Management Styles: Which One’s Right for You?

There are many different management styles, and unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, understanding the different approaches to management can help a person find the style that fits their personality.

The best way to choose a management style is to discover which method closely aligns with who you are as a leader, and then tweak it to fit the context of your working environment.

Think of this article as a sampler that you might order at a restaurant that you’ve never been to but heard the food was great. You’d want to have an appetizer that gives you a selection of tastes for your palate before you settle on a main course.

three management styles

Tips For Choosing the Best Management Style

Remember, management isn’t all about you. It’s more about the people you’re managing and the organization that you’re accountable to. The right management style will help you engage your team and fulfill your responsibilities to your boss.

That’s because with the right management style you can increase productivity, choose suitable project management tools, get better quality of work from your team, reduce turnover and strengthen the company’s bottom line.

The following are three of the main management styles with common variations. But, remember, a managerial approach is often directed by the corporate culture in which one is working. There are also external forces that impact a management style, such as consumers, suppliers, competitors and legal constraints. So, keep those factors in mind as you explore the styles below.


As the name implies, this is a classic top-down management style. The manager is the one who makes all the decisions in the workplace. Therefore, communications go in one direction: from the manager to everyone else. Other viewpoints are not considered, and the roles and tasks are clearly defined by the manager, without question. Naturally, the manager is monitoring and supervising the process.

More hierarchical business structures will apply this type of management style. While it might sound draconian, it is ideal for workers who are new, unskilled or unmotivated. Autocratic management style can also be turned on and off when needed, such as during a crisis or other situation that requires a strict leadership approach.

Some people work best in this environment, where there’s little uncertainty, defined roles and clear expectations. In such cases, the team knows what’s expected of them, and there’s little confusion. However, the lack of input from the team can cause dissatisfaction among the ranks, pushing more independent and skilled team members out the door.

Variations: Authoritative, Persuasive and Paternalistic

The authoritative variant is used when there is little trust between management and labor. It is usually applied with unskilled workers. The manager dictates, but also coaches, and is constantly supervising.

Persuasive is similar in that the manager is making the decisions, but in a way that convinces the team that each choice is the right course of action and in their best interest. What sets persuasive apart is that it can develop more trust between management and labor.

The paternalistic style is different in that the manager treats teams in a more familial way. It’s like being a kid again, for the team, while the manager is the parent. They’re doing what’s best for the child. Some workers might feel comfortable with this arrangement, but others can feel stifled and needlessly dependent.


Just as the form of government that shares its name, the democratic management style is one in which everyone is involved in the decision-making. However, the final call is left to the manager, who listens to suggestions, measures the viability of them and then chooses what to do. While the team is encouraged to participate, they’re not required to, so communications go both ways.

One of the advantages of the democratic management style is that it is open to a wide spectrum of ideas and perspectives. With the team being part of the decision-making process, they inevitably feel more valued, which makes them more productive and motivated.

Back to the government analogy, the downside of the democratic approach is the potential for nothing getting done, at least not in a timely fashion. When you’re open to ideas from many others, the timeline to decide is obviously going to expand. That and conflict can arise, as differing views can become impassioned debates. Then, if a team member’s idea isn’t taken, there can be resentment, which can show itself in the work they do.

Variations: Consultative, Participative and Collaborative

Consultative management is a variant where management and employees work together to build trust and confidence.

Participative is similar, except that trust is complete and decisions are heavily weighed by employee input. The staff is highly involved, which increases their sense of worth, motivation and productivity. This style can backfire, however, if the employees aren’t interested in being part of the decision-making process.

The collaborative variant emphasizes communication, with decisions resting with the majority. The manager uses this style because it gets buy-in from the team and gives them a sense of ownership in the process. A problem is that this style is time-consuming, and often managers are not able to devote the time necessary to this management style because of other constraints.


The final management style takes us to the logical conclusion of removing, or having very little input from, the manager. In these circumstances, the staff doesn’t need supervision because they’re highly skilled. Management is free to take a hand’s-off approach when managing the staff and can devote attention to other quarters.

Of course, the laissez-faire approach is best suited for flat or decentralized organizations, where the staff might be more skilled than management. Therefore, they’re the ones who are driving innovation and setting goals and objectives. A benefit of this style is increased innovation and creativity, with a possible decrease in productivity because of a directionless, unsupervised staff.

Variation: Delegative

A type of laissez-faire management is called the delegative style, which gives teams full responsibility for their work areas. A manager will assign tasks with little direction, and the team will do them as they see fit. While the manager is still the responsible party for making teams reach their objectives, the team decides the means. This can create some uncoordinated effects among various teams, or the teams might lack focus or direction.

There you have it, a smorgasbord of management styles to pick and choose from. But whichever you choose, you’re going to need a good tool to stay on top of things. is a cloud-based project management software that gives you everything you need to manage teams and lead successful projects. See how it can help you by taking this free 30-day trial.  

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