Authoritative? Participative? A coach? What sort of people manager are you?Reading Time: 5 minutes
The issue of how to manage people effectively is a tale as old as time cards, and it’s easy to overlook how many different people management styles there are.
Workplace cultures vary almost as much as the people within them and what’s expected of a boss depends not only on what kind of business it is, but also on the people in that company’s workforce.
Some businesses need rapid-fire decision making, unhampered by lengthy discussions and bureaucracy. But many employees work better under managers who will give them autonomy so that they can approach their work how they see fit.
The six styles of management
According to the author Hay McBer, there are six broad types of people management styles which can be used to achieve different management goals, which we’ve listed alphabetically:
- Affiliative management
- Authoritative management
- Coach-style management
- Directive management
- Pacesetting management
- Participative management
It might be tempting to write off categorising people management styles as meaningless twaddle, but it makes more of a difference than you might think. Research by Gallup suggests that businesses choose the wrong people for management positions more than four fifths of the time. The idea that over 80% of managers are poorly suited to their position might beggar belief, but here we are.
Just as each form of people management has its own benefits, they also have their drawbacks. And while different managers tend to favour different approaches, the hallmark of a truly skilled manager of people is the ability to switch between styles as needed. This is just one reason why effective management training as part of employee education and up-skilling is essential for a productive business.
Affiliative management is basically the super-friendly approach. This style aims to minimise conflict by creating a harmony between junior and senior members of staff. As you can probably guess, this is one of the best people management styles for bosses looking to support employee wellbeing and build up strong social connections in their team.
It’s a great approach for the routine, day-to-day stuff, and can enable early conflict resolution. But where purely affiliative managers can fall down is when the business enters crisis mode. It’s all well and good if everyone gets on, but a Michael Scott type who spends all their time trying to be everyone’s friend can struggle to get their team to focus when things start going wrong.
Authoritative management, also known as visionary leadership, is something of a broad-strokes approach. An authoritative manager outlines their vision, and helps guide their team to success. With this style of management, authoritative managers use constructive feedback to bring out the best in their team. This approach uses charisma and persuasion to keep employees engaged, but it does require a certain amount of confidence and competence to pull off effectively.
Things can get a little confusing here, because outside of Hay McBer’s work, some guides to different management styles define authoritative management the way McBer would describe what his model calls “directive management,” which we’ll also be discussing.
Where these two methods diverge is that once an authoritative leader has set down their overall vision, they tend to let their employees function with relative autonomy. If someone’s work isn’t up to standard, an authoritative manager will prefer to use feedback to guide them in the right direction. Authoritative management is great when your team is experienced and comfortable with their work, but less experienced junior staff might require a more hands-on approach. While the emphasis on feedback is great for helping less new employees develop, the lack of more direct guidance can make them struggle to engage.
Directive management is exactly what it sounds like. You say what you expect to be done, and your employees do it to your specifications. Compared to authoritative management, the directive approach involves a greater degree of direct oversight, with these managers exerting more control over the specifics of how employees work.
Where directive management shines is in getting decisions made quickly in high-pressure workplaces. No drawn-out discussions, no bureaucracy, just action, action, action. This can be very useful in fast-paced businesses where decisions need to be made at the drop of a hat.
But directive management is often viewed unfavourably, when compared to the other people management styles on this list. It’s not uncommon for directive managers to use harsh words and threats of discipline to compel employees to deliver results. Plus, the lack of discussion and personal autonomy can stymy innovation, and limit the ability of employees to engage with their roles. Left unchecked, directive management can easily mutate into authoritarian micromanagement.
No, this doesn’t mean striding up and down the office in shorts while blowing a whistle. But it does mean that you’ll guide and push your employees towards success and better performance by leaning into the mentorship-based responsibilities of a manager. This means putting a heavy emphasis on personal development and up-skilling, which is great for boosting employee loyalty and reducing turnover.
A coaching-based style is great for managers who see their employees as an investment, and staff members who see a future at your organisation are much more likely to be highly engaged. However, it requires you to have a greater level of knowledge and experience than your employees, making it less effective if you’re not that much more experienced than the people on your team. It might also put you in the position where you’re keeping someone on who doesn’t have the right skills, because you keep expecting them to improve.
Other than that, it’s worth remembering that being a mentor to even one person can require you to make a lot of time for them. So attempting to coach everyone in your department can result in you having to keep a lot of plates spinning on top of your regular responsibilities.
Pacesetting managers have extremely high standards, and they expect employees to meet them. That said, pacesetting managers tend to lead by example, so it’s not a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” So if they expect employees to work hours of overtime to hit an approaching deadline, chances are they’ll be doing the same thing themselves. Leading by example can be a very effective way of coaxing more discretionary effort out of your team.
Like authoritative management, pacesetting can be quite a hands-off approach to leadership, but without so much emphasis on the mentorship aspect. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a pacesetting style if your team is incredibly driven and competent, but for employees who are still trying to develop, the aggressively high standards of a pacesetting manager can make them feel inadequate and put them at increased risk of disengagement, or even cause them to burn out due to workplace stress.
Other models refer to participative management as democratic management. This is pretty bang-on, as a participative leader relies on broad consensus rather than strict direction. While they might take the wheel from time to time, a participative manager puts a lot emphasis on letting employee voices be heard.
Participative leadership is great for stimulating a sense of employee involvement in the company. When people are involved in the decision-making process for a business, it gives them a greater stake in its success. Like some of the other people management styles on this list, this makes it an effective means of establishing employee advocacy and encouraging discretionary effort from your staff.
If there’s a con to participative management, it’s that letting everyone have their say can be very time-consuming. In a dire situation that requires a prompt, firm managerial response, this is less than ideal. And when your employees are used to being included in the decision-making process, the sudden withdrawal of that privilege without a transparent explanation can breed resentment in your team.But no matter which people management strategies you prefer, there’s sure to be content that interests you over on the Weekly10 blog!