows them to determine the importance of each step while still having someone to help guide them as needed. An example of this style would be a well trained team of cooks prepping for a large event. Once everyone has their assignments the head chef will check in but won't need to approve every step of the prep work, unless a cook is new or presents a quality issue.


A transactional manager will provide a reward system for employees to encourage specific behaviors. This form of management is very motivating for employees as long as the rewards are something that the employee values. If used exclusively, employees will expect to be rewarded and become unproductive until a reward is offered. 

Transactional management is useful to motivate employees through a tough process or to raise excitement about a specific task. Sales departments often use this form of management by offering a bonus or trip for the top sales people. The reward does not always have to be monetary in nature. A manager may allow a top employee to pick their work shift or give them special recognition through a company wide announcement. 


A transformational manager is one who coaches their employees to be better and challenges them to strengthen their skills. This style requires that the manger be charismatic and encouraging when dealing with employees but must be careful not to preach at employees. Employees who dislike change or want an easy position will not respond well to this style of management. 

This style of management can be very motivating to employees and works well if the department or company is going through significant changes. For example a manager will use this style when transitioning to a new organizational structure or to groom an employee for a promotional opportunity. 

Management is as much an art as it is a science. A good manager will understand the different styles of management. A great manager will know when to use them. 
Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson