Management Styles

what management style are you?

Management: Blending the Right Styles


You might think of leadership in terms of a manager or a director, but the term ‘leadership’ can be defined more broadly and can apply to all of us in our own way. Most of us will experience moments in life when a call is made on our ‘leadership’ capabilities.

Think of the time when you were young and playing with friends or doing a project in school. There was probably one person who stood up as the leader? It may have been you. Did it work, or did it end in a conflict? Why was your friend always followed blindly by everybody, and why did your ideas always meet with resistance? (Or the other way around!).

While some people are born leaders, others clearly cannot handle the job and turn into the much disliked bossy people. What is it that makes the difference? Of course this depends on your personality, the team, or the group you are leading. Does your team need a lot of guidance, rules, or are they independent, with the need to come up with their own ideas? It’s up to the manager to adapt their ‘management style’ accordingly. Although managers often have one style of preference, a good manager uses a combination of styles, applying the right strategy when necessary. We have identified 5 styles. How many of these do you recognise in yourself or in your manager?

  1. Dictatorial Style (control)

When the manager uses this style, staff have little or no input. Own initiative? No… Every task is closely monitored by your manager and probably even the length of your breaks. You’ll be told off when you’re 1 minute late. ‘Fear’ and ‘threat’ are keywords for this type of manager. When this style is used all the time, it often leads to demotivation and a high turnover of staff.

Fact: This style might work during a crisis or when a team member behaves seriously out of order, but should otherwise be avoided.

  1. Laisser-faire (empower people)

The laissez-fair management style is unauthoritative. Laisser = to let, faire = to do, so basically it means: ‘let them do’. It only works when the manager uses this style with a vision.The manager has to be conscious of everything that is going on and will often achieve control through less obvious means. They must keep total overview and intervene when necessary.

If this style is applied without a vision, or worse, without the manager being aware of alternatives, several things can go wrong. If the manager gives his employees too little support in their daily tasks, quality of work might suffer from it. Also, with the lack of a real ‘leader’, another member of staff will almost certainly stand up as the informal leader. This might not be a problem, but could cause a disrupted hierarchical structre among employees.

Fact: This style may work very well with experienced, self-motivated staff that need little guidance and excel when they are left alone to respond to their responsibilities and obligations in their own ways.

  1. The Coach (development)

A coaching management style could either mean that your manager spends time with you in separate coaching sessions or he could incorporate it into his daily management activities. Either way, ‘The Coach’ is concerned with developing staff and getting the best out of them by establishing a good relationship with them. It is a future oriented approach, as the manager wants to prepare the employee for future responsibilities and tasks.

Fact: This style does perhaps not work for (older) employees who have no ambition to grow or improve.

  1. The Affiliative Manager (people)

The affilicative manager promotes harmony among his followers and tries to resolve conflict. Emotional needs come before work needs. This manager will try and build a team in which people feel a real connection to each other, which often has a positive effect on the team’s general performance and responsibility. In this way, staff don’t only work for their boss, but for each other, because they don’t want to let each other down!

Fact: You cannot rely solely on this style, because it lacks direction and doesn’t particularly stimulate performance.

  1. Pacesetting Leader (look at me working hard and do the same!)

This leader works hard and believes in setting the right example. They will even finish tasks that their team members were unable to finish. This type of leader is often a perfectionist and expects this attitude of others as well. Although this method might work for a fast, skilled and equally motivated team, it can be overwhelming for some team members. Like the ‘dictatorial style’, this style often has a negative impact on the work environment.

Of course there are more management styles than those mentioned in this article and some of them have a strong overlap. In the ideal situation, the manager’s overall style should be like a painting with carefully selected colours that make up a balanced composition…

What does this mean for you?

Questions to employees:

  • Which style does your manager use predominantly?
  • Do you feel comfortable with this style / combination of styles, or does it cause stress and irritation?
  • After reading this article, are you now able to identify why manager works for you Is he perhaps using the wrong style at the wrong time?

Questions to managers:

  • Do you think your staff is generally happy with the way you lead them?
  • Do you think your management approach has a balanced combination of styles?
  • Are you conscious of your management style or do you use your intuition?
  • What management style matches your personality best?


Robyn Benincasa, ‘6 Leadership Styles and When You Should Use Them’, Fast Company, 29 May 2012,

‘Management Styles’, Rensselaer,

Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, ‘Coaching as Management Style’, Zenger Folkman, 2010,