What’s Your Management Style?

Management style: Are you a detail-oriented CFO or a hands-off big picture type? A dictator or a coach? 

According to the Harvard Business Review, most developmental psychologists believe that what differentiates leaders from one another is less about philosophy and more about their internal logic. 

In other words, it’s a question of how individual leaders interpret their environment, as well as how they react if their position is challenged. 

According to this study, only 30% of US employees and 13% of global employees report feeling engaged at work. 

While those numbers are dismal, managers can help to change the status quo.

The same report found that around 70% of what factors into satisfaction came down to the managers themselves. Meaning, management style might be more important than experts claim.

Here, we’ll take a look at some common management styles, as well as how technology may be forcing you to update your approach to leadership in the modern workplace.

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Democratic Management

The democratic or participative management style is all about fostering a sense of collaboration amongst employees. Teams work together to arrive at solutions, as opposed to the bosses making all of the big calls themselves.

Under this framework, managers typically have the following characteristics:

  • Encourage employee participation 
  • Motivate by rewarding team efforts
  • Foster a sense of trust and value cooperation

This approach is generally received well in the workplace—employees feel valued, validated and heard. However, the challenge comes in making quick decisions, as voting on every decision can sometimes create a bottleneck. As such, this approach doesn’t make sense during times of crisis, or if there’s a time-sensitive matter at hand. 

Laissez-Faire Management

With a hands-off approach to management, laissez-faire leaders are typically defined by the following characteristics:

  • Offer limited guidance to teams.
  • Give followers the freedom to make decisions.
  • Offer tools and information rather than strict orders.
  • Generate a work culture where employees are expected to solve problems on their own.

This style tends to work best for highly-motivated groups that value their independence. 

Under this model, a leader provides the materials and information needed at the start of a project, and teams can get to work straight away. Laissez-faire leaders, however, risk losing control and full oversight of their team’s productivity. Trust is crucial for this system to work effectively.

Coaching Management

The coach is invested in the long-term success of their employees. This person:

  • Acts as a mentor.
  • Has a willingness to help others.
  • Offers employees opportunities for growth and development.

This approach works best when the leader is a seasoned vet in the industry, but not so much if they have a similar level of experience to those they’re leading. 

Autocratic Management

Autocratic leaders manage by maintaining control, typically in a very overt “it’s my way or the highway” kind of manner. 

This approach is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Employees have clearly defined roles and hierarchies.
  • The leader has total control and expects obedience.
  • The manager is always in the loop and understands where each project stands at any moment. 
  • There is a high value on discipline.
  • Motivation may be based on threats or ultimatums.

This approach isn’t an easy one to get right. Bill Gates is one of the few examples of an autocratic leader with a positive reputation. 

Bureaucratic Management

Bureaucratic leaders like to stick with rules and processes. These leaders work to make sure that everyone knows where they stand, with hierarchies and tasks clearly defined.

This leadership style typically comes with the following characteristics:

  • A system of rules is well established.
  • Everyone has a fixed set of official duties.
  • There’s a clear hierarchy of authority.
  • Processes are documented.

Bureaucratic leadership styles tend to work best in organizations that are tightly regulated. At these companies, everyone knows what their job is, so there’s no confusion when it comes to the scope of work.

Unfortunately, bureaucratic leaders often have challenges when it comes to adjusting to change. It’s the classic example of resisting innovation because the company has been successful in doing things the same way for X number of years.

Transactional Management

Transactional management is an approach that centers on rewarding those who follow instructions and punishing those who don’t meet expectations.

Typical characteristics of this managerial style include:

  • Operating on a system of rewards and punishments.
  • Tracking any deviations from predetermined standards and intervening if necessary.
  • Setting goals typically linked to monetary rewards, bonuses, and advancement.

Transactional leadership can work if linked to SMART goals, and if employees have a clear set of expectations. The chart below lays out some of the differences between a transactional and transformational approach, in this way showing how a transactional manager can make a few changes to become the kind of leader that motivates and inspires. 

management style


So, is there one best management style? Not exactly.

Even the autocratic manager can be an effective, respected leader if they make an effort to listen to others and make adjustments. 

With that said, the best leaders today know that, regardless of industry, they need to embrace technology to stay competitive. 

How Technology is Changing the Leadership Game

Studies show that spending on leadership development is at an all-time high, with companies in the US alone spending $16B on training top brass.

However, despite the significant investment, only about 18 percent of leaders effectively meet goals, and only 19 percent are effectively helping others develop their own leadership skills.

A 2017 Deloitte report notes that today’s leaders need new capabilities, with the authors noting that many top positions are occupied by so-called digital immigrants, not natives.

management style


Here are some examples of where leaders can start improving their capabilities by embracing digital transformation. 

Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Between product management apps and cloud-based record-keeping, video conferencing, and CRMs—not to mention the integrations that bring all of our essential business tools together—collaboration can happen from anywhere.

Today, technology has opened access to insights spanning across departments, making it easy for everyone to pull from the same pool of information and get on the same page.

Overcoming the silo mentality demands more than moving operations into the cloud or adding collaborative project management apps to your existing technology stack.

Leaders need to tackle the culture problem and build the vision and trust required to get everyone working toward a common goal.

Knowing How to Use Data

No matter the industry, businesses have unprecedented access to data from their customers, employees, and IT performance.

Smart leaders know that mining data from different channels allows for better-informed decisions across a suite of departments, including sales, purchasing, customer service, and employee productivity.

Critical skills include:

  • Setting KPIs and tracking performance.
  • Using analytic tools to spot trends, red flags, and opportunities.
  • Understanding how to take data and turn it into action.

Commitment to Staying Up-to-Date

Keeping up with the latest advancements in technology is now a big part of any manager’s job. This may be something of an adjustment if you’re more of the digital immigrant type or aren’t one to embrace change. With that said, ignoring new developments—be it AI, the cloud, or big data—could be the downfall of your organization.

Automate the Menial

From AI and marketing automation to cloud-based solutions, advances in technology are outmoding some of the practices that were staples of workplaces past: data entry, manual purchase orders, and paper-based filing systems are quickly becoming obsolete.

Bringing business processes into the cloud even allows leaders to establish specific rules, like setting restrictions on who can place orders, for example. This will enable them to save time manually reviewing internal activities; instead, they’ll receive an alert if something goes wrong.

Today’s Leader is an Influencer

Technology hasn’t just changed the game for visibility and efficiency. Social media and self-publishing platforms have given a voice to today’s leaders (both actual and aspiring).

Thought leadership can serve as a recruitment tool, as well as a way to motivate sales reps, build customer loyalty, and make connections.

management style


Wrapping Up

Different management styles all come with their own set of pros and cons.

What matters more than whether you’re a laissez-faire type or a total authoritarian is recognizing blind spots and understanding how to use modern tools that allow you to do more.

Today’s leaders need to understand that getting the best results means providing access to tools and insights that make things as efficient and convenient as possible for employees. can help leaders gain more control over internal processes without micromanaging. 

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