Best management styles and how to use them

3 min read  |   6 October, 2021   By Melissa Jones


Before you ran a business you probably encountered lots of different managers in the course of your career, some good some not so good. And you probably picked up a few of their skills along the way.

With management styles, there is no one-size-fits-all and different personalities will manage people in different ways. But it is important to adopt a style that suits you and gets the best out of your staff, because how you manage them can make or break your business.

Why your management style as a business leader is important

As a business leader you want to get the best out of your staff and the greatest leaders know how to motivate and encourage their staff to get them to perform tasks willingly, efficiently and effectively. A great management style will achieve what you want, empowering your workers and creating higher job satisfaction.

Your style may be commanding or it might be collaborative. You might be more of a visionary or you could use a coaching style. Some people stick to the same general style whoever they are dealing with, others will adapt their style depending on the person in question .

As much as ability, skills and innate intelligence will have an impact on how well a worker does a job, how high their self-esteem is can have an even bigger one – you can have the best team in the world but if your management style is poor it will impact performance.


The six management styles according to Hay-McBer

Hay-McBer splits management styles into six different categories:

1. Directive

If you use the directive style you’re the sort of person who expects compliance from their employees. You tend to want employees to do things the way you want them to and get them to comply by making threats and using discipline.

This can work to your advantage in highly pressured environments when you need to get things done in a certain way and any move away from that could be a risk. However, it can also demotivate employees who can feel you’re watching their every move.

2. Authoritative

Bosses and managers who use an authoritative style prefer to give their employees more of an overall vision rather than specific instructions. If you adopt this style you tend to motivate through persuasion and feedback. It’s great when you’re seen as a credible leader and when clear directions are needed but not so good with junior employees who need more specific direction on what they should be doing.

3. Affiliative

An affiliative boss tries to be everyone’s friend. They promote harmony and aim to create a positive relationship between senior and junior staff. If this is your style you probably don’t enjoy conflict and instead try to motivate by keeping everyone happy.

This works if employees are performing routine tasks and can help when conflict arises in the workplace. However, it’s less effective when dealing with a crisis when firm leadership may be required or when staff are not competent in their job.

4. Participative

If you follow a participative style you tend to lead by consensus rather than directing employees. You encourage input from all your employees, valuing all opinions and you reward team effort.

As with the affiliative style, it works well when things are on an even keel, your staff are experienced and know their jobs and there is no crisis to trip you up. It works less well when staff are not coordinated or when a problem arises and clear direction is required.

5. Pacesetting

As a pacesetter you have extremely high standards and expect staff to adhere to them, to follow your example. It’s great when people are already competent, motivated and know what they’re doing. It is less effective when employees need developing and can lead to some feeling like they are inadequate.

6. Coaching

If you employ the coaching style you tend to focus on the long-term professional development of your employees. This is great because you can help your staff improve their strengths and ultimately boost their performance.

It’s less useful when you lack the expertise to coach them. You might also persist in keeping someone on when really their skills gap is too great and you should let them go.

Putting management styles into practice

You may identify with one particular management style more than others but you don’t have to stick to just one management style. Ask yourself which one best suits your leadership style but also consider what style best suits your staff members. Some will function better under a directive style, others will thrive with a coaching approach.

You need to be flexible however, and adapt your style to suit the employees and situation you are dealing with. Smart leaders realise that one size does not fit all and they work within those different styles to get the best out of their staff.



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Author: Melissa Jones

Mel is the Content Manager at breatheHR. She regularly contributes insights into the current small business climate with a focus on how HR is crucial to the success and growth of UK startups.

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