How Learning Your Management Style Can Transform Your Career
Are you an energizer, harmonizer, or forecaster? Are you more democratic or autocratic?
Whatever your management style, and whatever it says about how you lead others, it’s something you should know if you want to be successful long-term.
If you have no idea what your management style is (or even how to get one), you’re probably not alone: according to West Monroe Partners, 59 percent of those recently polled said they received no management training at all on their way up.
A major part of learning how to make others better (the most important part of being a manager at any company) is understanding your style of management and learning to use it effectively—but how can you do that when you may not have even known you have a distinct style in the first place?
Let’s start by understanding the various types of management styles and then figuring out your current management style. Then we’ll take a look at how this knowledge can help you improve yourself and others around you.
What are the types of managers?
Managers oversee a team or department to accomplish specific goals, but not every manager is the same. So what are the types of managers you might see in an organization? In general, there are three classifications of managers:
- General Managers – They are responsible for the overall performance of an organization or its specific divisions. According to Harvard Business Review, this involves “shaping the work environment, setting strategy, allocating resources, developing managers, building the organization, and overseeing operations.”
- Functional Managers – They look after specific divisions within an organization, such as sales or production.
- Frontline Managers – Responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, frontline managers often oversee individual employees and are first-time managers.
What are the best and worst management styles?
Good management creates good employees. In order to encourage your team to put their best foot forward, you want to adopt and instill positive management styles in the workplace. To really understand what makes certain practices stronger than others, it’s important to note the best and the worst management styles.
Some of the best management styles include:
1.) Visionary Management
If you’re a visionary manager, you communicate a purpose and vision to your team that inspires them to execute their goals. You give them autonomy, granting them full control over how they complete their projects, which fosters employee engagement. Visionary managers are open to new suggestions from their team and provide frequent feedback on their performance.
2.) Democratic Management
As indicated by its name, majority rules in democratic management. Acknowledging that people are key in an organization’s success, these types of managers allow their team to make decisions. This is popular among employees as it makes them feel that they are a valuable asset to the company and team.
3.) Transformational Management
Also called innovators, transformational managers are rooted in change. They push their employees to reach outside of their comfort zone by constantly challenging them to learn and grow. Especially if you work in an industry that is constantly changing, transformational management is very beneficial.
4.) Coaching Management
Coaching management focuses on long-term growth. This kind of management uses career opportunities such as promotions and new projects to motivate employees to continually learn and advance. Coaching managers are open to short-term failures, understanding that learning and improving from these mistakes bring long-term benefits.
Now that you understand four of the most effective management styles, what are some poor management styles to avoid?
1.) Autocratic Management
Autocratic management is micromanagement. Adhering to a top-down approach, leadership holds all of the power in this dynamic. If employees at the bottom fail to follow orders, they may face threats and humiliation. Morale often plummets under autocratic management, which leads to low-quality work and a high turnover rate.
2.) Servant Management
Servant managers focus heavily on building harmonious relationships with their employees to keep them happy—at all costs. As a result, they may avoid confronting or providing feedback to their employees, even when problems arise. While this might keep employees happy in the short term, after a while it leads to poor performance and a lack of growth.
3.) Laissez-Faire Management
In laissez-faire management, managers are completely hands-off. Some autonomy is good, of course, but employees also need guidance and support from their managers. If a manager neglects this part of their job, their team won’t have what they need in order to achieve their goals and succeed.
4.) Transactional Management
Transactional management focuses solely on extrinsic motivation, such as bonuses, to inspire team members to work hard and reach their goals. Though extrinsic motivators aren’t inherently bad, over time they may not work as well in keeping employees engaged. In fact, transactional management may even reduce an employee’s intrinsic motivation to succeed.
Want to know which management behaviors to avoid? Download the Bad Boss Survey now.
What’s my management style?
So how do you determine your management style? There are countless tests online (like this one) that will give you an idea of how you relate to your reports—and they all use different terms and descriptions. Maybe you’re a Diplomat, or maybe you’re a Planner, or something else entirely that means the same thing as those two.
Don’t overthink this part: Find a site you trust and figure out which of your defining characteristics (overbearing or relaxed? Collaborative or individual?) make it into your everyday professional life. The way you relate to coworkers and direct reports may be different from how you relate to friends and family.
Once you have a sense of your style and/or auxiliary styles (we are rarely the same type of manager day-in and day-out), here’s what this information can do for you:
1) Knowing your style is part of your pitch
When you interview for a management position, having a firm grasp of how you relate, or can relate, to your future employees is a major part of showing your future employer you know what you’re doing.
How to Respond in an Interview
When an interviewer asks you what your management style is, share a brief success story about a time you managed a person or team, keeping in mind how this relates to your future employer’s culture and values.
For example, if your future company carries a democratic approach to management, you can bring up a time when you were responsible for a project with a tight deadline and needed more hands-on deck. You can describe how you led a meeting with your team where you mapped out all the tasks in the project and trusted your team to make decisions on who would be responsible for each assignment. This will illustrate a democratic management style and your willingness to be flexible when it comes to team environments.
Being able to verbalize and explain what you think a good manager is, how you add your unique spin to it, and examples of how that has translated into success for you in the past will be a major asset in any interview.
2) You’ll know how to adapt
If you discussed your management style in your interview before coming aboard a company, they likely consider you a good fit for the business they’re trying to grow.
There are times, however, when you’ll have to adjust how you relate to your reports on the fly. Some teams need more direct oversight, while others are accustomed to working best when they’re left to their own devices.
Understanding how you operate can help you recognize how to tweak your style to retrofit an already productive team or re-engage an underperforming employee. This is integral to being a successful manager. Good managers can blend a variety of styles depending on the situation, project, time of year, employee needs, and other factors.
3) You can address your weaknesses
Nobody is perfect (we hope this doesn’t come as a shock). Every manager and leader has blind spots or factors they overlook in favor of their strengths.
For example, you could be an “Energizer,” meaning you’re amiable, courageous, determined, and able to build the enthusiasm of those around you. That all sounds great.
But you may also have issues encouraging dissent, being patient, or recognizing differences in others. See how an excited, charismatic leader can also be seen as a steamroller?
Don’t turn people off with your weaknesses. Instead, be aware of them and actively work to improve.
4) You’ll learn how to engage your employees
Engagement is one of the biggest buzzwords in the world of work today, and for good reason: Disengaged employees are not only more likely to leave, but they can cost their company (and the economy overall) dearly.
Your management style has a direct impact on how engaged your employees are. If they feel comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns, suggestions, or ideas, they’ll be more likely to feel engaged and more likely to stick around. If they are worried about being overruled, mocked, dismissed, or disregarded, they’ll slowly but surely shut down.
Not only is that a loss for them and for the company, but it will reflect poorly on you and prevent you from achieving your own goals.
5) You won’t be reliant on fads
If you know your management style and what tools and practices have worked for you in the past, you won’t feel compelled to keep up with every management trend you hear about on your favorite podcast or read about online. Instead, you can use what has worked for you in the past and incorporate new strategies into employee handbooks and guidelines as you discover truly valuable insights (rather than fleeting buzzwords). Your management style should stand the test of time, coming naturally to you.
What are the seven leadership styles?
While bosses have people who work for them, leaders have people who follow them. It’s essential for an organization to have strong leaders (not just bosses) to oversee and guide people towards the right values and missions. Whether you’re a manager or not, you can have an effect on your organization by being a good leader. At BambooHR, we encourage everyone to embrace this idea with one of our core values, Lead From Where You Are.
But just as in management, some leadership styles are more effective than others. Here are the seven leadership styles that most people fall under.
1.) Autocratic Leadership
In autocratic leadership, the leader is the ultimate decision-maker. They make all the decisions without seeking any feedback from their team members.
2.) Democratic Leadership
Also known as participative leadership, democratic leaders involve their team members in decision-making. It works well for an organization where employees are skilled and have the experience to help make the most sound and realistic decisions.
3.) Coaching Leadership
Similar to a coach or teacher, coaching leaders supervise their team members to boost employee morale and performance.
4.) Strategic Leadership
A strategic leader carries the ability to influence team members to create and execute strategies that will contribute to the company’s long-term success. Not only does this help employees act as strategic contributors, but it has the added bonus of developing more leaders.
5.) Transformational Leadership
Transformational leaders inspire their teams by setting high goals with strict deadlines. They share a vision that encourages a high level of engagement and productivity, which motivates employees to thrive.
6.) Laissez-faire Leadership
Laissez-faire leaders are hands-off when leading their team. All the daily tasks and decision-making process rests in the hands of employees. This style works well in a workplace where employees are skilled in their role and enjoy independence.
7.) Charismatic Leadership
A charismatic leader easily attracts people by their charm and charisma. They are confident and passionate. The success or failure of the team relies heavily on the leader.
By discovering your own personal management style, you can move forward with greater confidence, flexibility, and self-awareness―all of which will help you become a more effective manager.
Great managers use great performance management. Check out the Definitive Guide to Performance Management now.
Eric Goldschein is a freelance journalist and content creator who covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, emerging technologies, culture, and travel. He has written for Deloitte, Business Insider, HuffPo, and more.