Over the years, the word “management” has taken on various meanings, making it the broad area it has become today. One need only look up the definition of the word to realize how broad it is and its application.

The Business Dictionary defines management as the “organization and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives”.

It includes the functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling, in view of accomplishing a target, objective or goal. In carrying out these functions, it taps into the available resources of the organization, such as human resources, financial resources, technological resources, and even natural resources, if any.

Management Styles and When Best to Use Them

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In this article, we will 1) compare management with leadership and 2) the six most common management styles, so you know what’s your current management style and what you need to change when switching to another style.


Often, management is used interchangeably with “leadership”, although there have been several differentiations made between managers and leaders.

Management and leadership are two different things, but they should always go together. One way to make the distinction is to know what makes a leader different from a manager. Basically, a manager manages tasks, while a leader leads people. Leaders have people following their lead, while managers have people working for them.

In leadership, one tries to get the people in a group or an organization to understand an overall vision, and inspire them to join forces and work together towards the accomplishment of the vision so as to meet the defined targets and goals. Management, on the other hand, refers to administering tasks and ensuring that day-to-day occurrences are going according to plan.

Author Warren Bennis listed several more differences between a manager and a leader in his book “On Becoming a Leader”.

  • A manager focuses on systems and structures, while a leader focuses on people.
  • A manager administers, while a leader innovates.
  • A manager relies on control, while a leader inspires trust.
  • A manager administers, while a leader innovates.
  • A manager generally looks at things in the short term, while a leader thinks long term.

Of course, there are many cases – lots of them, actually – where the manager also takes on the role of a leader, and vice versa. Hence, the confusion between the two roles.


Not all managers are the same. Some are good, some are found to be lacking. Some are well-liked, while others have a hard time getting the favor of the people above them, and the members of their team.

Consulting firm Hay/McBer identified these six management styles:

  1. Directive
  2. Authoritative
  3. Affiliative
  4. Participative
  5. Pacesetting
  6. Coaching

In the succeeding discussion, we will learn more about these management styles, and when they will be the best styles to use.


Style #1 Directive Management Style

Other terms for this management style are Coercive and Autocratic. This is characterized by a top-down decision-making process, where the decision is made from the top, and all the others below are expected to fall in line and follow.

Often, this management style is not recommended, although there are times when using this style may be needed. Thus, this style should be used with extreme caution, and only when absolutely necessary, or as a last resort.


The primary objective of this management style, which is no different to the concept of micromanagement, is to obtain immediate compliance of employees or subordinates.

The Directive Manager

  • The manager takes on the “do as I say” approach. It’s “my way or the highway” for this type of manager. He directs, or even dictates, what is to be done, and the employees are expected to follow along, with no questions.
  • The manager keeps a close eye on the employees and their every move. Control is very important for this type of manager, which is why she has to know what each employee is doing at all times. This is where the definition of micromanagement applies. In essence, micromanagement is a style where the manager closely observes and controls every little detail in the work and actions of subordinates.
  • The manager motivates by delivering threats. He gives ultimatums to employees. “Do it this way, or else…” Basically, the manager will tend to order the members of the team around.
  • The manager places a high value on discipline, giving punishments to those who are not able to meet the standards that she has set previously.
  • Often, the manager demands immediate compliance from the employees without asking questions.

Advantages of Directive Style

  • The manager is in full control of the direction that the work is taking. As such, conflicts and differences in opinion are avoided, since it is the manager that solely decides what to do, and how to go about performing the tasks.
  • There is more focus and order in how things are done
  • The manager is always kept in the loop, fully aware of the progress of the project and fully apprised of the status of the work of employees.

Disadvantages of Directive Style

  • This management style promotes very little learning, and even none at all. Remember that the employees are merely told what to do, and how to do it. This means that they are not given any room to exercise their judgment and, in the process, learn. It also gives very little room for mistakes, since all actions are dictated by the manager, and as a result employees are also deprived of the benefit of learning from mistakes.
  • The possibility of employee morale being high is very low. Employees will easily feel stifled by the amount of control they are subjected to, and frustrations are bound to boil to the surface. As a result, employee dissatisfaction is likely to be very high.
  • Employee enthusiasm has a tendency to sink very low and they will lose initiative to perform their assigned tasks. This will ultimately result to low productivity and poor performance.
  • Managers may find this to be exhausting, since they have to be everywhere at all times, keeping an eye on everyone.

When is it best to use the Directive style?

  • The directive style becomes an effective management style when the business or company is suddenly faced with a crisis. For example, if a company is suddenly faced with the threat of a hostile takeover, managers will simply come up with split-second decisions and tell the employees what to do in order to deal with the threat.
  • Use the coercive style in cases of emergencies. Say there is a plan, and unforeseen circumstances demand that they deviate from what was laid out on the plan. Further risk assessment shows that these deviations could have negative consequences if things go wrong. This is a time when a manager can take on a directive style of leadership.

When should the Directive style be avoided?

Managers should avoid being closely controlling the team members under the following circumstances:

  • If the employees are still new or underdeveloped. As mentioned earlier, this style does not allow employees to learn, which means their professional and personal growth may be hindered. The automatic conclusion that most people would arrive at would be underdeveloped employees are the best fit for the directive style. After all, they are new, they do not know much, so they should be able to follow orders well, right? From the point of view of the manager, that may be an advantage, but in the greater scheme of things, when we are talking about the growth of the employees, and consequently of the company, it would actually be counterproductive.
  • If the employees are already highly skilled and qualified. These are the types of employees who become easily resentful when they are being micromanaged. They tend to feel easily suffocated by too much control, and the idea that their actions are dictated by someone else goes against their concept of self-worth and self-belief.


Style #2 Authoritative Management Style

This style, also known as the Visionary style of management, is often touted as the most effective out of all the six management styles, although it is not without its disadvantages.


The authoritative style has one goal: providing a long-term vision and direction for employees and subordinates.

The Authoritative Manager

  • The manager sets the vision of the company, makes it clear to the employees, and provides clear direction towards achieving that vision. The leader sets the vision, and takes a step back, allowing the employees to get to work. From time to time, she steps in to share some input and reiterate the vision, if and when necessary. She does not tell them how to do things.
  • The manager takes on a firm but fair stance when dealing with employees and subordinates.
  • The manager motivates subordinates by using persuasion and providing feedback on their performance on the job.
  • The manager should have a high level of credibility in order to command the respect and cooperation of employees in following him and his vision.

Advantages of Authoritative Style

  • This leadership style gives employees a sense of freedom. They are free to perform in a way that is most comfortable to them, as long as they make sure that the vision is achieved. This allows them to strategize and even innovate.
  • Since feedback is provided, the employees are aware at all times of their performance and the progress of work, hence the manager does not have to be with the employees every step of the way.
  • Ensures focus and a clear direction, since standards must be adhered to, and the vision is there as a constant reminder of what they are working towards.
  • Lifts employees’ pride and self-esteem, especially when they turn in good performance and get praises or recognitions for it.

Disadvantages of Authoritative Style

  • Some employees may become complacent, going about their own way, even outside the bounds of what is legal and proper, as long as they arrive at the same result.
  • This may give the impression of a manager that does not care about how the employees are working, since it is far from being hands on.

When is it best to use the Authoritative Style?

  • A business or company that does not have a clear direction has a need for a manager with an authoritative style, since he will be the one to set that vision and steer the business towards it.
  • Authoritative management style works best in cases where we have a manager who has a lot of credibility and commands great respect from employees. After all, employees will only agree to the direction given by a manager who is credible and trustworthy.

When should the Authoritative Style be avoided?

  • This style will not be effective when the employees are undertrained or underdeveloped. This means that they will need more guidance than usual. This will be a problem when they are dealing with time-bound undertakings, because the manager cannot waste time assisting and guiding the underdeveloped employees every step of the way.
  • Do not use this style when the manager does not have enough credibility. A leader that lacks credibility will not be able to convince subordinates and employees to follow the organization’s vision, which means that it will be difficult to attain the set goals and objectives.


Style #3 Affiliative Management Style

This is the “people-come-first” style, meaning that people are seen as more important than their functions.


This management style is aimed at creating a harmonious relationship in the workplace, particularly between the manager and the employees, and also among the employees.

The Affiliative Manager

  • This type of manager puts the people first, and the task that needs to be accomplished second.
  • The manager focuses on avoiding conflicts and works at encouraging a good personal and professional relationship among employees.
  • The manager motivates by seeing to it that everyone is happy and satisfied.

Advantages of Affiliative Style

  • Employees will be happy, and their relationships strong, since that is the focus of the manager.
  • This management style shows enough flexibility, allowing it to be used alongside other management styles.
  • Since the emphasis of this management style is not on performance, the employees and the manager are not subjected to a lot of pressure.
  • This style emphasizes conflict management, which ensures that conflicts are kept at a minimum, promoting harmony in the workplace.
  • Employees’ self-worth and self-esteem will be high, with the knowledge that their manager values them personally and professionally.

Disadvantages of Affiliative Style

  • There is a great likelihood that performance of employees would be mediocre, at best. This is due to the fact that performance is not the primary focus. There is a risk that, as employees work on getting to know each other and growing closer, they may end up not accomplishing anything.
  • Employees may have the tendency to be complacent about their performance and output, since these are not top in the management’s list of priorities.
  • This management style requires more time, since the manager may have to spend some time with the employees in order to bond with them, and to create a bond among them.
  • Employees who are performance-focused and task-oriented may feel dispirited, thinking they are wasting time focusing on things other than the job at hand.
  • This also puts the manager at risk, when top management puts performance and results as priority in evaluating them.

When is it best to use the Affiliative Style?

  • A company that does not have the spirit of teamwork in place will definitely get a boost from an affiliative management style. In the same vein, a company that suffers from divisions and dissensions may have its problems fixed by a manager that exercises an affiliative management style.
  • The affiliative style works best when used with other management styles, since it may be used as a balance against the coercive style or the authoritative style.
  • If the tasks performed by employees are routine and do not require top-notch performance, an affiliative approach is preferable.

When should the Affiliative Style be avoided?

  • Avoid using this management style in organizations or businesses that are output-driven, where the future of the company solely depends on the performance of the employees. Otherwise, the business cannot grow as expected or hoped for.
  • This management style will not work during times of crisis, where quick decisions must be made and immediate directions given to subordinates.


Style #4 Participative Management Style

This is also known as the Democratic style of management.


More than just promoting harmony among employees, the participative management style aims at establishing consensus and building commitment among employees.

The Participative Manager

  • The participative manager is inclined to have a willingness to listen to everyone, recognizing that everyone has ideas that should be considered in the company’s decisions. They ask the employees what they would like to do, and opens the floor for voting.
  • The manager encourages employee participation in decision-making and other important aspects of management.
  • This manager motivates by recognizing team effort and rewarding the employees – and the team – for it.

Advantages of Participative Style

  • Generally, it is difficult to build and maintain trust in relationships but, thanks to democratic style of management, this is possible.
  • This style encourages cooperation among employees, so they are willing to work together. They will be better coordinated when it comes to their tasks.
  • Employees will feel more important and morale will be high, especially when they are consulted or asked for their opinions, and made to take part in the decision-making processes.
  • On the part of the manager, this takes a big burden from her shoulders, since she does not have to make the tough decisions by herself.

Disadvantages of Participative Style

  • Progress is often slow, since the opinion or input of the employees is going to be asked at every turn.
  • This will demand a lot from the manager, since close supervision will be required. The manager has to keep his pulse on everything – the employees, the tasks at hand, the vision of the organization, and its goals and objectives.

When is it best to use the Participative Style?

  • Use the participative management style in an environment that requires brainstorming or input of ideas to arrive at solutions to problems. This definitely comes in handy when managers are at a loss on how to go about a project, or how to solve a problem, since they can seek employee input.
  • If the working environment is steady and not subject to upheavals or uncertainties, participative management will be appropriate.
  • This management style applies best if the employees or subordinates are experienced, qualified, and have credibility to carry out their tasks.

When should the Participative Style be avoided?

  • This management style will not work if the employees do not have enough training and experience, or if they are not competent enough in doing their jobs. These employees are likely to require a lot of close supervision, which will take a lot of time from the manager’s schedule.
  • During times of business crisis, this style will not be applicable. Participative management style often entails conducting a lot of meetings among the managers and the employees to obtain their input, and these meetings will take time. Situations where decisions must be made quickly are not open for the participative style.


Style #5 Pacesetting Management Style

Another management style that can also be applied in different working environments is the Pacesetting style.


Organizations have goals and objectives that they are working to achieve. With the pacesetting management style, the manager aims to accomplish these tasks to a high standard of excellence.

The Pacesetting Manager

As the term implies, the manager sets the pace in this management style. Often, it is at a fast and cracking pace.

  • The manager often prefers to personally do many things himself, as a way to set an example for subordinates and employees to follow.
  • The manager expects the employees to be able to pick up where they left off. He believes that, by showing how it’s done, self-direction will be possible.
  • The manager motivates by setting high standards of excellence. If employees are not able to meet these standards, they assign the task to someone else.

Advantages of Pacesetting Style

  • This style gives employees more freedom to put their skills and competence to good use. It is also a good way for employees to hone their skills.
  • Employees perform their tasks with high energy and engagement. They tend to be highly motivated in performing their assigned tasks because there is a target to beat.
  • Employees will feel more inclined to face up to the challenge, for fear that their task may be transferred to others if they are unable to perform as expected.

Disadvantages of Pacesetting Style

  • Often, the managers set impossibly high standards that some employees may give up before they have even started.
  • If the employees do not possess the skills, competence and expertise required, they may be put under too much pressure to meet the high standards of excellence in the organization.
  • This can be exhausting for some employees, especially if the pace is so fast and high-speed, they have trouble keeping up. The manager basically expects employees to be on the same wavelength, and operate with the same level of energy, which can put a lot of strain on the employees. The manager, too, may feel exhausted, having to set the pace and make sure that employees maintain it.
  • Employees may feel like they are working for slavedrivers which, in a sense, the pacesetting manager is. The manager may even reach a point where she will obsess over the smallest of details and be too focused on the work, without caring for the personal welfare and well-being of the employees.

When is it best to use the Pacesetting Style?

  • Use the pacesetting style when the employees are experts who can easily follow the lead and keep up with the pace (and expectations) of the manager.
  • The pacesetting style is most effective when the employees are highly motivated and have the competence to accomplish tasks according to the high standards of excellence set by management.
  • If the manager is an expert in the specific area or field, she will have a lot of credibility, and the pacesetting style will definitely apply in this case because employees will generally want to become like her.
  • This will work in organizations where the work force needs very little direction and coordination. The manager need only show the ropes, and the employees will do the rest.

When should the Pacesetting Style be avoided?

  • Pacesetting style is not going to work if the nature of the work requires development and coaching.
  • If the workload is too heavy as to require assistance from others, pacesetting might not work well, since it will call for a lot of coordination between managers and employees, and among employees.


Style #6 Coaching Management Style

As the term implies, this style involves a lot of coaching and mentoring.


The coaching style aims to contribute to the long-term professional development of employees.

The Coaching Manager

  • This type of manager is often known as the “developmental” manager, since her focus is on the professional development of the subordinates.
  • The manager has great willingness to help employees and encourage them to further develop their strengths and improve on their weaknesses, and increase their performance levels.
  • The manager motivates by providing employees and subordinates with opportunities for professional growth and development. For example, when an employee demonstrates great aptitude or ability for the task, he will encourage that employee to demonstrate to the others and teach them.
  • The manager is expected to be an expert and highly experienced, in order to be credible in performing coaching. She should also have good interpersonal skills to be able to relate well with subordinates and encourage them to improve.

Advantages of Coaching Style

  • This is a great way to develop a strong bond, or a relationship of respect and cooperation between the manager and the subordinates. Subordinates will tend to look at managers as coaches or teachers, and respect them as such.
  • The learning experience that comes with this management style further encourages a thirst for learning and development among employees. They will then actively seek personal and professional development while improving on their performance to the benefit of the company.
  • Employees have a greater tendency to feel proud of their achievements, knowing that they learned it and will grow from it.

Disadvantages of Coaching Style

  • This creates a high demand for highly skilled and expert managers. Only a manager with a high level of expertise will have enough credibility to perform coaching.
  • This may promote unhealthy competition among the employees, given that they are presented with opportunities for professional development.

When is it best to use the Coaching Style?

  • This management style is ideal in settings where the employees are in need of instruction and training.
  • Apply this management style when the employees are motivated and are keen on developing and improving their skills and competence levels.

When should the Coaching Style be avoided?

  • Do not apply this management style if the manager himself lacks experience and expertise, specifically in the tasks to be performed.
  • Avoid the coaching management style when the business is facing a crisis. There is no time to coach and train subordinates and employees when there is a problem that needs a quick resolution. During such times, all efforts should be towards solving the crisis.



Now we come to the all-important question: which is the best management style?

Sorry to disappoint, but there is no right or wrong management style. The best management style will depend on several factors, such as the nature of the business, the work involved, the personalities and capabilities of the persons involved, their levels of experience and values, and even various circumstances prevailing at that certain period of time.

The best leaders and managers often use more than two or three of these management styles at any one time. There is no limit to how many styles can be employed by one manager, as long as they do it right.

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