Democrat or Autocrat? 5 Management Styles and When to Use Them

You may have been asked in an interview, “What’s your management style?”  Perhaps you talked about the importance of collaboration, or setting goals that connect to an employee’s strengths.  Regardless, your management style is likely a compilation of different approaches that can be drawn upon depending on the situation.  Here are 5 different management styles and when to use them to best effect.

Also called the authoritative leader, the visionary approach offers long-term direction for its employees.  This manager is typically described as offering clear feedback related to the achievement of long-term goals.  He or she is firm, doesn’t play favorites, prioritizes fairness and evaluates employee effectiveness based on task performance.

When it works:

  • The leader has gained buy-in from his or her team and cross-functional business units
  • There is a need to standardize processes and offer clear direction

When it doesn’t work:

  • The leader lacks credibility and the team is inexperienced and needs more development

People First
The primary goal of a people first leader is to ensure that there is harmony among his or her team.  Similarly, the people first leadership style would also attempt to facilitate positive relationships between senior management and the leader’s direct reports.  This person will often emphasize collaboration and will motivate others by trying to keep them happy.

When it works:

  • Conflict management
  • Used as a complement to other styles – for example a more visionary approach
  • The existing team is self-directed and self-motivated – performance is acceptable

When it doesn’t work:

  • The team is underperforming – this management style can prioritize people over task completion
  • Time sensitive situations, including moments of crisis, where a more directive style may be needed

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The Democrat
The foundation of the Democratic approach to leadership is collaboration.  In this style, employee input is valued and encouraged.  This manager will focus on motivating by rewarding and praising successful team behavior.

When it works:

  • The team is tenured and works well together
  • The work environment is consistent

When it doesn’t work:

  • The team does not work together effectively
  • There is a need for close supervision, and a top-down decision-making process – crisis situation

Note:  The opposite of this approach is the autocrat whose leadership style expects immediate compliance.  This leader believes that his or her approach is the best one.  While effective in crisis situations, employees can end up underdeveloped, or frustrated and looking for alternative employment (particularly if they are highly skilled and feel micromanaged).

Lead by Example
The manager who leads by example models the behaviours he or she wants to see in their team.  This is a typically “hands-off” approach.  The leader prioritizes achieving goals and tasks at a very high standard.  The leader expects his or her team to be self-directed and self-motivated.

When it works:

  • The team is comprised of individuals who are highly competent and motivated to achieve their best work – little direction needed
  • The team works well individually and collaboratively
  • The team, or consultants, are expert level in their knowledge and experience

When it doesn’t work:

  • Employees need hands-on guidance and assistance on a regular basis – mentoring
  • Employees are not self-directed

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The Coach
The Coach’s management style emphasizes employee development.  This leadership style will attempt to leverage and develop an employee’s strengths, while mitigating their weaknesses.  Since this management approach prioritizes professional development, it makes sense that a leader who acts as a coach, would motivate by offering a chance for employees to grow their skill sets and advance.

When it works:

  • Employees are growth focused and crave professional development
  • Employees are inexperienced and need hands-on coaching and skill growth

When it doesn’t work:

  • The leader is inexperienced
  • Subsequently, the team does not buy into the leader’s experience and knowledge
  • When an employee needs to be transitioned out, the coaching leadership style can have challenges making the tough choice to let an employee go

Key Takeaways
Each management style has its strengths and weaknesses.  While some work well in crisis situations, or with experienced employees, others are better at developing team skills and growth.  The key is to understand which style will best serve your team and organization.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

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