8 mins read

6 Different Management Styles (And How to Use Them)

Hubworks 171113 Blog AssetsMain Article Image copy
Daphne Blake

By Daphne Blake

Employee Management

We all know that effective managers can make or break their team - and their company. Just think about the jobs you’ve had where you show up each day, energized and ready to work - and the ones where you dread clocking in.

And while CEOs and managers alike worry about employee retention in a competitive marketplace, odds are that employees are more likely to jump ship due to a conflict with management styles - not just because they received a better offer elsewhere.

According to a 2013 study conducted by Gallup, 50% of employees left their job because of leadership. The study also found that managers account for up to 70% of varying employee engagement. This should be a big takeaway for management, says Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.

'The single biggest decision you make in your job - bigger than all the rest - is who you name manager,' Clifton wrote in the polling company’s annual review, 'State of the American Workplace.'

'When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits - nothing.'

So what does an effective manager look like?

An influential 2000 study conducted by Daniel Goleman for Harvard Business Review surveyed 3,000 managers and executives across multiple sectors to determine six distinct management types. While the majority of these management styles have both strengths and weaknesses, some are far more effective than others at driving results or improving company morale.

Here’s a breakdown of the six classic management styles - and how you can use them effectively in your role-


management styles pacesetting

The pacesetting manager’s natural work environment in today’s economy would most likely be the tech start-up. These are the active, demanding, workhorse bosses who want you to deliver high-quality product on time - and in exactly the style they prefer. They seem to never sleep or go home, and the expectation might be that you should work this way, too.

Tech magnates Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both known for these qualities. And while these visionaries may have driven the teams at Apple and Microsoft to monumental success, those close to the top most likely chafed under a heavy set of expectations.

Over all, pacesetting bosses don’t leave much room for other viewpoints or alternative ways of achieving goals - they tend to view an 'excellent performance' as exactly the kind of performance they would give themselves.

When to use this style- If your company is in crisis, or you’re helping a team weather a significant leadership transition, you may need to adopt this form of management style to move the needle and right the ship.

When to avoid this style- If used regularly, you may devalue the contributions of your employees - and wind up missing out on unique solutions to complicated problems.


management styles authoritative

An authoritative manager makes employees sit up and pay attention. They envision a common goal or company-wide mission, and they see themselves as the leader who can help the team realize these intentions.

At times these big-picture thinkers can be wildly inspiring - though, like pacesetters, they are undoubtedly and absolutely in charge. When paired with teams that already have experienced subject-area experts, their visionary strengths can read as egotistical or overbearing rather than innovative.

Both Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos have authoritative management styles, with singular visions for their companies. Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, is a 'direct' and 'respectful' leader, according to Huffington Post, whose 'assertiveness is matched by a sense of mission that inspires her employees.'

When to use this style- If your company needs a big vision to shape progress and can handle independence, you can afford to be the inspiring visionary - as long as you trust the other people on your team to deliver on the details.

When to avoid this style- If your department heads are more knowledgeable or more experienced managers, it might be wise to let them have the floor, or cede to their expertise. Visionaries should know when to listen.


management styles affiliative

Affiliative managers want their employees to feel like they’re 'part of a family,' and they work hard to bond emotionally with employees.

On the upside, this strategy can inspire employees to feel more connected to their workplace and to one another. But if too much emphasis is placed on emotional bonds, employees can lack the direction or meaningful feedback on performance they need to succeed - and the company as a whole may suffer from lack of productivity.

Nothing illustrates the satirical extreme of this style better than fictional boss Michael Scott on The Office - he has a 'world’s best dad” mug on his desk, and his employees at Dunder Mifflin barely sell a ream of paper.

But if you’re looking for real-world examples, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg is said to be both warm and approachable, while Sameer Dholakia, the CEO of SendGrid, was recently profiled by Forbes for his views on “servant leadership.'

At SendGrid, Dholakia strives to make meaningful connections with his employees and schedules plenty of free-form meetings where employees can give him feedback.

'We’ll have no agenda. I just want to know how things are going,' Dholakia told Forbes. 'I end just about every meeting with, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’'

When to use this style- If you need to build trust or morale within a department after a large transition, a round of layoffs, or budget cuts, it might be a good idea to put your people - rather than productivity - first.

When to avoid this style- On the whole, this is a bad long-term management style. Without constructive feedback, your employees won’t know how to perform.


management styles coaching

Just like its namesake, the coaching management style is interested in employee potential and improvement. These bosses actively identify the skills of their individual employees, and help them to improve those skills over time.

This time-intensive management style may not work for all team members - and it’s difficult to pull off, too. In order to effectively coach your team, you should be a highly skilled manager who has earned the trust of your team or department. But if your employees just aren’t willing to be coached, you won’t make much headway with this strategy.

As the creator of BlackRock, the largest money management firm on the planet, Larry Fink shot to the top by encouraging his senior management team to improve their skillsets at emotional intelligence seminars.

When to use this style- If you have extensive leadership and management experience, this could be a great style to improve teamwork company-wide.

When to avoid this style- This management approach doesn’t work with every employee - and it’s especially hard to pull off if you’re a new manager.


management styles coercive

The coercive management style is often summed up as 'do it my way, and do it now.' There’s no room for questioning here.

While the style might be a good way to lead your company in crisis - as long as you’re clear, direct, and firm - under just about any other circumstance, you’d grind employee morale to pieces.

When to use this style- During crisis or emergency management, when the wrong move might cost jobs or lives.

When to avoid this style- Under any other circumstance.


management styles democratic

The democratic manager is interested in building consensus. They want to give employees ample opportunity to weigh in on the decision-making process - which can be great if you need to generate company-wide buy-in for a mission shift or growth period.

As in all democracies, however, change can be slow. Some managers may accidentally cede the chain of command - or muddy the waters for their employees - by trying to be too magnanimous and open-minded.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has garnered plenty of attention for his management style. According to Business Insider, the exec 'recruits top performers and encourages them to step up and push back against his ideas when they don't agree.' While it may be difficult to say what happens next around that particular table, democratic managers are as interested in points of contention as they are in finding common ground.

When to use this style- If you need employees to feel like they have ownership over a long-term plan.

When to avoid this style- Some decisions simply need to be made by equals. If your employees are not senior enough to contribute to company policy or directional shifts, a democratic approach may not yield sustainable results. If this is the case, ask for input and feedback, rather than trying to build consensus.

While you most likely gravitate toward one management style over another quite naturally, remember- it’s possible to consciously change your management style to be more effective for your team. As long as you’re being reflective, open to feedback, and willing to learn, you’ll gain the strengths of a seasoned leader, no matter which style - or range of styles - you adopt.

27 cta content inline and exit intent

Attend a webinar

Our scheduled webinars are a great way to learn more.

Sign Up