Various management styles can be employed dependent on the culture of the business, the nature of the task, the nature of the workforce and the personality and skills of the leaders.
This idea was further developed by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt (1973) who argued that the style of leadership is dependent upon the prevailing circumstance; therefore leaders should exercise a range of leadership styles and should deploy them as appropriate.
An Autocratic or authoritarian manager makes all the decisions, keeping the information and decision making among the senior management. Objectives and tasks are set and the workforce is expected to do exactly as required. The communication involved with this method is mainly downward, from the leader to the subordinate, critics such as Elton Mayo have argued that this method can lead to a decrease in motivation from the employee's point of view. The main advantage of this style is that the direction of the business will remain constant, and the decisions will all be similar, this in turn can project an image of a confident, well managed business. On the other hand, subordinates may become highly dependent upon the leaders and supervision may be needed.
A more Paternalistic form is also essentially dictatorial, however the decisions tend to be in the best interests of the employees rather than the business. A good example of this would be David Brent running the business in the fictional television show The Office. The leader explains most decisions to the employees and ensures that their social and leisure needs are always met. This can help balance out the lack of worker motivation caused by an autocratic management style. Feedback is again generally downward, however feedback to the management will occur in order for the employees to be kept happy. This style can be highly advantageous, and can engender loyalty from the employees, leading to a lower labour turnover, thanks to the emphasis on social needs. It shares similar disadvantages to an authoritarian style; employees becoming highly dependent on the leader, and if the wrong decisions are made, then employees may become dissatisfied with the leader.
In a Democratic style, the manager allows the employees to take part in decision-making: therefore everything is agreed by the majority. The communication is extensive in both directions (from subordinates to leaders and vice-versa). This style can be particularly useful when complex decisions need to be made that require a range of specialist skills: for example, when a new ICT system needs to be put in place, and the upper management of the business is computer-illiterate. From the overall business's point of view, job satisfaction and quality of work will improve. However, the decision-making process is severely slowed down, and the need of a consensus may avoid taking the 'best' decision for the business. It can go against a better choice of action.
In a Laissez-faire leadership style, the leader's role is peripheral and staff manage their own areas of the business; the leader therefore evades the duties of management and uncoordinated delegation occurs. The communication in this style is horizontal, meaning that it is equal in both directions, however very little communication occurs in comparison with other styles. The style brings out the best in highly professional and creative groups of employees, however in many cases it is not deliberate and is simply a result of poor management. This leads to a lack of staff focus and sense of direction, which in turn leads to much dissatisfaction, and a poor company image.
This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Management Skills. The Official Guide to Management Skills is Meryl Runion. Meryl Runion, CSP, is a Certified Speaking Professional and the author of four books on communication. Her books have sold over 250,000 copies worldwide. She is the author of a weekly email newsletter called A PowerPhrase a Week, which boast thousands of subscribers. Her clients include IBM, who find her to be systematic, the IRS who particularly love her in April, and the FBI, who find her to be a person of interest.
Additional Resources on Management Skills can be found at: