Management styles

How to best manage your team or department will depend on many factors.

Here we look at some of those factors and compare different management styles.

Different people respond to different styles of management. Understanding the pros and cons of the various styles can help you develop your own unique approach to management and leadership.

Management style – which one’s best for you?

How you manage your team members has a huge bearing on how effective, motivated and committed they are.

And the sort of management style people respond best to depends a great deal on a wide range of factors, such as:

  • The nature of your organisation’s business
    If, for example, you work in a highly regulated sector, the legal department is likely to be closely involved with other departments in a compliance-based capacity. Management then, focuses on process and attention to detail. If you work in a creative industry, legal may take a back seat during the creative process before casting its eye on the proposed output to ensure it won’t breach any laws or regulations. In this scenario, management may be more reactive and/or guidance based;
  • The skills and experience of your team members
    A highly skilled and experienced colleague may just need a set of objectives, a budget and a deadline to get going on a project, allowing you stand back and monitor their progress from a distance. Less experienced team members will need you to be more hands-on and maybe take a coaching type role; and
  • The culture of your organisation 
    Some businesses employ a ‘hire the character, train the skill’ philosophy, in which they place the priority on the individual’s personal qualities. Once they know a candidate’s human attributes will fit the organisation’s culture, they’re happy to provide the necessary skills training. Other businesses may look primarily for the skills – and hire the candidate regardless of their personality. Each of these approaches – and the countless variations between the two extremes – calls for different management styles.

The other key factor, of course, is you. What management or leadership [link: management vs leadership] style comes most naturally to you? Are you the hands-on type? A disciplinarian? A leader by example?

To help make sense of it all, we’ve set out below eight of the most common manager types found in organisations across the world today. Which one is best for you will depend on the factors we’ve looked at above and, quite probably, your own experience of applying or working within them.

The prescriber

Prescriptive managers set out in detail what they expect from their teams and how they expect them to do it. There’s not a lot of room for individual initiative or consultation and team compliance is assured more by threats (sticks) than by incentives (carrots). The prescriber likes rules and hierarchies.

Pros: can be effective in high pressure, process heavy environments where simply completing tasks in line with organisation-wide procedures is the number one priority.

Cons: don’t expect this approach to motivate anyone with the talent and ambition to grow within your organisation. They’ll probably feel they’re not trusted.

The motivator

The motivator is more about the vision and longer-term goal than specific day-to-day instructions. By painting a picture of what both the organisation and the employee can achieve, they compel individuals to do develop their skills and give their best. Motivators rely heavily on their charisma and force of personality.

Pros: a good style to develop if you’re persuasive, communicative and can spend time giving feedback to team members. You’ll need to be a credible leader, though.

Cons: can lack the specific detail that junior team members need and leave other colleagues with less initiative floundering and in search of direction.

The facilitator

The facilitator sets the tone by aiming for a happy and harmonious atmosphere across the team / organisation. The thinking here is that a positive vibe promotes the openness necessary for good relationships to develop between people and for individuals to thrive. This, in turn, creates a strong sense of team spirit.

Pros: helps build morale and reduces the likelihood of conflict within a team.

Cons: not always compatible with strong leadership and can make it difficult to tackle individual cases of staff behaviour issues or under-performance.

The active participator

If you’re an active participator, you’re right there, sleeves rolled up, at the coalface with your colleagues. You lead by example and seek to build consensus around the big decisions by getting your colleague’s input. Of all the manager types, you’re the one most likely to experiment with new ideas.

Pros: great when everything is going according to plan and colleagues need little actual management from you.

Cons: this style can unravel when clear direction is needed, such as in a crisis or when there’s conflict among staff.

The truster

Hands-off managers have high levels of trust in their teams, so leave them to get on with the job with minimal supervision or oversight. Their approach usually goes hand-in-hand with the Results Only Work Environment, meaning they’re concerned chiefly about outcomes as opposed to time spent in the workplace.

Pros: works best with entrepreneurial colleagues and teams made up of independent thinkers, such as creative, marketing and sales departments.

Cons: can leave managers uninformed and with insufficient control if things go wrong. Can create chaos where consistency in working practices matters.

The pacesetter

Pacesetters are fast thinking, fast acting and decisive. They assume that others in their teams are the same, so expect them to follow their example and match their work rate, high standards and dynamism.

Pros: gets great results when team members are up to speed with a pacesetter manager as they spend more time achieving than taking direction.

Cons: can leave less experienced or less confident team members feeling left behind and/or inadequate.

The coach

While other manager types may focus first and foremost on the task at hand, the coach’s first concern is the people, their skills and their performance. By helping to develop these, they help individuals grow and build resilience into the organisation.

Pros: helps to equip people to take on wider roles and prepare the organisation for unforeseen events.

Cons: relies on proven people development skills and can lead to people being kept in unsuitable roles for longer than appropriate.

The octopus

All teams are made up of different types of people, at varying stages of their career and with unique skills and personalities. For this reason, you may have to adopt some or all of these management styles simultaneously when dealing separately with individual people in your team. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but a worthy goal to aim for.

Pros: allows you to personalise your management style to individual team members.

Cons: some styles just won’t come naturally to you. And could being the jack of all trades make you master of none?


As a manager of people or a departmental head, you’ll need to develop your management style. While no two managers are the same, there are some clearly defined types of manager, from the prescriber to the motivator, the active participator to the truster, the coach to the pacesetter.

What works best for you will depend on the nature of your organisation’s business, its culture, its people and most importantly, your own natural leadership style.