A manager who fails to motivate, or inspire staff can lead to a workforce that is unproductive, miserable and unlikely to stick around. The success of any company is intertwined with the effectiveness of its managers and so a great deal of research has been conducted into different management styles. With this in mind, Where We Work thought it would be useful to investigate management styles, in line with what we have observed throughout our careers investigating the workplace, and the pros and cons of each style with relation to the modern workplace.
There is a plethora of information on this subject out there – some argue that there are only a small handful of management types that all people fit into, whilst others are adamant that there are as many as twelve styles. Since this is such a wide and varied topic, we’re going to be concerning ourselves with just three: autocratic, participative and laissez-faire managers.
Imagine what management is to you and it’s quite likely that you’ll picture someone sat in an office, behind a large desk, dishing out orders for staff to follow. The autocratic management style is perhaps the most stereotypical one. An autocratic manager acts like a dictator, making decisions without the consultation of others. They generally think that their way of doing things is the best and expect to have orders followed without question or interpretation. This way of management was effective in factories, but is commonly seen to be ineffective in relation to the modern office. There are some very clear flaws with this style of management; people will lose motivation very quickly in a working environment where they feel their thoughts and opinions are not valued. Because of this, attrition is likely to be very high and productivity low.
Yet this is not to say that autocratic managers are not able to engage with staff at all. Autocrats are often responsible for improved communication and logistics – which is very useful in an agile environment, particularly if you have employees working from home or off-site. Generally, autocratic managers are effective in dealing with new or inexperienced staff, staff who lack qualifications or unmotivated or non-committed workers.i Autocratic managers are great for getting a work force up-to-scratch in this sense.
In stark contrast to the authoritarian nature of the autocratic manager is the participative one. This management style revolves around getting plentiful feedback from staff before making any decisions. Whilst this does mean that the decision making process can be a lengthy one, it does often result in a consensus on major decisions.ii Participative managers often make their employees feel their thoughts and opinions are valued and that they are an important cog in the workings of the company. This likely corresponds to an increase in job satisfaction and motivation, which means higher productivity (as we know, happy workers are productive workers).ii Having all staff involved in the decision making process also means that employees should be less likely to slack off; even if they do not feel warmly towards their boss, the mutual respect and reliance between will likely mean that staff work hard for fear of letting their peers down. Peer pressure is a very powerful motivator and considering its influence in the workplace is useful.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses for a participative manager. We have already mentioned how this type of management can mean tasks take a long time to be completed, but participative managers must also rely heavily on the competency of their team. As such, inexperienced or untrained teams may not be able to get the job done in the correct time frame or to the right standard.
The final management style for us to consider is the laissez-faire manager. Managers who prefer this style give their team freedom and autonomy to complete tasks how they think is best. It is very much a hands-off management approach; the manager makes their presence felt only when questions need to be answered or guidance given. The laissez-faire approach is a way for management to develop individual members of staff into leaders, which results in stronger teams of people in the long run. Through the autonomy they allow them, these managers show their staff that they trust their ability and work ethic, which fills their staff with confidence in their abilities.
This is quite an extreme management style, but it does lend itself exceptionally well to agile ways of working. With a laissez-faire manager, you can wave goodbye to the traditional ‘nine-to-five’, ‘if you’re not at your desk you’re not working’ management style that is commonplace is so many workplaces. With this style of management, employees have the freedom to complete tasks in the way and place they think is best, without fear of being reprimanded and having their manager peering over their shoulder to check up on them.
However, as no one is perfect, this management style also comes with its drawbacks. Laissez-faire managers rely very heavily on delegation and the only way to make this work is to hire skilled and conscientious workers. Staff need to be motivated enough to work without direct supervision.
Top Tips for Managers
It is clear that these three management styles are chalk and cheese to each other; they all have their perks and their drawbacks. It is more than likely that you, or your manager, do not fit neatly into one of these three distinct styles, but saying this you can probably imagine which style is most similar to your way of working. With this in mind, we have some concise, top tips for each management style:
For times when an immediate decision needs to be made, autocratic leadership can serve a purpose, but this management style will simply cause headaches for all involved if implemented for long periods of time. This style of leadership is more suited for a prison setting, or in the military, and not so much for business management. That being said, it can be quite effective in middle-management for inexperienced teams.If participative management is your management style of choice, it is crucial that you foster a culture of openness and honesty and that you aren’t afraid to make big decisions when they are called for, else you might find yourself at a standstill.Laissez-faire managers have the right attitude for agile working to flourish. Working in the right place for the task at hand is at the backbone of agile working programmes and laissez-faire management supports this. Unfortunately, hiring skilled people who are able to work without supervision often means that you are looking to hire the crème de la crème of the workforce: they will be expensive to hire. This means that a laissez-faire manager may miss out on hiring a fantastic employee, who just needed a few months of time invested in them to make them a fit with the organisation. Keep your eyes peeled for talent and be prepared to give more hands-on support to the staff that need it.
This blog only scratches the surface into the complex subject of management styles and personality types. So, watch this space for our next edition…