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Your management style describes the way you relate to your subordinates, and it arises from your aptitudes, personality, life experiences, and training. If your style is a good fit with your industry, business, culture, and employees, it will result in stronger productivity, efficiency, and innovation, not to mention results that flow to the bottom line.
Here, we present the four basic management styles, which can apply to leaders at all levels of the organization. You may find that you are a combination of styles, or that you have transformed your style over time or adapted to different business environments and employees.
1. Visionary. Visionary leaders are known for being product and business model-centric and highly customer focused. They are highly agile and adaptable as times change and are the first to recognize and capitalize on new opportunities. They have a coherent vision of where the company is today and where they want to direct it. They are intimately aware of who their customers are and deeply interested in serving them.
Applying this style, a leader articulates a mission and strategies, and employees buy in. Employees often love this style of management, especially those who want to make the most of their talents. They are given autonomy with the expectation that they will execute on the manager’s vision and strategies. Their managers are excellent at communicating and listening, and that further enhances the work experience.
Real visionaries are rare, and it is difficult to find leaders at every level that will be effective and persuasive communicators who can execute visionary strategies. So if you are a visionary proprietor, executive, or manager, do you have the organizational support to maximize your effectiveness?
2. Democratic. Under democratic leaders, employees are involved and engaged in making and executing on strategic decisions. This style of manager values the experience, training, skills, and insights each of their employees bring. They build a diverse and complementary team of workers with collaboration in mind, and they foster effective communication. Though managers have ultimate decision-making authority, employees have the highest degree of influence in a democratic management system.
In contrast with the autocratic style, democratic managers gain easy buy-in and make employees feel more valued, secure, and satisfied in their roles. Most talented workers prefer this style of management over autocratic and laissez-faire.
3. Autocratic. This top-down approach to management is similar to what is used in the military, which makes it ideal in crisis situations and terrible for generating innovation. Under an autocratic leader, there is no time for collaboration, yet the style is highly prevalent. To make autocratic management effective, there must be a clear and authoritative chain of command. People must respect the superior knowledge of the autocratic leader. Subservience to orders is expected, and micromanagement is common, so employees with leadership abilities of their own will often feel voiceless and put upon. They may face negative consequences for exerting their own ideas and will. We do see this style in some family-run businesses, and we often see this style mutate to a more democratic form of management as other leaders develop the capabilities to take on challenges of their own.
Under autocratic management, employees have little ability to contribute their talents to the fullest degree. They are often not developed properly and become overwhelmed when their work does become more challenging. In short, this is generally an unsustainable managerial style that is a hindrance to a growth-oriented culture.
4. Laissez-faire. This style of management offers no vision and no supervision, instead leaving employees to their own devices. It is the opposite of micromanagement, yet employees are still expected to perform against objective measures. Unfortunately, they are not given proper guidance and resources, which typically leaves them struggling to overcome challenges, individually and as a team.
This is a basic introduction to management styles. The further you explore this topic, the more readily you can refine your style – and the specifics of your day-to-day management approach – to your organization, your team, and your goals.
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