Types Of Management Styles

6 Management Styles Every Successful Leader Understands and 1 They Avoid

There are many different types of management styles. However, in the U.S., telling people what to do doesn’t work outside of traditionally hierarchical organizations. And as the adage goes — people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.

You likely know that effective management is an essential component of any successful organization. How a company is managed can have a profound impact on its culture, productivity and overall success. But, how do you know if your management style is effective?

If you’ve never been trained to be a manager and you are one, you’ve likely adopted a management style one of your bosses used. But you might not know there are myriad different types of management styles.

Let’s explore these seven different management styles, highlight their strengths and weaknesses, and identify when each style might be most effective.

Hint — it’s time to abandon one of these management styles altogether.

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1. Democratic Management Style

 Types of management styles: democratic management

Democratic management encourages active participation from team members. Managers in this style seek input and solicit feedback, making decisions collectively. This approach fosters a sense of ownership among employees and often leads to better problem-solving and innovation. 

While highly effective, this management style can be time-consuming, and decisions may take longer to reach a consensus. However, the long-term benefits — higher employee satisfaction and more successful organizations — outweigh any drawbacks.

This style is most closely related to Radical Candor. A radically candid management style focuses on respect and collaboration. A radically candid boss starts by caring personally about each person who works for them while also being willing to challenge them directly. 

Radically candid managers communicate by giving praise that’s specific and sincere so people know what good looks like. They offer criticism that’s kind and clear so people know what’s not working and how to course-correct.

2. Laissez-Faire Management Style

Laissez-faire, or hands-off management, allows employees a high degree of autonomy and decision-making power. This style works well in creative environments and with highly skilled and motivated teams. However, it can lead to a lack of direction and accountability if not managed properly.

Being too hands-off is a form of absentee management. One of the most common mistakes bosses make is to ignore the people who are doing the best work because “they don’t need me” or “I don’t want to micromanage.” Ignoring somebody is a terrible way to build a relationship.

If you don’t take the time to get to know the people who get the best results, you can’t understand what they want and need to grow in their jobs at that particular moment in their lives.

You’ll assign the wrong tasks to the wrong people. You’ll promote the wrong people. Also, if you ignore your top performers, you won’t give them the guidance they need to succeed and they won’t know how to repeat their success.

3. Transformational Management Style

Transformational managers are visionary leaders who inspire their teams to exceed their own expectations. They set high standards, motivate through their enthusiasm, and encourage personal growth. 

This style can lead to a highly engaged and motivated workforce. However, it may not be suitable for all situations, as it can sometimes lead to burnout if the vision is too demanding or “motivational” attitudes veer into toxic positivity where employees don’t feel able to bring up problems.

Done right, transformational managers are true thought partners who work with your employees to set goals that make sense and align with the company’s long-term vision, actively listen to problems and help brainstorm solutions.

4. Transactional Management

Transactional managers focus on clear rules, rewards and consequences. They use a system of incentives and reprimands to motivate employees to meet specific targets and expectations. 

While this approach can provide clear guidelines, it may also create a culture driven by extrinsic rewards and fear of penalties, which can hinder long-term employee satisfaction.

This management style might work well for highly competitive people who work in sales or finance. On the other hand, creative employees often chafe under a transactional manager and end up feeling stifled, stressed and stuck.

5. Servant Leadership Management Style

Servant leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members above all else. They aim to support and empower employees to achieve their full potential.

This style can build strong relationships and loyalty, but it may also require a manager to balance the needs of individuals with the overall goals of the organization.

A servant leadership management style is best practiced when the manager’s only role is to coach and develop their employees. Servant leaders are committed to guiding their teams to achieve results while also helping each individual take a step in the direction of their dreams.

6. Situational Management Style

Situational managers adapt their style depending on the situation and the needs of their team members. They assess the skill level and motivation of their employees and adjust their approach accordingly. 

While this style offers flexibility, it can be challenging to implement effectively without a deep understanding of the individual and a firm grasp of the team dynamics.

Situational leaders don’t assume that what works for one person will work for every person. Instead, they get to know each member of their team personally to balance the needs of the individuals with the goals of the organization. 

7. Autocratic Management Style

Types of management styles: autocratic management

The autocratic management style — what we refer to as command and control — is characterized by a top-down approach in which the manager makes decisions and gives orders without much input from the team. 

This style can be effective in situations that require quick decisions and clear direction like emergency response teams or the military. However, in other organizations, it can stifle creativity and demotivate employees who feel they have no say in the decision-making process.

As a result, poor decisions are made. Employees are robbed of their agency. Managers are not held accountable. Results suffer, and so do employees.

What’s more, when managers make all of the decisions unilaterally, it is too risky for employees to challenge bias, prejudice or bullying, let alone to report harassment or discrimination. Because of this, harassment and discrimination are more likely to happen in command-and-control organizations.

What Management Style Should You Use?

Types of Management Styles: Radical Candor

While there is no one-size-fits-all management style, some styles definitely work better than others. The effectiveness of a particular style depends on various factors, including the organization’s culture, the nature of the work, and the skills and motivation of the team. 

A skilled manager should be capable of utilizing different management styles as the situation demands, aiming to create a dynamic and adaptive approach that brings out the best in their team. At Radical Candor, we think this means shifting away from autocratic management styles in favor of more collaborative approaches.

In the end, a successful manager can balance authority and collaboration, inspiring and supporting their team members to achieve their goals and contribute to the overall success of the organization. 

By understanding the various management styles and when to apply them, managers can become more effective leaders and create a radically respectful work environment where communication is kind, clear, specific and sincere, and everyone can thrive.


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A professional writer, editor, storyteller and content strategist with more than 15 years of experience, Brandi Neal is the director of content creation and marketing and the podcast producer for Radical Candor. Some of the stranger things she has done include walking on fire (twice), hiking to the top of an active volcano in the middle of the night, hanging from the wing of an airplane (and letting go) and participating in an impala dung-spitting contest, which is just as gross as it sounds. In a movie of her life, she wants to be played by Stana Katic.