Management styles: What you need to know

When it comes to management, some of us choose style over substance…

If you’ve been working for the same company for a while, it can be all too easy to slip into autopilot when it comes to communication with your boss. But knowing how to work with them effectively could be key to your progression – and a lot of it comes down to understanding their style.

To help you sort your autocratic leaders from your Laissez-Faire, here are five of the most common management styles you might find in your office (and how to deal with them):



Who they are: Managers who make decisions on their own, with very little input from other members of the team. Autocratic managers don’t ask your opinion; they tell you it. If they were a country, they’d probably be nearer to North Korea than Nepal.

Advantages: Good for people who want to work with clear direction, and in situations where a decision needs to be made quickly. Extremely effective when implemented by a natural leader.

Disadvantages: Will depend on who’s in charge. Can be demoralising, discourage open communication and stifle creativity. Modern workers tend not to react well to autocratic leaders.

How to handle it: Never challenge an autocratic manager directly, and avoid springing any surprises. If you’ve got an issue, feed information to them bit-by-bit, then allow them to make the necessary changes themselves. That doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to everything – it just means thinking of a more creative way to say no (usually by emphasising what’s in it for them if they take your advice).



Who they are: Reverse of autocratic leaders; these bosses actually want to know your thoughts. Everyone has the opportunity to contribute ideas, and any decisions are agreed upon by the majority. They’re like the cool hippy Dad of management.

Advantages: Encourages creativity, communication and collaboration. Gives a sense of autonomy to employees, and often leads to greater job satisfaction.

Disadvantages: Can take a long time for the team to make decisions, and sometimes leads to uncertainty. As there is no clear leader, can end up with too many opinions i.e. ‘too many stakeholders spoil the broth’ (or something along these lines which makes more sense).

How to handle it: This style hinges on employees being as open as possible. Tell your democratic manager your thoughts when they ask; they’re not just being polite; they really want to know. Even if your ideas aren’t fully formed, someone else in the team might be able to build on them – so never be afraid to start speaking up.



Who they are: Huh? That’s fine…like, whatever. Laissez-Faire literally translates as ‘let them do’ and, essentially, that’s what these managers do. Practically the definition of hands-off, preferring to wait and see what happens than make any actual decisions. Usually disengaged to a fault.

Advantages: Effective when working with especially skilled individuals, who might work better under their own direction. Great for when the staff have certain expertise that their manager doesn’t. Also leads to a sense of autonomy.

Disadvantages: Projects can lose their sense of direction. And doesn’t work well for staff who may require more guidance, or need help to complete tasks and meet deadlines.

How to handle it: Enjoy the responsibility and sense of trust placed in you, and be confident in your own abilities. If you struggle, lean on other members of the team to lend support – not your boss. Essentially, Laissez-Faire managers just want you to get on with the job. Do that.



Who they are: Like the annoying game show hosts of management. Sure, they’ll offer you a treat for doing your job. But get the answer wrong, and your punishment will inevitably follow. Like a stressed out parent with an unpredictable child, they make it clear they’ve got a reward at the ready. But you’ll only get it if you behave…

Advantages: Can be a powerful motivator. Especially if employees are goal-orientated. Clear and easy to follow, and means staff are always aware of the benefits of doing a good job.

Disadvantages: Goals can be set too high or may be unrealistic, leading to greater pressure, demotivation and a bad working environment. Can also be detrimental to the team dynamic, as everyone is looking out for their own interests.

How to handle it: Transactional managers need to feel that you appreciate their sentiments. Do your work, receive your reward and say thank you. It’s (almost) that simple. And if goals are set too high, try and sit down with your manager to talk through why you think that may be the case.



Who they are: The most inspiring type of manager, transformational managers identify the need for change. They work on a variety of different levels at one time, tricking people into believing they’re having a good time instead of working and pulling incentives and new opportunities out of hats like rabbits (yes, essentially, they’re magicians).

Advantages: Always provide positive reinforcement and encourage personal growth. Work especially well in companies with low morale amongst employees, and can help create the vision that inspires change.

Disadvantages: Can sometimes be blinded by passion and instinct, rather than having their ideas rooted in reality. May also over-reward people based on charisma, rather than hard work.

How to handle it: Transformational managers want you to succeed. You won’t go wrong with these guys if you listen to their advice, input your ideas and work with them towards a shared vision (when you get the chance).


How to deal with different management styles

Rightly or wrongly, a huge amount of our time at work is spent trying to please our boss.

Understanding different management styles and how they affect your day-to-day tasks is vital if you want to get on in your current employment and feel that those hours in the office are well spent.

Of course, there will always be the exceptions to the rule; the bosses who don’t quite fit the mould. Notice which styles they most frequently use and adjust accordingly.

If you’re aware of the management style which your boss favours, then you’ll understand the most effective way to work with them, not to mention make yourself a candidate for advancement within the company.

And if you can’t deal with it? Be honest, and talk to your boss directly about your concerns.

Because no one deserves to deal with a horrible boss on a daily basis…


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