What are management styles and why do they matter?

You may not think it, but management styles can make a massive difference to the outcome of any business. Everyone has a style of management that they instinctively fall into. It reflects our own personality, training, and experience. What I think people do not always think about, is that how we are as leaders and managers can significantly affect the degree of success that our company experiences. A company can thrive under well-rounded, thoughtful leadership, or implode under a narcissist who refuses to listen to wise advice. That is a lot of pressure!

Thankfully, there is no one set way to be a great business leader. Any well-balanced leader will tell you that it takes a team effort to make a business succeed long-term. A team builds a decent business, but a great leader will nurture the talent within that team to allow the business to thrive.

Although you do not need to be an outstanding leader to have great business success, a bad leader will always limit a business. I would go so far as to say that some management styles can actually be solely responsible for the implosion and demise of a business with massive potential.

This is because a poor management style can make life so miserable for those around you that the team dissolves. People buy from people, and if your team disintegrates, client confidence fades, and enquiries dry up. The company collapses in on itself.

It is really important that as Directors, Managers and Leaders, we are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our own management styles and seek to compensate for the areas where we are weakest.

So, what are the basic management styles that people unconsciously use? And how can we compensate for those weaknesses within our own management type?

What are the 3 basic management styles?

There is much debate about how many management styles there are. But, no matter how you subdivide, there are three basic management categories that all the management styles fall into. They exist on a scale from “highly controlling” to “not very controlling” and can be labeled the following:

1. Autocratic

2. Democratic

3. Laissez-faire

Let’s take one at a time to unpick how they play out in practice.

Autocratic management style

This describes any management style where the boss makes all of the decisions and gives no room for discussion or employee input. Roles are tightly defined, and work is constantly supervised and checked. This does not always have to be done in an abusive or unkind way for it to be classed as an autocratic management style.

Believe it or not, this can have a positive impact during times of crisis or when projects are time-sensitive, as the lack of discussion means decisions are made decisively. It can also be great when the workforce is very unskilled, as new employees or trainees need a lot of direction.

However, with any employee who has more experience, an autocratic style can be stifling and restrictive. It often results in poor employee retention and dissatisfaction. It can also mean that staff become passive and do not take any initiative.

On a personal level, a leader that has an autocratic style cannot easily switch off from the workplace, as they micromanage every decision. This can lead to high stress and quick burnout.

Democratic management style

All the management styles that fall into this category have in common the idea that managers and employees need to work together to achieve the best outcome for clients. So, managers may hold the final decision, but encourage employees to contribute with ideas and expertise. The team is enriched by a range of creative input and more experienced or skilled employees feel a strong sense of investment in the company.

This may sound like an utopia, but there are disadvantages to this management style! Decisions can take a long time, depending on the company size. Also, as a range of opinions will be given, the management will not be able to please everyone all the time. This means that some employees may become disgruntled.

Also, if the management allows employees to constantly make all the decisions, the company may stray so far from its vision and mission that its values and unique selling point are lost.

Laissez-faire management style

This category includes all styles that demonstrate a hands-off approach from the company’s leadership. Employees operate almost as independent entities or as small teams, making decisions themselves. Generally, those who are conscientious in their work will thrive in this environment, making innovative ideas as they are highly self-directed.

Maybe many managers like the sound of this? Hands-off management? Leaving them to get on with it? Great! Where are the golf clubs?

However, this style comes with a huge risk. Those employees who are not self-motivated will not be monitored and will perform poorly. This could lead to significant mistakes being made that the management is liable for. It also means that there is inconsistency in performance across the company. This could lead to a loss of business as clients become fed up with the poor service.

Which management style do you default to?

All of us will default to one of these management styles. As we have seen there are strengths and weaknesses to all of them. Maybe you can see something of yourself within these descriptions? There are lots of tools online that can help you discover your management style. You can find just one example here. Many of them look at the many subdivisions of leadership styles within the three main categories that I have described above.

But one of the best ways to find out what category you fall into is to ask a trusted colleague at work. It is much harder to view ourselves truthfully. Make sure you only ask someone with whom you have a strong, positive relationship and who has worked with you during a variety of circumstances though, otherwise you might get skewed results.

How to compensate for your leadership style

Once you understand what type of leader you are, you can be better prepared to compensate for the weaknesses of your style. Here are just a few ideas:

1.      Diversify your management team

Your management team does not just need to be made up of different people with different skills pertinent to your industry. Aim to promote people from within who show that they have different leadership styles too. The best team will share the same vision and values but contribute different skills and management styles.

2.      Get feedback

Aim to have a review once a year or once every two years. There are numerous ways to conduct a review and the topic of reviews is so vast that this article cannot do it justice. We will be looking at this in future posts. However, for now, consider doing a basic doodle poll once a year amongst your staff to get a reading on how your employees are feeling. Everyone, including management, needs to take part in the review process for it to have value. You can cover subjective topics such as how valued people feel, how safe they feel and how much they are enjoying work, as well as things you can quantify such as reaching targets. This can help you build a more balanced picture of how the workforce is doing.

3.      Develop empathy

One of the people I work with once told me that she knew that when she was under pressure, she defaulted to quite an autocratic style of leadership. She did not want to listen to her team’s opinions because she was frightened of the feedback she thought she was going to get. This meant the team became increasingly frustrated with her. It was a negative feedback loop.

To break out of it, she had to conquer that fear to a degree so she could think of constructive ways to respond to the criticism. She realised that she had to try and put herself in her team’s shoes to understand the emotions that they were feeling in order to figure out what the problem was. She ended up realising that the team was frightened because they were lacking in confidence. She came up with an idea to improve staff training by recording a series of short videos.

Her emotions had clouded her judgment and stifled her creativity, meaning she could not think of a way out of her situation.

Aim to put yourself in the shoes of your employees whenever possible to combat any weaknesses of your leadership style. A laissez-faire style can cause stress, as people need a little more direction, an autocratic style can make people feel devalued. Learn these pitfalls so that you can put things in place to compensate for them.

4.      Develop wisdom

I have left this for last. I believe this is the most important lesson to learn about leadership styles. Different styles have different strengths and weaknesses, and different personality types respond in different ways to different styles. This means to get the best out of your workforce, you may need to manage people and the business in different ways as your company develops.

Part of this comes with experience, as you encounter different types of people on your leadership journey. But some of it comes through just being aware that you need to adapt and change and being willing to do so.

This subjective idea of wisdom – the act of practically applying knowledge and experience to a situation – is what makes a leader great, rather than just good. It requires humility, as you have to reflect on what has happened before and be willing to admit past errors. This is a character trait that takes time to mature and can be undervalued in business.

As a management team at NDT Group, we aim to bring all of our leadership styles together, drawing on the skills and experience of our team to provide a great non-destructive testing service. We know that this is how we can provide the best service to our clients.

I hope that this article has helped you think through your own style and will help you develop your own team and company ethos.

For more information about the range of services that we provide or to speak to one of our team, please contact us today for an NDT service that delivers assurance.

Responsive testing that delivers assurance that your equipment is safe.

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