How to Decide on Management Styles for Your Company

21 Apr 2016

This article was written by Chuck Cohn. It was originally published in Forbes Magazine on April 6, 2016. To read the article on the original site, click here

A leader’s management style is sometimes thought of as inherent, but in truth, it is partially dictated by circumstance. There is no one approach that works for all people and all tasks in all situations. The most successful managers are flexible and use a wide range of styles appropriately. But what does “appropriately” mean?

Different people will respond uniquely to different management styles

The level of relevant experience and personality type of a given staff member can affect the management style you use with him or her. For instance, if your team has little or no experience, and if you do not yet know your staff members’ strengths, weaknesses, and how they prefer to operate, you may need to provide close coaching to facilitate learning. Alternatively, at one extreme, you may need to utilize an autocratic approach where you are the sole decision maker. Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is a prime example of an autocratic leader. While some individuals in government disliked her, she often worked efficiently because she did not seek others’ opinions when making decisions. She was thus able to make swift change during a difficult time in the United Kingdom’s history.

As you become familiar with your team, you can delegate managerial responsibilities to others. If your team has ample experience, you can opt for a democratic style, soliciting each person’s opinion and making decisions as a group. The visionary approach—where you outline a vision and allow your team to work toward it with minimal oversight, intervening only to remove any obstacles that present themselves—is a third option.

A personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, can help you understand how each personality on your team (including your own) is perceived by others. As industrial psychology has suggested, personality can affect how you interact with and motivate your staff—if you are an ENTJ (one of several extroverted personality types) and your team member is an INTJ (an introverted personality type), he or she may not be as vocal as you are when brainstorming or sharing opinions, but this does not mean that he or she is not engaged and participating.

Different situations will require different management styles

Trust is also a factor when selecting a management style. If you are still establishing credibility with your team, it may be wise to make a concerted effort to share your knowledge, to solicit opinions, and to take on more work to demonstrate that you are a team player. If your team trusts you, you can provide more direction with less explanation and staff buy-in. If team morale is low—if you are struggling to meet performance/sales targets or to retain clients, working long hours, or facing layoffs—it may be helpful to adopt a style where you guide your team more closely, making decisions, but with everyone’s interests in mind. When using such a style, be sure to explain decisions to your staff members and to obtain their support. This can, in turn, raise the morale of your team.

Does your team consist of direct reports or peers? If you are managing direct reports, you can, again, provide more direction with less explanation and staff buy-in. If you are overseeing a team of peers, a participative approach is often superior to an authoritative or directive approach. With a participative approach, you can demonstrate that you understand that you are all peers, and that you plan to carry your weight like everyone else. For example, in the wake of September 11, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, James Parker, distinguished his company from others in the industry by recommitting to all of his staff members and avoiding layoffs. Their needs were equal to his own.

Did you know that any preference can contribute to an organization? Check out the blog series below on what each of the 16 four-letter types bring to the workplace:

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