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6 Types of Management Styles

 |  5 Min Read

In their book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee describe six emotional leadership styles. Used situationally, each of these styles effects people’s motivations and behaviors differently. Learning the pros and cons of each style — and more importantly, when to use one style instead of another — is an important step for anyone hoping to be an effective business leader.

Keep reading for an overview of the six management styles and when to use them.

1. Commanding Management

This type of leader takes charge and invites no contrary opinions — their motto is “my way or the highway.” Executives who use this commanding style of management demand full power and authority and motivate employees with the threat of discipline. Although it’s not the most effective type of management style (at least not all the time), the commanding management style is a common method of influencing employee behavior.

One of the advantages of this style is that leaders maintain a great deal of control over what is happening in the organization. Long-term, though, this type of management style fosters a lack of autonomy and creativity among employees, creating a negative impact on the atmosphere and culture inside the workplace.

A commanding management style is most effective during an organizational crisis or in situations when deviations from the plan are risky. Once the crisis has subsided, or the situation has been resolved, leaders should practice a more positive management style to reinstate employee morale that may have been negatively impacted throughout crisis management.

2. Visionary Management

The hallmark of a visionary leader is his or her ability to mobilize people towards a goal. This leadership style is defined by persuasion, charisma, and a high emotional IQ. Leaders who practice this management style can articulate a vision for the future, and the path others must take to reach it. For this reason, visionary leadership’s positive impact on organizational culture often surpasses that of other management styles.

The visionary approach is most effective when the leader is an authoritative expert in his or her field of work, and a fresh vision for the future is needed. They leverage this expertise to gain the respect and credibility necessary to “rally” employees to follow their ideas and plans to fulfill them. Visionary leadership is less effective when employees are underdeveloped, or require more guidance.

3. Affiliative Management

“People first, task second” — that’s the motto of the affiliative leader. The primary objective of affiliative management is to build relationships and create harmony within the organization. This management style can have a positive impact on the work environment, but it has limits. For example, affiliative leaders are quick to recognize efforts and reward a job well done, but they often shy away from dealing with under-performing team members. Left unchecked, this can give the impression that mediocre performance is acceptable, and overall team output can deteriorate.

Because affiliative managers provide employees with plenty of positive feedback, they are extremely effective at creating a positive and upbeat working environment. However, affiliative leadership is ineffective during crisis situations when clear direction is needed.

4. Democratic Management

The “democratic” imperative is not unique to politics. In the workplace, democratic leadership is a managerial style that allows everyone equal say to build commitment and consensus among team members. Of all types of management, democratic leadership allows for more participation in the decision-making process than commanding, autocratic leadership styles. This style motivates employees by making them believe their opinion counts. In turn, they feel more committed to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.

Types of democratic workplaces are characterized by collaborative problem-solving. However, this can be a drawback if the workforce is inexperienced — it takes a fair amount of expertise to make good decisions at the organizational level. Another drawback to this approach is the time it takes to give everyone a voice in the decision-making process. During a crisis, quick decisions are the norm, and it may not be feasible to weigh all options and give everyone a “vote.”

5. Pacesetting Management

Pacesetting leaders have a DIY attitude and prefer to accomplish tasks themselves, creating a high standard of excellence that “sets the bar.” Pacesetters exemplify the behavior they seek from employees, and do not hesitate to take over in situations where a worker is underperforming or behind schedule.

This approach can be extremely effective in workplaces where people are competent, highly motivated, and require little direction or coordination. However, pacesetting can be detrimental when the team needs additional development or coaching to accomplish goals and develop their individual careers.

Employees, particularly newer and less experienced ones, can feel overwhelmed by the pacesetter’s demands for excellence. Morale can drop even lower if the pacesetter is a poor communicator and does not state their definition of “excellence” or how to achieve it.

6. Coaching Management

The primary objective of the coaching leadership style is the long-term professional development of talented employees. Leaders who practice the coaching style have a genuine interest in helping others succeed and encourage employees to develop strengths. The investment in this management style often provides abundant returns. Unfortunately, this is one of the least deployed types of leadership styles because many managers do not believe they have time to invest in others.

Although this approach can be extremely effective at developing a talented workforce, managers can run into challenges when employees are resistant to change or disinterested in professional development. Managers must also make sure that they themselves possess the expertise necessary to help those they are coaching.

Aspiring leaders in business benefit their professional relationships when they develop their leadership traits and managerial abilities. Our Lady of the Lake University’s online MBA places an emphasis on visionary management types and enterprise-level leadership styles. Discover how you can become an effective leader with knowledge in business operations in two years or less. Request more information or call 855-275-1082 to speak with an MBA advisor today.


  1. 6 Emotional Leadership Styles: Choosing the Right Style for the Situation.

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