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The 7 top management styles: which is best for you?

Managers have the power to make or break their organisations. Middle Managers can often have a bad reputation; it has become the vogue to portray them as bureaucrates.

There are certainly some companies where more streamlined teams and reduced hierarchy is more efficient and effective, but research also highlights that many companies (it can be as high as 82 per cent) hire the wrong people into middle management roles. That is not to say that 8 in 10 hires just do not have what it takes to be a leader. The problem is that not enough attention is paid to the relationship between leadership style and overall company culture.

As much as we would all like to pretend company culture is mainly a matter of initiatives and top-down decisions, the truth is no company has total control over what it is like to work there. The industry you are in, the type of business you do, the type of customers you support, and the employees who already work in the business are the biggest factors in company culture.

In other words, when a business hires key management professionals, it pays to read the room. A disconnect between a team and its manager can be fatal for the productivity, cooperation, and success of the business.

By exhibiting the right ‘style’ of leadership, an individual can achieve greater results, more engagement, higher levels of motivation, and an increased performance level as well as employee retention. So how do you make the right match?

Here are 7 common management styles and the types of teams they best work for:

1. Clear, direct and in control

 Managers who 'give orders.' That is not to say they cannot handle being questioned or criticised or that they micromanage, but they lead with a strong hand and do not leave team members with much to worry about besides their direct responsibilities. This works best in industries or geographical areas that skew traditional and conservative, and with entry-level groups who may not work well in a self-directed setting.

Bill Gates is often described as an example of a positive authoritarian leader. He had a clear plan for Microsoft. A plan that was difficult or impossible for many others to grasp until it became a reality and Microsoft became a household name.

2. Inspiring and charismatic

 With this style, by its very nature, leaders have visions and missions that people buy into, inspired by the direction it will take them now and in the future. These are often managers who may not give as much specific direction, but who are hands-on when it comes to motivating and focusing the team. Many famous high-tech industry leaders fall into this category, as do some of the most successful leaders in the nonprofit sphere. If you are trying to coordinate a highly skilled team to align with an exciting goal, hire a manager who can keep them excited.

If you are naturally a charismatic, outgoing, and personable leader, you may find this style easy to adopt. However, it can be more challenging for introverts or people who are uncomfortable in the limelight.

So, what are the skillsets that a visionary leader will often possess?

  • They have strategic insight.
  • They can communicate the vision and mission clearly and effectively.
  • They are fully focused on the journey and the goal.
  • They display good emotional intelligence qualities.
  • They have empathy and compassion.

3. Reward-centric

 This type of manager is great at organising in which employees are rewarded for hitting goals. Think of a sales team where everyone competes for bonuses or a remote company where schedules are flexible. The strength of this style lies in motivating for what they could personally achieve and showing them clearly the direct material value of the effort they put in. While extrinsic motivation may be less effective in the long term, this can be the best match for metrics-focused teams that have a lot of organic drive to succeed.

If you want to increase your team’s workload or hours indefinitely, transactional management will not be successful. Transactional management is not generally suitable for promoting creativity or innovation, as rewards are tied directly to known results.

4. Advising and coaching

 Rather than making decisions from the top, this type of manager spends time getting to know each team member and their work and then becomes a mentor for their process, constantly involved and on hand but rarely if ever actually taking the reins. They see their role as one of an adviser or coach rather than a dictator or rule enforcer. This is ideal for creative and developmental teams, or when a manager is being promoted from within the company to coach more junior members. There are a few downsides to this style, but some employees may see lots of checking in as micromanagement, so pay attention to how the team likes to work--is it very collaborative, or do your stars need some space to do what they do?

5. Challenging

 This manager sets stretch goals and metrics to encourage the team to push themselves hard. Typically, pacesetting or challenging styles of management involve setting high or hard-to-reach standards to drive a team to achieve new and bigger goals.  But someone who is truly skilled at this type of tactic will push their employees on a short-term basis when it really matters while finding other less strenuous game-like challenges to keep things rolling in the downtime.

Jack Welch, once the CEO of General Electric, is an example of a “Challenging Manager”, persistent and demanding pacesetter. While he effectively led the company for twenty years, he did earn some negative press and the nickname “Neutron Jack” famously arguing that leaders should fire the bottom 10 per cent of their workforce each year, as part of an orderly continuous improvement process.

Though Jack’s strategy was seen by many as simply too draconian. Any business should always be trying to improve the quality of its employees and by reviewing the entire workforce (at the very least) once a year, with an eye toward constantly improving it.

6. Collaborative and consensus-driven

 This type believes in the power of collective effort and demonstrates it every day by generating ideas together with their team, asking for input on decisions, and always being willing to consider feedback from their team. The focus is on encouraging employees to share their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and potential solutions to help each other, and the company grows.

The big cost here is efficiency -- it just takes longer for a group to decide than an individual. But the benefits are many: employees feel more ownership over their work, are easier to motivate and feel at liberty to speak up about small problems before they become big problems. It can also help retain high-value employees, because they feel that leadership takes their expertise into account in the decision-making process.

7. Hands-off and administrative

This manager trusts their team and only gets involved at the beginning and end of a task or project. Within this laissez-faire management style there is no oversight provided during the creation or production process. They keep everyone informed about schedule needs and make sure tasks are delegated, but do not try to command, coach, or question the employee's actual process.

For teams doing focused work that suffers when there are lots of meetings and interruptions, this style is ideal - but be warned it can lead to lost productivity if the employees are not natural self-starters. A good hands-off manager is an invisible organising presence that keeps everything running smoothly without involvement in the workflow process.

Google uses this style of laissez-faire management as a means of promoting employee creativity and innovation. Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created “20 per cent time” back in 2004. While the rule has changed over time, in essence, management allows employees a portion of their paid work hours to focus on whatever project they want, without any management oversight.

The common problem in the hiring process is that most managers are not asking themselves which management style is the right fit. They’re simply adopting the one they are most familiar with, most comfortable with, or the one they have been told or previously taught to exhibit.

The truly amazing manager crafts their approach around their audience and can fluidly switch between styles as situations change, capitalising on each person’s uniqueness. No employee, however talented, is perfectly well-rounded.

John Maxwell the author says, “The single biggest way to impact an organisation is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organisation that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them."

Great managers can increase company revenues, grow team productivity, and keep employees happy. They often have a series of common skills and traits regardless of the management style they adopted which can define whether they will succeed and become a true leader instead of being just another boss. These skills include:

  • Honesty
  • Vision
  • Confidence
  • Communication skills
  • Decisiveness
  • Focus
  • Empathy
  • Optimism
  • Commitment
  • Delegation

While successful leaders may exhibit these qualities to varying degrees, all good leaders leverage at least some of these characteristics. Together, they make up the backbone of strong leadership across organisations and industries. Without these qualities, true leadership is impossible.

Are you looking to recruit senior managers and executives?

Redline Executive is a specialist recruitment partner for the high technology and electronics sector, with a focus on executive search. We also specialise in manufacturing recruitment. With an outstanding team and four decades of knowledge of the industry, we pride ourselves on our expertise and the relationships we've built over the years. If you would like to find out more about how we can help your business, please contact us on 01582 450054 or


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