Which Management Style Is Right for You and Your Employees?

The USC Aiken MBA online program features a core course in management and organizational behavior that examines various management styles and how they impact employers and employees. In large part, management styles are the ways a manager relates to subordinates. When matched appropriately with the corporate culture and employees, the right management style produces higher quality work, better productivity, greater employee retention and higher profitability.

As a current or aspiring manager, your own management style will arise and evolve from a combination of factors:

  • Your natural aptitudes and personality
  • Your life experiences and early influences
  • What you learn about the practical applications of various styles
  • The industries and companies in which you would like to further your career
  • The influences of your superiors throughout your career

Here are four fundamental management styles and their implications and applications.

1. Autocratic

When you think of autocratic management, the military quickly comes to mind, and for good reason. This hierarchical, top-down approach to management is ideal in crisis situations, such as war or military missions. In these situations, it is imperative to have a clear and authoritative chain of command — and there is no time for collaboration or argumentation. Unfortunately, there are many organizations in which an autocratic management style is part of the corporate culture. Subservience to orders is expected and employees feel they have no voice. They are often punished or shamed for airing their opinions.

Under autocratic management, employees are micromanaged to the point of losing their own ideas and ability to innovate. If they are talented, they quickly feel underappreciated. If they are in need of development, they soon feel overwhelmed, because they are not accommodated. At both ends of the spectrum, employees operate as automatons, and this is clearly unsustainable. This style is often a hindrance to the culture and goals of most organizations.

2. Democratic

In a country with democratic values, you might expect this to be a prevalent management style, and it is. Managers involve and engage subordinates in making decisions because they value the education, experience, skills and insights each of their employees bring. They have constructed a diverse and complementary team of workers with collaboration in mind, and this management style fosters effective communication. Managers have ultimate decision-making authority, but workers have a high degree of influence.

A democratic management style, in contrast with the autocratic style, not only makes for easy buy-in, but in the long term, employees tend to feel more valued, secure, and satisfied. It is quite fair to say most job candidates, if asked, would prefer to be managed in this way.

3. Visionary

Walt Disney and Steve Jobs founded companies based on a visionary management approach, and the legacy of their visions is deeply embedded in each company’s respective culture. Under this style, a manager articulates a purpose and a direction, and employees buy in. Employees under this type of management enjoy autonomy and fairness, with the expectation that they will execute on the manager’s vision and strategies. Visionary managers typically do a good job of communicating and listening, and this style can be very satisfying to employees.

There is a caveat with this style, however. True visionaries are rare. A corporate culture built on visionary management needs to find leaders at every level who are highly effective and persuasive communicators that employees like and respect. In tight job markets, such managers can be hard to find, and when a less-than-inspiring manager takes on the role of a visionary, awkwardness and loss of buy-in can ensue.

4. Laissez-faire

Though job candidates might choose this managerial style over an autocratic style, it is even less effective. Laissez-faire management offers no vision and no supervision. It leaves employees to their own devices. It is the opposite of micromanagement, but with a major caveat: employees are still expected to perform against objective measures. They just receive little in the way of guidance and resources. They are simply on their own, which typically leaves them struggling to overcome challenges that an involved manager would help them to handle, individually and as a team.

As you learn more about management styles in an MBA program, you will identify the style that suits you best. It is an enjoyable process during which you’ll gain as much insight into yourself as you will into organizational management.

Learn more about the USC Aiken online MBA program.


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