Management Style: The Ultimate Guide to What each Style Means

Democratic, Directive, Consulting, Achiever. Which management style does your organization need?


Christine Chartrand

VP Consulting Services

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Understanding one’s management style can give you insight on how they will make decisions, communicate with employees and handle various situations. There are different personality dimensions linked to each style (some more evident than others) which I’m sure you’ve witnessed first hand. But the question remains…What management style is the best?

I wish it were that simple. Determining which one is more successful will depend on the team, the environment and organizational culture, as well as the objectives that need to be met.

Once you know a person’s dominant management style, you can decide if it’s a good fit. So uncovering these styles it is not only effective for developing the manager, but for the overall effectiveness of the team and company.

Let’s get started!

People may tap into different management styles

But don’t be fooled. Although managers may be able to adapt their style when communicating with different employees, know that this may require a lot more effort and energy because it is still less natural for them to deviate from their dominant management style.

This isn’t to say that they can’t utilise an alternative style once in a while, but to highlight the fact that when they do, it’s requiring more effort on their part. Also, if they go against the grain on a regular basis, this can lead to demotivation, anxiety, and even burnout.

Moreover, it’s important to note that when people are faced with an emergency or stressful situation, they tend to revert back to their natural reflexes, making their dominant management style still take over in the end.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can get to the 4 different management styles. You may have seen several ways of regrouping and/or labeling management styles, but here are 4 that can be generated from a psychometric test:

Management style #1: Democratic

Have you ever come across a manager who always included people in the process and decision-making, who paid particular attention to the well-being of others, and devoted a lot of time (maybe even too much time) to his/her staff?

You were probably seeing a democratic manager in action. Now this may sound all warm and fuzzy on the surface, but these characteristics don’t come without some limitations, such as an uneasiness to confront, exert assertiveness in order to reach fixed objectives, and a certain discomfort when having to deal with conflict or difficult employees.

Of course, there are always two sides of the coin for each management style (their natural tendencies in management and conversely, areas which are much less natural to them), and the democratic style is no exception. Their supportive and humane side can cause a lot of difficulty when having to make unpopular decisions, and even saying no can be draining.

So make sure you understand the personalities of the people under a democratic manager. If they are a tough bunch that need discipline, you may have your work cut out for you.

Management style #2 : Consulting

This management style is similar to the democratic one in that managers will seek suggestions from members of their team and allow them to express themselves, yet differ in that they will be quite capable of making the final decision despite not reaching a full consensus, or if the process is too lengthy.

Consulting managers are sensitive to the working conditions and to the well-being of others. They are aware of how their decisions may impact their team, yet can still be relatively directive when required and make choices based on their own opinions when the implication of their employees is less necessary.

They also tend to assert themselves for the well-being of others; sort of like defending those who cannot defend themselves. Their assertiveness level may be high, but they are likely to think twice before imposing in order to avoid creating an unpleasant or heavy working environment. They can push or be forceful, but probably for the benefit of others, to see others succeed, and less for their own personal gain.

Management style #3 : Directive

Have you ever come across a manager that has this tremendous drive, take charge attitude, and is capable of saying what needs to be said and confronting what needs to be confronted without hesitation?

Sure this directive management style is there to get things done, but is it likely to be an effective style for all employees? Surely you see the potential problems in having such a person manage, let’s say, a team of sensitive workers who need more hand-holding and support.

Now, I’m not saying that a directive manager is unable of taking the time to assist and encourage their teams. In fact, I’ve always said it’s easier to hold back a horse than it is to push it. But at times, these managers need to be reminded of this humane side of management as they will likely be so invested in attaining results that they could overlook an employee’s need for reassurance or to be implicated in the process.

For a directive manager, these things require more effort, but it isn’t impossible! Being assertive and driven by results doesn’t exclude them from being able to give their team a lot of consideration. But it probably means that somewhere inside, they are conscious that it is through them that they will meet their objectives.

And remember, when a situation erupts or stress levels are high, their directive management style will come out to play, so make sure there are resilient, results-oriented employees on the receiving end.

Management style #4 : Achiever

What about managers who have this drive to win, surpass standards and who show tremendous perseverance, but when it comes to confrontations, still have difficulty?

These “achievers” will sometimes use persuasion, or try to convince their teams instead of impose. They may at times be inclined to do things themselves as opposed to addressing a problem directly. They will be determined to reach their targets, but if this means making unpopular decisions or doing some of the dirty work required, it can be a little harder, maybe to the point of taking on more work themselves so they don’t bug or put someone off with a delegated task.

However, when everything at work is going smoothly, and there are no employees causing issues or a lack of performance, then the achiever management style can smell success! They are likely to enjoy managing people that are built like them, very self-driven but non-menacing.

When they are faced with resistance, their non- confrontational side may cause the results to be put on the back burner because of their difficulty in saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done (no matter how hard). In a nutshell, they are high performance people, but would gain by developing their assertiveness.

Although a person can apply different management styles depending on the situation and team, their dominant style will certainly come out to play in face of stress or emergencies. It’s important to remember that managers feel a lot more natural when they apply the style that utilises their natural reflexes, so make sure that it’s a good fit. Knowing their dominant management style can also help you understand where they need improvement, thus helping you create an effective development plan.

Which style would make the cut in your organization?

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