How to pick a people management style that suits you

how to pick people management style

Managing a team is as demanding as it is rewarding. Since a manager is often tasked with a lot, ensuring a workforce is moving at full tilt while also dealing with a variety of different personalities is a big challenge.

team discussing upcoming project

How you decide to approach the duty is also critical, and with so many management styles out there, knowing which one to pick can be daunting.

You might find one management style that’s preferable over others, or you might take elements from all of them to form something that suits your needs. While some people take the view that certain styles are better, and others do not, there are certainly methods of managing your team that have become outdated.

These styles tend to be counter-productive and put undue pressure on a team. So for the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on the types of management designed to get the best out of you and your team, and determine which style is the right fit for you.

A brief primer on management styles

In the early 2000s, author and psychologist Daniel Goleman put forward six management styles, that have been useful to leaders finding the right fit for them and their team. We’ll talk through five of the six for this piece, and in doing so, let you identify which style to use, understand alternatives and determine how to match your style to particular situations.

Affiliative Management 

Affiliative leaders promote a sense of equality amongst their team, and encourage all members to work together to problem solve and work through issues.

Managers who subscribe to this style favour harmony between members of their team, keeping morale high and regularly praising good work. They are sensitive to the feelings of team members and can act as a mediator if required.

manager meeting with team members

This style works well because it results in a motivated team, which is beneficial to those under you. Since you aren’t checking up on everyone all the time, they become more driven to work through their own tasks without your direction.

There are downsides to this style, however. Because it’s based around positivity, poor performance can sometimes go unchecked. For this reason, some believe it should be used sparingly, but as a means of streamlining a new team in its initial stages, it’s definitely a useful approach to take. When people need to get to grips with their roles and work out conflicts or setbacks, it’s also particularly useful.

Democratic Management

The democratic leader values investing in the time of others to reach a consensus decision. Collaboration and communication are key to this style. If you work in a role that requires the investment of stakeholders, consensus decisions are majorly important.

Additionally, the increased focus on allowing workers to have a say in decisions that affect them, means they’re a more flexible, responsible workforce as a result. This is useful if you’re stuck for ideas and need a fresh perspective that will ultimately still let you have the final say.

One thing to consider, your employers must possess the necessary experience and credibility for you to trust in them.

team manager coaching employees

Pacesetting Management

If you consider yourself a high achiever, the pacesetting management style can allow you to leverage your own knowledge to get the most out of the best and brightest on your team. A ‘lead by example’ approach, the pacesetter style can seem frantic and overbearing, so it’s best to use sparingly and in contexts where collaboration isn’t particularly common.

For driving certain individuals, it’s a useful approach to take, providing you use it to set reasonable goals. It is particularly useful in sales environments, food service/retail and customer-facing roles. It’s important to not get too heavily invested in short-term results, a balance of competition and high performance will help in the long term.

Coaching Management

With a greater emphasis on one-to-one training, coaching management favours encouragement, guidance and inspiration. It’s an effective tool since it tailors personalised feedback and achievable goals that are specific to individual team members.

If you have the capacity, this a superb approach to take with your team. It’s a sure way of measuring their performance in a positive way and gives them an opportunity to improve themselves. When employees have shown their skills and their colleagues trust them, employing methods of coaching are at their most effective.

management team meeting

Visionary Management

The visionary leader empowers and inspires and knows how to strike a balance between the two. Their leadership is strong and singular, and fuelled by clear, long-term goals.

Confident without being overbearing, visionaries listen and allow others to flourish, innovate and take calculated risks. With a strong workforce and an endgame in sight, there is almost always a positive outcome through this approach. Goleman said himself that it’s applicable to a majority of settings; the only way it can fail is if the leader lacks experience or ends up becoming too domineering.

How do you choose?

So which style fits more with your business, your personality and the wider team? There may be something familiar in the styles presented above; there’s a chance you have used similar approaches in your time as a manager.

Many of these management styles work best when in tandem. Recognising the strengths of yourself and your team, as well as the circumstances in front of you, is key to determining which style to use.

collaborative project management

Evaluating your needs is important. How long have your employees worked together for this company? What are their skills and competencies? Use that to determine how much responsibility to give them.

Consider the dynamic between you and your employees. Do you work together on projects, or do you tend to be relatively distant from them? Certain management styles are tailored to this dynamic; a coaching relationship might not be the best bet if you work in a separate office. Similarly, if you’re a team player, then consider something democratic where you know your employees are comfortable being left to their own devices.

The specifics of the project also factor into the decision. If you’re working against the clock with inexperienced workers, something with more authority may be necessary. Company sizes can determine your style too; a smaller team may be more receptive to delegation whereas a large workforce will probably struggle to make this work.

Balance consideration and structure. Consideration deals with the importance you place on the needs of your employees, where factors such as team building and high employee morale can determine a team’s successes. Structure is more quantitative; accomplishing tasks, delegating workloads and managing responsibilities are the orders of the day.

An ideal leadership style should combine these traits in a way that suits you, your team and the project you’re working on.

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