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Management Styles for Effective Leadership

As a business owner or manager, you're probably aware that there are a wide range of management styles that you can adopt. However, when it comes to being an effective leader, it's important to understand these styles, and know which best suits you, your employees, and you organization as a whole.

Whether you’re a first-time leader or seasoned pro, understanding the value of different management styles is absolutely essential. Not only are they important for the effectiveness of your leadership, but the success you achieve too.  

The management style that you choose will often depend on specific goals and the organization you work for. The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all to suit every situation. This is why you need to adopt the style that best fits the purpose. But with each management style offering different benefits and drawbacks, this can be a challenging task. Overcoming this challenge is the core of effective leadership.  

Studies show that managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement!

Gallup Research

They say that people quit bosses, not jobs. Gallup’s comprehensive study the ‘State of the American Manager’ found that a staggering 50% of Americans have left their job to “get away from their managers at some point in their career”. Also, in 2021 they reported that 48% were actively searching or watching for job opportunities. Coincidence? We think not. This unusually high ‘quit rate’ is leaving managers scrambling to fill crucial roles amidst a disengaged workforce. And this may mean their leadership styles are far from effective. 

With employee engagement and employee retention seemingly low, an effective leader could be just the remedy. Let’s take a look at what makes an effective leader. 

The traits of an effective leader 

As well as providing direction, effective leadership is exhibited through a range of different traits. We’ve listed some: 

  • Lead by example 
  • Set clear goals 
  • Communicate effectively 
  • Interpersonal 
  • Risk-taking 
  • Recognize success 

The list goes on. When an effective leader is in place, they will not only inspire and motivate their team, but will also gain high levels of loyalty. But there’s one other important factor to consider. What if an effective leader chooses a management style that ends up being ineffective? 

Introducing adaptability and flexibility. If a leader is to be deemed ‘effective’, they cannot limit themselves to one management style. Being able to switch between styles as the situation demands is one of the most important traits a leader can have. And as risk-takers, effective leaders will be willing to take that chance. 

Now that we’ve discussed the traits of an effective leader, let’s look into 3 different management styles that they can adopt for effective leadership.  

Participative Management Style (Democratic) 

Widely recognized for its inclusivity, the participative management style is the most favored of them all. Where some management styles perform best in a narrow range of settings, this one can thrive just about anywhere.  

Being an effective leader isn’t all about shouting from the rooftops. It’s often about satisfying your workforce. Driven by inclusivity, the participative management style empowers employees to have an influence on the decision-making process. And this has endless benefits. Employee autonomy can encourage creativity, resulting in a far more committed and results-driven team. But more importantly, it increases employee engagement and job satisfaction. Gallup reported that 85% of employees are still not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. An effective leader who adopts the participative management style often does so to boost morale. Consequentially, Gallup’s studies also found that managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement. These results put great emphasis on the management style and the effects it has on a team. If executed well, the participative management style will ensure a happy and healthy team.  

Participative management styles

It’s not all plain sailing!

Just as easy as it is to succeed, it can be to fail. Using the participative management style for effective leadership can come at a cost. Cultivating an understanding of the traits required is essential for effective leadership. Yet, many leaders remain blind to the risks. By giving empowerment to your workforce, you’re trusting their knowledge and ability to make the right decisions at the right time. One thing is for certain. A participative management style doesn’t welcome unskilled workers. And why should it? Not only can they cause conflict, but a slower decision-making process too. The expert opinion of a specialist on your team could have their quality insight diminished. And for what? A decision-making stalemate with a less-educated counterpart. If you’re noticing these issues developing, then you may need to strategize a more suitable management style.  

Employees are the beating heart of an organization. And that means their skillsets are too. Ultimately they’re going to define you as a leader. So if you trust your workforce and believe they have the x-factor to run the show. Give them the inclusivity they deserve and watch them flourish. 

Coercive Management Style (Autocratic) 

Let’s get this one out of the way, and quickly! 

High-energy and self-driven to achieve results. That’s the best way to describe them. The coercive management style is the hallmark of tradition. Quite the opposite to participative, a leader imposes their own expectations and has the power to define an organization’s outcomes. It will be most effective in an environment that requires control and little margin for error. Think of organizations that deal in the military or politics. Despite the positive effect it can have, it’s notably the most unpopular management style among workforces. And we can see why. Despite this, it remains common because it generates results.  

It’s not for everyone.

The intense nature of a coercive approach means that the leader demands compliance. You either do your job as they ask, or you’re out the door. One huge advantage it brings is quick decision-making. As the leader acts alone, there’s no need to consult with others. While many might disagree, some have argued that the coercive management style is unhealthy for employee development. And this is due to the strict boundaries of the style seemingly limiting their progress.

But others believe that the hands-on approach of a coercive leader will help the inexperienced to perform duties better. By addressing clear expectations and specifying tasks, the employee is always made aware of how to achieve their goal. A process that is great for development. By using the same practice throughout an entire workforce, a leader will streamline all of an organization’s processes. A less complex decision-making process in an organization’s dream. 

We weren’t lying when we said coercive and participative are counter opposites. Unlike the latter, the coercive management style may lead to a high turnover rate. Largely down the discouragement of input, some employees may feel an element of distrust which can lower their morale. The drawback that stands out from the crowd is the sole dependence on the leader. What if they’re sick? On holiday? Who steps in? The biggest flaw is that the subordinates are trained to obey. And this means that the operation can be paralyzed in the leader’s absence. With the recent cases of burnout on the rise, the last thing an organization needs is an overworked leader. But if required, they should do everything they can to replace an effective one.  

Visionary Management Style 

We just couldn’t leave this one out. When we think of the visionary management style, we think of people like the late, great, Steve Jobs. Leaders who revolutionize the art of leadership. Leaders who have a vision to create something great and keep becoming greater. Just like Steve did with Apple Inc., a leader adopting a visionary management style will be driven and inspired by what an organization can become.  

Vistionary management styles

Of course, this management style is focused on creativity and innovation. Thinking outside of the box and producing something beyond anything that’s come before. Something that moves way past the status quo. We know it doesn’t come easy. But luckily they know it too. This is why they are always strategic thinkers. Even when they tell you their vision, they’ll already have a plan to execute it too. Carrying an intensely focused and enthusiastic aura, they’re willing to make an intelligent risk. And they translate this to their employees. Not only do those adopting visionary management focus on motivation and alignment of their team. But they put their trust in them too. If that’s not effective leadership, then we don’t know what is.  

Visionary management requires a leader to show patience. Often moving at a fast pace, a potential drawback could come in the form of inexperience or a new team member. For this reason, this style is more suited to a fully capable workforce. One that requires little to no supervision. Either way, the organization is in control of who they bring in. Choose to build a formidable platform for success. 

Other popular management styles 

Let’s take a look at other popular management styles for effective leadership. Although they didn’t get a detailed overview, they still possess many benefits to the leaders of today. They are: 

  • Delegative – Commonly known as laissez-faire. Deriving from France, it simply means ‘let’s do’. Similarly to participative, it’s questionable as to whether much if any management is involved at all. The delegative approach really does allow employees the freedom to do want they want with little interference. But if things get messy, who’ll be there to pick up the pieces? 
  • Transactional – The transactional management style is heavily focused on rewards and punishments. This can drive employee motivation in order to succeed and reap the rewards. But on the flip side, underperformers can be met with rejection and unwanted verbal castigation.  
  • Transformational – Quite like visionary, the transformational management style is adopted to inspire a team to follow a leader’s vision. Then encouraging and empowering them to achieve it. Most leaders know exactly what they want and how they can get it. But some can often deceive, leaving their workforce in limbo. 
  • Consultative – The feedback management style. With an open-door policy, employees will feel empowered to question or assert any change where necessary. And best of all, the leader will listen. But just like participative, it can often end in a complicated decision-making process.  
  • Pacesetting – The pacesetting management style focuses on a leader trying to achieve very high performance, pace and quality from the offset. For those capable of keeping pace, the leader’s motivation will be an inspiration. But with such an intense focus on results, the less experienced may get left behind. 

Which one is best for effective leadership? 

While you may feel the need to define a management style, it’s important to realize that many leaders can use traits from different styles. For effective leadership, it’s important to use the most suitable traits but also understand when it’s not working. As long as you’re open to flexibility, you can switch between styles by demand. That being said, many leaders choose management styles that most align with their own skills, experience, and personality. Although not impossible, a leader is unlikely to switch between two management styles that are distinctively different. If the leader is the perfect fit for their purpose, it will work. But if their management styles don’t possess the traits for success, then this can result in ineffective leadership.  

Ultimately, if you’re the leader, you’re leading for a reason. You have the capabilities to achieve your organization’s goals. But first, the needs of your employees should be addressed. By gaining an understanding of them and what they need to succeed, you can choose a management style that presents the best fit for effective leadership. If your organization is going through a big period of change, choose visionary. If your workforce requires complete control and a clear direction, set the record straight. Choose coercive. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all, certain management styles can definitely be applied to certain organizations and their goals.  

Effective leadership through management styles is about crafting the best approach possible to get the job done. If a leader can fluidly switch between styles, there’s no denying the success they can bring. If not, it may be time to eat or get eaten.  

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