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Management Styles for Effective Leadership

Discover the different management styles, tips for managing a team, and how Motion can help.

Kimberly Keys
Writer at Motion
Feb 12, 2024
Table of contents

Finding a balance when managing projects or work can be tricky.

You don't want to micromanage your employees. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on their progress to make sure all the necessary tasks are being done.

While you want your employees to make decisions themselves and grow in their careers, you still need to provide guidance.

With all this considered, what's your approach to management? Do you have a leadership style?

In this article, we'll look at several effective management styles, provide some tips for top-notch management, and more.

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What is a management style?

A management style is the way a manager works to achieve company goals and objectives, which includes planning projects, assigning tasks, making decisions, and interacting with direct reports and stakeholders.

Different management styles take varying approaches to making decisions and overseeing teams. Some are more collaborative approaches. Others take more of a hands-off approach.

A style that works for your team will help each member work more effectively and improve employee retention. Do it wrong, though, and it can do more harm to team morale and productivity, leading to lower quality work and high employee turnover.

5 management styles you should know

Let’s take a look at five different types of management styles you can use to keep your team running smoothly.

1. Democratic management style

In the democratic type of management style, managers seek their team's input in decision-making. They encourage team members to be creative and bring ideas forward.

Nelson Mandela, who famously dismantled the oppressive government of South Africa, would include a wide range of people and opinions in decision-making.

Democratic managers welcome input from team members, especially if they are experienced employees.

Let's say a QA team whose testing is currently done entirely manually is looking for an automated testing tool. Under the democratic management style, the manager would encourage the team to try different tools and vote on which one they want to use.

The feedback the testers provide could highlight possible issues with a tool before it is implemented by the team (which can help prevent time-consuming and costly mistakes).

When a team has a say in decisions that impact them, they feel valued. They trust they can bring new ideas to their manager (and have a say in the company's vision). As a result, a wide range of input is brought forward, and problems are solved collaboratively. This, in turn, increases engagement and employee morale. Win-win.

The downside of the democratic style of management is that leaders can become too consultative instead of decisive. Sometimes, decisions need to be made quickly without waiting for input from the entire team. Additionally, if a democratic leader repeatedly goes against the input offered by most of the team, frustration can result.

Team members voting on a decision in a meeting

‎Another downside of the democratic approach to management is that team members may voice their opinions on areas in which they don't have expertise. This can lead to suboptimal decisions.

2. Coaching management style

In the coaching style, leaders identify the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and offer guidance to help them improve. Much like sports team coaches.

If you’re not from Silicon Valley, you might not know Bill Campbell, but he has mentored some of the biggest names in tech, including Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. He had a knack for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people he worked with and helping them improve their leadership and decision-making skills.

Coaching managers in an organization motivate employees with professional development and promotion opportunities. As a result, a strong relationship develops between them.

While all team members can benefit from guidance and training opportunities, coaching management is a great style to use with employees early on in their careers.

Let's use the same scenario of a QA team trying to find an automated testing tool. A coaching manager would provide feedback on where the team is doing well when evaluating the tool and ways they could improve. The manager would also suggest things the team could be looking for in a tool and provide training opportunities.

One of the primary benefits of the coaching management style is that team members regularly receive actionable feedback instead of waiting for their annual review.

A manager and employee exchanging a high five

‎The downsides of the coaching management style are that it's a long game, doesn't always work well in an organization that needs rapid results, and is pretty hands-on (read: time-consuming). Also, some employees might find it a somewhat paternalistic management style.

3. Laissez-faire management style

In the laissez-faire management style, the manager stays hands-off. Employees are empowered to work autonomously. While they can still ask for guidance, they're generally on their own.

Laissez-faire managers trust their team to get the work done.

Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame is known for his investment and finance acumen, not so much for managing the many companies in his portfolio. He leaves that to the experts in their given fields.

In our testing tool example, the QA team would evaluate the tools with minimal input from the manager. They'd pick which tools they wanted to try and what features the tool should offer. They'd then need to coordinate among themselves on each team member's daily tasks.

In this management style, teams use their expertise to hone their leadership and decision-making skills. As such, it can be a particularly beneficial style for experienced, senior-level employees. Plus, it's been proven repeatedly that employees value autonomy (a lot).

A downside to this style of management is a lack of an overall vision (or North Star). Individual employees might even feel neglected or that they are being pulled in too many directions with no guidance.

The laissez-faire management style won't work well for new team members who are early in their careers and, therefore, need guidance.

4. Visionary management style

In the visionary approach, the manager communicates a vision to the team and then lets the team fly. The manager has a clear idea of what the future should look like but is also open to changes to the vision if they make sense.

Steve Jobs is famous for his vision. In fact, you might be holding the fruit of his vision in your hand right now - an iPhone. That evolved from his vision of a device that would combine a phone, an iPod, and an internet communication tool all in one.

Unlike Mr. Jobs, though, many visionary managers tend to set the stage, but then let the team do their work (while, maybe, occasionally checking in.)

A QA manager looking for an automated testing tool would communicate a vision for the tool to the team, including what the tool should do and its features. The employees would then have the freedom to evaluate multiple tools. The team could also suggest changes to the vision as they try out those tools.

The manager suggests that the automated testing tool should have reporting features for issues found as the scripts run. A team member might, however, suggest a tool that goes a step further by proactively sending an email as soon as a script fails.

A benefit to this management style is that the team members execute the vision while the leader keeps their eye on long-term goals.

5. Autocratic management style

In the autocratic style of management, the manager makes decisions without soliciting input.

Autocratic managers tend to micromanage tasks, always checking in to make sure things are going according to (their) plan.

That pretty much sums up Steve Jobs. During the iPhone development process, Jobs famously made decisions on nearly every aspect of the iPhone. Even the packaging of the phone.

Military and law enforcement organizations often use this management style since very strict procedures need to be followed.

Our example QA team wouldn't have any input on the tool they'd use if the management style were autocratic. The manager would pick the tool.

The autocratic management style can be useful when quick decisions need to be made. On the flip side, the manager would miss out on valuable feedback from the team on what features they need to accomplish their job. Also, team members might feel undervalued and stifled. Not ideal for employee morale and company culture.

3 tips to help you manage your team (no matter your management style)

No matter the style of management you run with, here’s what you need to do to be a successful business owner or project manager:

1. Communicate

An effective manager communicates a lot with their employees.

Communication includes being clear on expectations. When expectations are foggy, team members might do their work differently from what their manager expects, leading to extra work.

Effective managers also provide constructive feedback on what an employee is doing well (and where they can improve).

But feedback goes beyond the good and needs improvement — a good manager provides guidance on how to improve.

Good managers also recognize that communication is a two-way street. This means active listening, not just giving feedback.

2. Prioritize employee development

Employees need opportunities to develop, and managers should help them do so.

This starts by setting crystal-clear expectations on roles, including defining what success looks like. You can do this effectively with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that align with organizational objectives.

It’s also good practice to foster a culture of learning. One way to do so (that might be interesting to employees) is by offering opportunities to cross-train in different roles and functions within the organization.

3. Use project management software

Managers have a lot to keep track of between their tasks, meetings, paperwork, and other responsibilities. That’s where project management software can come to the rescue with functionality like task management.

‎The manager and team members should be able to see their tasks and access all documentation relevant to the projects they are working on.

central repository to manage tasks and store documents keeps everything in one place. There’s no searching through emails for attachments or a risk of an employee using an older document rather than the most recent revision.

This helps to keep everyone on the team on the same page.

Use Motion to help you manage your teams

No matter which management style you choose, it’s crucial to collaborate with your team.

Use Motion’s Project Manager to view tasks and their statuses. Motion offers both a board View and a list View.

‎You can also use Motion’s Meeting Assistant to schedule meetings with your team to discuss your vision and offer guidance. The Meeting Assistant also shows your team when you are available to meet with them about any concerns they might have.

If you aren't already using Motion, start a free trial today.

Kimberly Keys
For the last 12 years, Kimberly has been honing her craft across QA, programming, project management, and managerial leadership within IT. These days, she channels her expertise into writing at the intersection of tech, project management, and business.
Written by Kimberly Keys