Types of Management Styles: Which Style Are You?

Published: Oct 24, 2023

Types of Managements Styles | AMA

By AMA Staff

Exploring Different Types of Management Styles

There are many different management styles, applicable to different scenarios, personnel, and extenuating circumstances. Understanding each of the types of management styles is key to effectively applying them in the right instances in order to get the desired results.

While there are no universally accepted descriptors for different styles of management or types of managers, there are commonly accepted terms for style such as democratic, autocratic, laissez-faire, and facilitative. There may be circumstances when a particular style predominates, but in real-world situations, it is not uncommon to see a blend of management styles used to fit the situation.

The Essence of Management Styles

The concept behind different management styles is predominately to employ what style works best to achieve results and company goals, both in the short term and long term, while also maintaining strong individual and team work relationships, morale, motivation, and adherence to company policies and standards. Making the appropriate choice from among the different types of management styles must be a significant concern for all managers and their organizations, and is an important management skill to develop.

Influential factors in shaping management styles include such internal elements as corporate culture, management styles modeled by the senior management, urgency or expediency, and having the right personnel in the right positions.

External elements that may impact management styles include environmental factors that are beyond organizational control yet may influence the decision-making process and management styles. This could include a wide variety of factors, including competition, new technology, and economic and even societal events. A notable example is the response to the Covid-19 pandemic which required immediate action on the part of organizations around the world.

The use of the appropriate management style(s) in communicating response procedures to staff, undertaking change initiatives, arranging new workplace environments, etc., was critical to the effectiveness with which such actions were received and implemented.

Types of Management Styles

While there are no universally accepted definitions of management style types to fit every organization or industry, there are three main types of management styles that are commonly recognized in these designations: democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire.

There are distinct differences between each as well as subcategories within each.

Democratic Management Styles

Democratic style is often described as a participative leadership style as it directly involves interaction between the manager and team member. Decisions made are the result of an open dialogue between them. Advantages of such interactions include greater empowerment and higher levels of trust between the manager and employee. Disadvantages include the fact that this type of style requires more time as it calls for increased collaboration, discussion, brainstorming, etc. There is generally a 50/50 or dual focus on both the task at hand, and the person involved in executing the task.

  • Participative Management Style
    This is part of the democratic style family. In such a style, managers rely on input from all invested stakeholders. When a manager is using a collaborative/participative style they involve their teams in joint decision-making.
  • Consultative Management Style
    Democratic management styles can take a more consultative approach, wherein management acts as a consultant providing additional expertise to the employee as they try and find and execute an appropriate solution.
  • Collaborative Management Style
    The collaborative style is essentially synonymous with the participative style. Collaborative-style managers also depend on input from all stakeholders. They too involve their teams in joint or collaborative decision-making.
  • Coaching Management Style
    The democratic style can take a coaching approach whereby the manager seeks to supply specific feedback, suggestions for improvement, and guidance—and apply other coaching techniques in manager-employee interactions. At its core, coaching is also effective employee engagement.
  • Transformational Management Style
    Transformational management style focuses on being democratic with the main goal being to act as a catalyst for positive change, but do it in a participative way, acting as a role model and challenging peoples’ beliefs. They also seek to provide inspirational motivation. It is usually in line with the overall practices of inclusive workplaces.

Autocratic Management Styles

Autocratic style is a style in which the manager makes the decisions and tells people what to do and how to do it. One of the main advantages of this style is that it can be efficient and expeditious when used with inexperienced people. Disadvantages include the fact that it can be demoralizing and demotivating, create a perception of being micromanaged, and ultimately may waste both the manager’s and the employee’s time, even though it might be considered a type of transactional management style.

The autocratic style is 90/10 in favor of the manager. As a general category, an autocratic management style is commonly believed to have more disadvantages than advantages.

  • Persuasive Management Style
    A variation of the autocratic style, a persuasive style is probably most analogous to what was once called a “selling” style in the original Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model. The manager decides on the “what” and the “how” of a task, and then uses their best arguments to convince team members to support their plan. To be effective with this style a manager needs to have superior communication skills to be able frame their decisions in a compelling way.
  • Paternalistic Management Style
    A paternalistic management style is another variation of the autocratic model. The manager is in charge and takes ultimate responsibility for all decision-making and direction. But the manager exercises their authority with the well-being of the employees in mind. By having the needs of their people at heart, they attempt to create a feeling of cohesiveness and of family within the workplace. In simplistic, everyday terms, this might be exemplified in a familial situation where (for example) the father would make hard decisions but actually has his children’s best interests in mind when doing so.
    In organizations, a paternalistic style requires the ability to create positive connections with team members. A paternalistic manager has to be seen as caring and operating from a mindset of mutual benefit. They also have to be viewed as knowledgeable and competent. When they are seen as having those characteristics, employees in turn trust their judgment and decisions. The end result is a mutual loyalty and commitment.

Laissez-Faire Management Styles

Laissez-faire style can be known as a hands-off approach to management. It is a delegative style of management; the team member gets to decide what to do and how to do it. This style is more often used in moderation. Advantages include that it is a highly effective style to help motivate employees who are more experienced, but disadvantages include that it may increase the potential for misalignment with strategic goals—for example, if the team member works on the wrong goal, it may not contribute to the overall strategy. Since the locus of control is with the team member, this style doesn’t necessarily promote more productive work relationships.

  • Visionary Style
    A visionary management style focuses on the strategic frame of reference—the mission, vision, values, and goals of the organization. Managers employing a visionary style are instrumental in formulating those “big picture” strategic controls and communicating them throughout the organization. They use their power, authority, and communication skills to establish the direction that they believe the organization needs to move toward.
    There are similarities between transformational, selling, and visionary styles. Visionary style users attempt to inspire. They need influential and persuasive communication skills to sell their vision. The key difference is that (as a laissez-faire style), the day-to-day execution is in the hands of team members.
  • Delegative Style
    For the most part, a delegative style is synonymous with the laissez-faire style. They are both hands-off with regard to the execution of the goals. The delegating style is technically like what is described in Ken Blanchard’s SLII approach, where the manager is responsible for ensuring that the “right” goals are in front of the employee but the “how” is left up to the team member. In that model, the manager is there if the employee needs them. The manager’s most active role when using that style is to value and recognize the employee’s accomplishment.

Facilitative Management Styles

Facilitative style is a less commonly known management style is one in which the manager is actively involved with the team member(s) about a particular goal, and engages in a dialogue with the employee by asking questions, etc. The locus of control is generally with the team member, in contrast to the democratic style where the manager finally makes the decision.

What is the Most Effective Management Style?

There is no one “best style.” The "most effective" style depends on a variety of factors and there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. As explained above, the appropriate style is determined by the particular circumstances in which it’s applied, and the particular personnel involved. Every manager must have the flexibility to adapt to a different style whenever it is necessary to do so. The leader must therefore:

  1. Understand their own natural predisposition; i.e., their strengths and weaknesses as a leader
  2. Be able to read others and to recognize their team members’ strengths and areas for development—and diagnose what they need to be successful and to achieve their goals
  3. Adapt their style to provide the team member what they need to accomplish the task or achieve the goal

While a manager’s general style may be dependent on their personality and mindset, their tactical style should flex based on the needs of the person with whom they are working. Those needs will vary from one task to the next. An employee who has successfully accomplished a specific task in the past won’t need the same type of guidance and direction as an employee who has never attempted the task. They are at different stages of the learning curve and need different styles from their manager. The key to style flexibility is to meet the employee where they are on the curve. Managers must develop style flexibility, perhaps even flexing one’s style from one hour to the next if need be, and from one context to the next.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Management

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a crucial factor in effective management. In applying EI to management, the manager should consider what management style is called for in a particular situation, and then adapt their style to best fit the employees’ needs. It starts with self-awareness, so the manager needs to have a clear idea of their own strengths as a manager as well as their professional development needs so they can live up to their full potential.

EI also requires self-regulation and self-management, and an ability to control one’s own behaviors and vet one’s own beliefs. This is directly related to flexing one’s management style and adapting it when needed. The other key component of EI in management is how one interacts with the employee and how they “read” them at any given time. Social awareness is also critical.

Management effectiveness is built solidly on the ability to successfully use emotional intelligence. The emphasis on applying EI in management has risen proportionately to the increasing recognition it can offer great advantages to the manager, the employee, the organization, and toward the accomplishment of desired business results.

Cultural Considerations in Management

Management styles can be influenced by cultural factors, and what works in one culture may not work in another. There are differences in cultures in terms of what type of style is most natural for a manager, and this is inevitably influenced by the manager’s personality.

Culture may be defined as influences that collectively shape the mind. Power distance also affects management style; this is the extent to which members of a culture accept differences in authority. For example, a high power distance means people will accept power inequality. Obviously, this may have a significant impact on the management styles employed, as well as their effectiveness in particular situations.

Organizational culture as well as cultural differences shaped by geographic location and other factors can have a profound effective on the effectiveness of management styles. This may present complications in global organizations where employees may be working in a variety of different countries and regions. Developing greater cultural sensitivity to these differences, mores, customs, traditions, etc., is essential to maintaining organization cohesiveness, harmony, style, and strategy. Such differences may also be important to recognize within a single country or region; therefore, management and employees should be instructed, coached, trained, and/or developed as needed.

Navigating the Management Style Landscape

In conclusion, understanding and effectively utilizing different management styles in successful leadership is essential. In choosing between democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire management styles, managers must remember to adapt their approach to fit their team’s needs, the circumstances, and the overall general culture. There is no one-size-fits-all management style, and the most effective leaders are those who can fluidly transition between styles.

Failures in effective management can often be due to lack of awareness of the distinctions between management styles and when they should be used for maximum impact. There may also be attrition of management skills and awareness of styles due to a number of factors every organization experiences, including downsizings, environmental factors, staffing levels and changes, mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, the lack of succession plans for management, and a variety of other factors.

In such circumstances, it is essential that all levels of management be aware of the need for ongoing and continuous management training and development at all levels, including those who are making the transition to management, those moving from operational management to strategic management, supervisors who have management duties, managers changing to a new industry from an unrelated industry, and beyond.

Continuous improvement in management skills through ongoing education, seeking feedback, self-reflection, and staying abreast of industry trends is a proven way to help ensure consistently effective and successful management.

The more extensive or nuanced the management training, the greater the likelihood the managers will be able to flex to the situation or circumstances, and to adapt quickly to unexpected change or disruption within the organization, whether due to internal or external factors.


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