There are at least as many styles of management as there are managers; nevertheless, most management styles fall into one of a few broad categories. Every manager’s style includes some means of making decisions and some means of relating to subordinates. Below are the five most common management styles.
Autocratic: Autocratic or authoritarian managers lead unilaterally. They make decisions based on their own opinions and experience without taking the opinions of subordinates into account. Although authoritarian managers do not tend to be popular with employees, they make decisions quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, if an autocratic manager makes an error, the lack of input from others can make the consequences severe. Autocratic management tends to be successful in industries that rely on unskilled workers and have plenty of turnover, such as food service and retail. Highly skilled and personally motivated employees tend to chafe under this type of management.
Consultative: Like autocratic managers, consultative managers make decisions more or less unilaterally. Unlike autocratic managers, these leaders prioritize communication with employees and take their needs into account alongside the needs of the business. Consultative management still allows the manager to make decisions efficiently; in addition, the emphasis on employee interaction tends to increase employee loyalty and reduce turnover. However, employees tend to become highly dependent on their manager. Consultative managers tend to be most successful in businesses that hope to retain employees for long periods of time. Many of the best office managers use this style.
Persuasive: Persuasive managers maintain control over every aspect of the business indirectly. Instead of giving orders, these managers operate by explaining why tasks need to be carried out in a certain way. Employees tend to feel more involved in the decision-making process under this style; nevertheless, ultimate authority still rests with the manager alone. Persuasive management is a particularly helpful style when complicated tasks need to be carried out in the workplace. However, managers who rely too heavily on explaining every task in detail may see their businesses slow to a crawl.
Democratic: While a persuasive manager explains every aspect of the decision-making process to his subordinates, a democratic manager actually includes his subordinates in the process. Democratic management relies heavily on two-way communication between management and employees. This style is particularly helpful when a decision requires specialized knowledge that the manager lacks; for instance, when making an IT-related decision, a manager may need to ask an IT specialist for input. Including employees in decision-making tends to improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover. Relying on employee input for every decision, though, can greatly reduce the efficiency of the business.
Laissez-faire: In a “hands-off” management style, the manager acts as a motivator, mentor and guide to his subordinates. Individual employees manage their own sections of the business with minimal supervision. Perhaps surprisingly, this management style demands the most personal skill from the manager: If he can effectively communicate a strong vision for the business and guide his subordinates with broad expertise, a laissez-faire manager can bring out the best in his workers. Highly professional, self-motivated employees, such as salesmen and engineers, can benefit greatly from this style.
Although most managers tend to fall into one of these five categories, the most successful mangers can draw from several styles depending on the situation. Within a single office, some circumstances may call for an autocratic decision, others may call for democratic involvement from subordinates and still others may require a hands-off approach. Managers who make an effort to learn all five styles can succeed in any setting.