10 Management Styles, Ranked from Best to Worst

The way we work hasn't just evolved in recent years—relationships between employees and leaders have, too. In fact, your management style has four times as much influence on employee engagement than whether your team works remotely or onsite.

Bosses have people who work for them, but leaders have people who follow them—and your approach to people management speaks volumes about the type of leader you are. While you may naturally lean toward one management style over another, refining your methods can help you bring out the best in your team.

Otherwise, you risk missing the mark instead of making a positive impact that garners employee retention. Poor leadership could be the reason they're looking for something new.

BambooHR makes it easy for you to dial into employee performance, gather feedback, and make meaningful changes. Here, we'll provide a rundown of the best (and worst) management styles and some advice on refining your leadership skills.

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What Is the Best Leadership Style?

Research shows 82% of employees want their organizations to see them as people, not just workers. So, we recommend using a visionary leadership style or transformational leadership style in most situations (more on these later).

Managers who take these approaches help employees feel engaged, valued, and challenged in all the right ways without losing sight of the company's short- and long-term goals. Prioritizing support and professional development can help their business remain agile and competitive in the marketplace, and offering more autonomy gives people the flexibility to do their best work without feeling the pressures of micromanagement.

From a supervisor's perspective, these styles leave you free to do your job well. You can avoid inefficient or tedious processes that bog down your workload and enjoy more time to focus on the tasks that matter most.

Having said that, your management style can change depending on the situation or evolution of your company. Achieving the right balance can depend on your industry, business, team, and other factors. The key is to remain as consistent as possible, so your employees know what to expect from their leadership team every time they clock in.

What Do Effective Managers Have in Common?

It's pretty clear when you have a good manager on board. They're the one everyone turns to for advice, they lead with confidence, and they always seem to know how the puzzle pieces fit into the bigger picture. And while they may seem superhuman, leading doesn't come naturally to everyone. Your favorite manager has likely learned some key skills throughout their career to help them get where they are today.

Here are six traits effective managers have in common:

10 Types of Management Styles, Ranked from Best to Worst

Successful leaders usually also have a defined management style. This is the approach a manager takes to run their team, complete projects, and support the business as a whole. Not every style works for every company or suits every manager, but it's a good idea to learn about different types before taking the reins.

To help you get started, we've ranked the top 10 people management styles, from the ones that work best in the average workplace to the ones that increase the risk of inefficiency or employee turnover:

1. Visionary Management Style

Visionary managers lead with a purpose that inspires their team to succeed. After clearly communicating their goals and supporting reasons to work toward them, these managers let the company's vision guide their workforce. Employees typically work autonomously within their teams, staying motivated without much direction.

Visionary leadership style example: A manager at a software company may use this style to inspire their employees to think outside the box and turn their vision into reality.

2. Transformational Management Style

Transformational managers are innovators rooted in positive change, helping individuals and teams realize their full potential in the workplace. These leaders guide their employees outside their comfort zone and constantly challenge them to learn and grow professionally.

Transformational leadership style example: A manager in a growing business helps their employees find innovative ways to adapt their services, so they can cater to current and new customers alike.

3. Coaching Management Style

Coaching managers focus on long-term growth, treating mistakes as learning opportunities that can yield benefits down the road. This management style uses career opportunities, such as promotions and new projects, as tools to motivate employees to embrace professional development.

Coaching leadership style example: A manager tasked with promoting internally helps other employees expand their skill sets to create flexible career paths within their organization.

4. Democratic Management Style

The democratic management style is ruled by the people—or, in this case, employees. Democratic managers give their teams an active role in all decision-making processes, empowering employees to collaborate on projects and exchange ideas freely.

Democratic leadership style example: A democratic project manager consults their team in the early stages of a marketing campaign to ensure each person has a say in the process and contributes to the outcome equally.

5. Persuasive Management Style

Persuasive managers hold all the decision-making power—just like autocratic leaders (detailed below)—but work hard to get employee buy-in. These managers paint an honest picture of the desired outcome and a roadmap of how they'll get there, nurturing a culture of transparent communication and trust in the decisions that come from the top.

Persuasive leadership style example: Managers often lean into this style while onboarding new hires or leading untrained teams.

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6. Servant Management Style

A servant manager is people-driven, always putting their team's needs first. This manager prioritizes employee happiness, bonding, and encouragement over projects, tasks, and results to ensure everyone feels supported. The hope is that everyone will deliver their best work in return.

Servant leadership style example: This manager leading a call center may lend a helping hand during peak call times and frequently check in with employees to ensure they don't feel burned out.

7. Transactional Management Style

Transactional managers rely on extrinsic motivation and a competitive nature to inspire their team to work hard and reach their goals. Whether it's bonuses, commissions, or stock options, these leaders promise rewards to ensure their employees continually deliver concrete results.

Transactional leadership style example: These leaders are often found in sales departments where employees earn extra for hitting defined milestones.

8. Laissez-Faire Management Style

Laissez-faire managers are hands-off leaders who monitor their teams but don't offer much feedback or direction unless asked. They trust their employees to work independently, resting all the decision-making processes in their capable hands.

Laissez-faire leadership style example: A hands-off management approach often works well when innovation is key, like in creative teams or start-ups.

9. Bureaucratic Management Style

A bureaucratic manager always goes by the book and follows protocol. They rely heavily on established company policies, procedures, and best practices to run their teams, ensuring everything goes according to plan and no one veers off the approved path.

Bureaucratic leadership style example: This approach is common in government agencies where mistakes or bias can fuel public scrutiny and following a standard operating procedure is necessary.

10. Autocratic Management Style

Autocratic managers are micromanagers who bring the traditional pyramid hierarchy to life. All the decision-making power rests on the shoulders of a single individual. This top-down approach puts them in complete control and employees must fall in line.

Autocratic leadership style example: Autocratic leadership works well under tight deadlines and in crises when there's little room for error. A restaurant kitchen is a good example of where this management style works.

What’s My Management Style?

So, how do you determine your management style? As a first-time manager, you may not have a defined approach yet, and that's OK. It may take a little time to figure out what works best for you and your team. To choose the right management style, start by asking yourself these questions:

Next, look to some of the most famous leaders, past and present, to see how they've achieved success. Reading articles and books on best management practices can give you a more complete picture of what it truly means to be a leader in different workplace settings.

Once you've discovered 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 leader.

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