Not too long ago, management was a strictly top-down role with the sole purpose of overseeing the work of employees. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. We can now observe a diverse array of management styles across organizations. While each company culture is different, there are certain styles of management that may be more effective than others.
In a previous article, Culture Amp identified the 11 essential traits of great managers based on conversations with our customers and a review of academic and practitioner research. Those traits include:
- Emotionally resilient
- Fair treatment
- Fostering innovation
- Overall manager effectiveness
- Results oriented
- Technical capability
- Vision and goal setting
Based on these factors, we picked three management styles that we believe will do the best job of surfacing these desired traits in managers. Below is an overview of three effective management styles, and the pros and cons of each one.
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Style #1: The Democratic Management Style
As the name suggests, a democratic management style is one where managers collect the input of their employees to make decisions. While the purpose is to build consensus among stakeholders, the manager is ultimately the person who makes the final call. This management style fulfills the essential traits of communicating, fair treatment, and being results oriented.
PRO: Secures team buy-in
With strictly top-down management styles, decisions are made in silos by an individual or the leadership team, which can be frustrating for employees who aren’t provided with any context. The democratic management style is more transparent because it ensures that employees have a role throughout the process, which will ultimately help the whole team get aligned with or - at the very least - understand how a decision was reached.
PRO: Provides valuable insight to the manager
This style has benefits for the manager as well. Collecting feedback gives leaders insight into employee sentiment, common pain points, and more. A democratic management style also welcomes a diversity of opinions so that everyone at the company has a voice - not to mention that having employee input takes some of the burden off the manager’s shoulders.
CON: Slows down the decision-making process
One of the downsides to the democratic management style is that it can significantly slow down any decision-making process since collecting, reviewing, and consolidating the feedback of multiple employees takes time. This can be a limiting factor for fast-paced companies.
CON: Introduces potential conflict with minority opinions
While there are benefits to making majority-based decisions, that also means there will always be a group of employees who are in the minority and don’t agree with the final outcome. These same employees may feel disgruntled or less valued because their opinions were heard but not acted on.
Style #2: The Affiliative Management Style
The affiliative management style is people-focused and all about creating harmonious relationships in the workplace - whether that’s between the manager and the employees, or amongst team members. This management style fulfills the essential traits of caring, coaching, communicating, and development.
PRO: Creates strong bonds
This management style is all about putting people first. The manager’s role is to nurture strong relationships, which will ultimately lead to smoother conflict resolution, high self-esteem among employees, and improved teamwork. An important aspect of the affiliative management style is the focus on the personal development of the employee - it’s a great opportunity for managers to mentor their teams. A great tool for managers to build this rapport with their employees is to ask meaningful questions during their one-on-one meetings.
PRO: Boosts morale
As mentioned above, the affiliative management style is great for raising employee confidence and happiness levels. It can also be useful for boosting morale, especially when companies are going through tough transitions such as layoffs, office moves, or acquisitions. It’s an effective way to let employees know they’re still cared for and that their needs are being heard during any tumultuous changes.
CON: Decreased performance
While not always the case, there tends to be less emphasis on high performance and output with the affiliative management style given the focus on relationship building. This can sometimes lead to a sense of complacency among employees, which can go unchecked out of fear that any criticism will bring down morale or taint existing relationships.
CON: Isolates top performers
There may be high performers who excel under an affiliative management style. However, it can be demotivating for these high achievers to not receive special recognition for their hard work since the emphasis is mainly relationship-oriented instead of results-oriented.
Style #3: The Laissez-Faire Management Style
The laissez-faire management style is hands-off and involves minimal interference from leadership. Instead, employees are trusted to handle most of the decision making, problem-solving, and work with very light oversight from managers. This management style fulfills the essential traits of fostering innovation, effectiveness, and technical capability.
PRO: Gives employees a high level of autonomy
This style tends to be adopted by teams who have highly skilled employees who are experts at what they do - so they’ll appreciate being given the space to create processes, communicate, and make decisions in ways that will maximize their output. Employees also want to feel like they’re trusted by their managers. Providing this freedom can lead to spectacular results, such as increased innovation, creativity, and productivity.
PRO: Effective for organizations with flat structures
More companies are adopting decentralized structures. The laissez-faire management style is a great fit for organizations heading in this direction since it also advocates a less hierarchical and rigid format for work.
CON: Introduces high risk
The success of this management style relies on having a group of self-motivated and competent individuals. This means that one bad apple can shatter the autonomy that’s granted to employees, which can be fairly risky - especially for teams that are hiring and growing rapidly.
CON: Loss of direction and clarity
Due to the lack of structured oversight, teams may easily lose their way and not move forward in their goals in a unified manner. Since many employees work in silos with the laissez-faire management style, there may also be a breakdown in cross-team communication, which can result in confusion about roles and responsibilities.
It’s important to note that most managers don’t stick to a single style throughout their whole careers - the best managers are flexible and adapt to whatever will bring out the best in their employees. If you’re curious to learn how to measure the impact of these three effective management styles, reach out to see Culture Amp’s manager effectiveness surveys in action.