Finding your appropriate management style is a mix of situational and self-awareness. In fact, identifying your management style is likely to be an ever-evolving process, one contingent on:
- The company you work for
- Current workflows and responsibilities
- Upcoming changes in that volume of work
- The size of your organization
- Your colleagues’ and team members’ personalities
- Your innate disposition and preferences
With so much at play, how can you whittle a more effective management style that’s natural for you yet efficient and functional for your workplace? We’re exploring that exact management-style question in-depth below.
Common Management Styles in Business
What is your management style? Before improving any leadership styles, you must first identify what your innate style is. That management tendency fuels your core practices and attitudes, which in turn guides how you delegate, collaborate and interact with your team across workplace scenarios.
There isn’t one best management style. What works for one group might not be a good fit for another. Consider some of today’s most prominent leadership methods as well as their pros and cons.
Democratic management prioritizes giving employees say in the decisions and workflows affecting them, with managers filtering their feedback into a final decision. Democratic leaders are those who orchestrate active and ongoing feedback on company matters and ensure colleagues feel heard and trusted across projects.
- Key features: Trust, transparency and scheduled, semi-frequent dialogue between management and staff. Managers encourage feedback from all team members regardless of role title but ultimately make final judgment calls.
- Industries and fields best used for: Businesses where creative and emotional innovations are paramount to operational success, such as idea meritocracies without existing issues of groupthink.
Autocratic or authoritarian leadership is marked by a top-down chain of command with planned, transactional systems of communication filtering information down a set reporting structure.
- Key features: Clearly defined roles and communication channels, with a manager serving as the ultimate director involved across all projects and workflows.
- Industries and fields best used for: Fields or jobs where frequent, high-stakes yet quick decision-making is vital, as well as those with rigid compliance or regulatory standards leaving little room for deviation.
Don’t let the negative connotations of the name fool you. Like any leadership style, autocratic management can be positive or negative — it’s not inherently one or the other.
Participative management is similar to the democratic style, yet goes one step further. Participative managers seek to reduce — if not eliminate — traditional vertical silos and top-down decision-making to create a uniformly collaborative environment.
- Key features: Frequent formal and informal decision-making sessions, often with a majority consensus determining action steps.
- Industries and fields best used for: Small organizations or startups with tight-knit employees, as well as teams implementing project management methodologies like Scrum.
Also known as the visionary or pacesetter style, trendsetters prefer big-picture ideation and direction, trusting the execution of their ideas to their teams. Trendsetting leaders may differ on the amount of granular guidance they directly offer, as well as the systems of accountability to tracking daily projects and plans.
- Key features: A charismatic, vision and value-based model for teams and staff. Managers positions themselves as a motivator and problem solver, orchestrating workflows and meetings around these big-picture elements while trusting execution to staff.
- Industries and fields best used for: Seasoned managers familiar with their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as those with strong emotional intelligence skills to understand the limits of laissez-faire supervision.
How to Identify Current Corporate Management Styles
What kind of management style do you and your organization currently practice? Understanding the default system unlocks critical growth areas for a better work environment. Yet it also sharpens your interpersonal and emotional intelligence acumen — two of the most vital skill sets in today’s economy.
To wrap your head around your office’s prevailing management culture, analyze the following:
- Look around: What does your workplace look like? Review work station types, office design schemes, furniture and partition layouts, color schemes, decor and more. Workplace design tells you a lot about what kind of environment is trying to be fostered.
- Read mission statements, value statements and ethical standards: What are the stated values, beliefs and ethics at your organization? Do employees and leadership walk the walk while they talk to the talk?
- Review communication channels: How do employees typically communicate with one another? Is it easy to reach out to superiors or other departments? What are commonly used chat or meetings apps, tools and platforms?
- Consider professional development opportunities: Does your company offer skills or role-specific training modules, or have tuition reimbursement or certification program sponsorships? Do managers ask their staff about professional and personal interests?
- Inquire about work-life balance: Do colleagues frequently skip lunch breaks and avoid team outings? Are people using their vacation policies or avoiding taking days off for fear of looking “lazy”? Where might they get that impression from?
- Check reward and recognition systems: How are teams or individuals rewarded for successes? Are there clear, role-specific benchmarks and objective performance-tracking parameters?
- Learn how roles are defined: Who creates job titles, salaries and progression pathways? Do employees feel comfortable approaching managers to negotiate their roles?
- Just ask: If you don’t personally know the answer to any of the above, find out! Consider anonymous surveys sent to managers and colleagues alike reviewing all of the following to find culture commonalities and disparities.
How to Adapt a More Effective Management Style
Without nurturing a clear culture of management fitting its workplace, eight out of 10 companies will appoint the wrong manager.
Research reveals that it’s not for lack of technical expertise or business skills. Rather, these managers practice a mismatched style of leadership out-of-sync with their current team’s demands, ultimately heralding a mismanaged and poorly operating workplace.
If you’re wondering how to be an effective manager, follow these best practices to foster a management style aligned with your organization while still being true to yourself.
1. Conduct Rigorous Feedback
Even managers and companies requiring a top-down communication structure must practice continuous employee feedback. Reverse evaluations, anonymous surveys and 360° feedback appraisals offer great mediums to learn what employees really think about their leaders.
Incentivize feedback to assure substantive participation. Most of all, make questions as specific and granular as possible to focus insights and make employees feel you’re truly trying to adapt.
2. Clarify the Business Case
Assess the business case for a new management culture. Is leadership change needed to drive certain business functions that have performed poorly lately? Is there volatility in a certain department or work process that once sailed along smoothly?
Perhaps performance metrics are steady, yet a cultural shift is still needed to stay ahead of the competitive curve. In any case, consider defining measurable achievements that may come from participating in a different management style, from employee performance boosts to fewer reported sick days to increases in sales, closed deals, R&D innovations and more.
3. Create New Communication Norms
Review internal and external communication channels. How teams and managers communicate with each other and what’s covered during those meetings is often a prime indicator of a current leadership style in management. By implementing new communication suites or training on new meeting styles, you can begin cultivating desired communication norms throughout the office, both in-person and digitally.
4. Write New Codes of Conduct and Mission Statements
Want your company to be more innovative? Transparent? Customer-centric? Why not include those very words as company core values? This logic works for any behavior, standard or process you’re seeking to make a cultural norm, not an exception.
5. Revamp Reward Systems
Use surveys and feedback sessions to understand how your employees are most motivated. Not everyone will find the same recognition appealing, so ensure you’re creating multiple personalized options showing your attention to detail as a manager — and mirroring that behavior for others.
6. Be Honest
Keep temperature-checking with employees and other managers on the effects of a leadership process shift. Culture changes across leader-team dynamics don’t happen overnight. You must also be willing to be honest with yourself, ensuring you, too, are prepared to step outside your management comfort zone for the betterment of the business.
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