5 Management Styles: Pros and Cons

Types of Management Styles

Gone are the days when everyone strived to hold the same job for 40 years until retirement. If you’re not comfortable with the job or the types of management styles employed by your superiors, it has never been easier to move onto greener pastures. 

But with employee retention on the decline, businesses need to find ways to keep employees around. Management style is one of the biggest reasons people change jobs. In fact, over 50 percent of Americans have left a job to get away from a manager. As the old saying goes — people leave managers, not companies. 

Since management style has such a big impact on retention, it’s important to know what works or doesn’t work for you and your team. This knowledge allows you to:

  • communicate better with your team, leading to better comprehension of your needs and requirements;
  • build on the strengths of your management style, and learn to avoid the weaknesses;
  • and be more confident in your decisions. 

There are many management styles, but five stand out above the rest: autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, visionary, and servant leadership. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Autocratic management style

As the name suggests, this management style is characterized by the leader’s control over all decisions. An autocratic manager will rarely take input from team members or from a group consensus. And they often exert complete control over their team.

Here are the pros and cons of using this management style:

Pros

  • Quick decisions can be made in environments where a speedy turnaround is required.
  • Processes are streamlined, as there’s no back and forth between team members. One person handles any and all sign-offs.
  • Poor performance can be quickly addressed and tackled. With other types of management styles, under-performance can go unnoticed for longer.

Cons

  • It discourages cooperation and taking initiative. Employees who are proactive and knowledgeable can find this style difficult to work under. It can lead them to feeling deflated and unmotivated.
  • Decisions stop when the manager is absent as team members don’t feel empowered or capable of making decisions.
  • Turnover can increase if team members don’t feel respected. Employees don’t feel valued for their input if decisions are always made above their heads.
  • The performance of a team or company is solely dependent on one person. If the manager is fair and competent, then this style of management can work. If not, everyone suffers no matter the quality of work they do.

Democratic management style

This type of management style requires the managers and team to be collaborative. It distributes the power and encourages all team members to take part in the decision-making process. Research by Amy Edmondson of Harvard shows that when leaders are inclusive and encourage their staff to speak up, it leads to better learning and performance.

Let’s look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  • It fosters strong working relationships between team members.
  • It’s useful for problem-solving for complex issues. As it encourages collaborative work, team members are more willing to put forward ideas and work together for a solution.
  • The knowledge level of the entire team increases, as knowledge sharing is actively promoted.
  • Since employees feel secure in their role and trusted to make decisions, it encourages innovative and creative thinking that can improve the business as a whole. 
  • Everyone can benefit from management tools.

Cons

  • The decision-making process can be drawn-out as everyone’s input is needed to come to a consensus.
  • It can cause disharmony amongst team members if used incorrectly. Especially if employees feel some opinions are listened to more than others.
  • It muddies the water when it comes to a clear manager or leader. So when decisions have to be made without a group consensus, the lack of structure can cause issues.
  • If team members disagree and consensus can be reached, decisions may not ultimately come to pass, leading to delays and a lack of direction. 

Laissez-faire management style

This leadership style is also known as the delegate style of management. Any and all decision making is delegated to team members, and managers are completely hands-off. There’s very little guidance from management, and teams have to problem solve on their own. 

Pros

  • When there is a level of skill and knowledge in the team, it can motivate as team members felt they are seen to be the experts.
  • It can foster a creative environment, as team members are forced to innovate in order to problem solve.
  • Employees feel trusted to get on with their own work and projects. This trust can really improve team staff morale, and lead people to take greater ownership of their work.

Cons

  • Management may appear lackadaisical and uninterested in the team, leading to demotivation. A survey of 1,000 working adults showed that the top complaints about managers were about what they didn’t do.
  • Confusion over processes can happen when there’s no clearly defined management structure.
  • If there’s no oversight, poor performance may not be addressed in a quick or timely manner.
  • Changes by management can become hard to implement after a team has a large amount of autonomy. Team members may resist them, as they feel they can work without oversight.

Servant leadership management style

No, this doesn’t mean you just do whatever your reports tell you to do. Rather, it’s about keeping the mindset that a leader should always look for opportunities to serve the people on their team. That way, you worry less about finding ways to motivate your team in favor of sourcing these ideas from them directly.

Pros

  • This approach helps your reports grow, as they’re directly responsible for telling you what they need and how they plan to achieve their objectives.
  • The bond between a manager and their team grows stronger when the team is consulted on important decisions.
  • When you ask your team what you can do to help them, you’re making them feel heard. When people feel heard, they’re more likely to work with you on your objectives.

Cons

  • Imagine asking someone what you can do for them and all they’ve got to say is “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, some of the people on your team might not be as self-directed as you’d like.
  • Sitting down with everyone to ask them what you can do for them takes time. This management style may not be feasible if you’re running a larger team or a whole department.
  • Because of how time-intensive this approach is, it’s not well-suited to teams that have to fill quotas or otherwise concentrate on pure output — like a sales team.

Visionary management style

Where other management styles focus on individual initiatives, this style focuses on the big picture. Managers who follow this style find ways to encapsulate the organization’s vision. That vision becomes the guiding light to answer questions, solve problems, and determine which initiatives are essential. This leads to a management style that’s a bit more hands-off, as employees are trusted to follow the vision set out for them.

Pros

  • When your team is doing work they believe in, it’s a lot easier to keep them engaged. They’ll supply their own ideas more readily, and they’ll be more invested in their work.
  • Employee turnover is a challenge for every organization. But when you use a common vision to bring your team together, you’re lowering this risk.

Cons

  • What’s your organization’s vision? Now, what about your team’s vision? If the answers to these questions aren’t clear, you’ll probably have some difficulty implementing this management style.
  • The visionary management style only works when a manager can actually be inspiring. While that’s a trait that can be learned, it means this style requires a higher initial investment than others.

At the end of the day, the type of management style you choose will undoubtedly have an impact on your team. Whether that impact is positive or negative really depends on your employees and your organization. Make sure to speak with your team, consult them on their preferred style, check in and see how you’re doing, and adjust as necessary.

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