Just as people have different personalities, they also have different management styles. Through the years, you’ve probably had your share of good and bad managers. Most of the time, people like their managers based on their behaviors or styles, not necessarily their personalities. Managers who get the best performance from their employees tend to be those with flexible management styles. It’s not about right/wrong or good/bad but rather adapting to the best approach for the situation.

According to Hay-McBer, there are six types of management styles. Let’s learn about each one and what types of situations they are best used for.

The Directive (Coercive) Style

  • Closely controls employees

  • A “do the way I tell you” attitude  

  • Employees motivated by threats and discipline

The Directive style has the objective of receiving compliance from employees. It’s not always the gentlest way to talk to your staff, but it’s necessary in high-risk situations or when diverting a crisis. Because the situation calls for conformance, employees know they must follow the directions otherwise they can be disciplined.

Before using this management style, there are a few things to be aware of. First, it doesn’t work well with employees who are underdeveloped. Employees do not learn well this way and require a more flexible approach to accommodate their individual learning styles. On the other hand, the Directive style is not effective when employees are highly skilled. They tend to feel like they are being micromanaged and become frustrated and resentful as a result.

The Authoritative (Visionary) Style

  • Gives employees clear directions

  • Fair but strict expectations

  • Employees motivated by persuasion and feedback

The Authoritative management style provides long-term direction and guidance to employees. It’s a firm but fair approach that works well with managers who know what they want. Some employees do very well with this management style because they need clear instructions and want feedback on their performance.

The best situations that the Authoritative style works well for is when clear directions and standards are needed. To get a good response from your employees, you must be credible and trustworthy. If you are not, employees are not going to follow what you say, hurting this management style. Additionally, the Authoritative approach is ineffective with underdeveloped employees who need more direction.

The Affiliative Style

  • Focuses on employees first

  • Conflict is avoided to maintain good relationships

  • Employees motivated by their managers

The Affiliative management style has the goal of creating peace and harmony in the workplace. This method is typically best when combined with others, as it can be limiting on its own. Tranquility is important in the workplace, but employees often benefit from clear expectations and directions.

As long as the environment is safe, secure and stable, the Affiliative style can be integrated to keep employees happy. When providing counseling or managing conflict, you can use this method to help employees get along. However, if an employee’s performance is inadequate, firmer direction may be needed. Also, if there is a crisis at work, this type of management style is far too unprofessional.

The Participative Style

  • Requires experience and believability

  • Employees give their input

  • Working environment must be steady and supportive

Managers use the Participative style when they want to build consensus among employees. It’s a great approach when everyone wants to be part of the decision making process, as it gives all members a chance to contribute to the team. As you can imagine, the Participative style is best used when employees are working together and the environment is steady such as in the collaborative open office layout.

There are times when the Participative method is not effective. If employees need to be organized or there is a crisis going on, this management style is too free. It’s also not the best choice when close supervision is required, such as when working with a new or undeveloped staff member. In this case, guidance is necessary.

The Pacesetting Style

  • Brunt of the work handled by managers

  • Employees expected to follow in suit

  • High standards are set for motivation

  • Self-direction is needed by employees

With the Pacesetting style, the goal is to accomplish tasks to a high standard. This approach works well when all employees are on the same page and highly competent. Because this management style requires high skill levels, it’s best when employees are naturally motivated and require little direction. As a result, tasks are done quickly, efficiently and to a high degree of excellence.

There are limitations to the Pacesetting style. For example, it won’t offer exceptional results when structuring and coaching are necessary. Underdeveloped employees need more guidance and direction to complete tasks. Second, this management approach is best for managers and other elite staff members. Outsourcing to lower qualified employees can leave managers frustrated.

The Coaching Style

  • Encourages employees to develop their strengths

  • Motivates employees to improve performance

  • Provides opportunities for professional development

The Coaching method is an impressive way to build long-term relationships among employees. The best time to use this management style is when you want to develop skills within your teams and encourage employees to work together. Employees often enjoy the team focus because it’s not as competitive and allows each member to play to their strengths.

There are times when it’s best not to use a Coaching style, flexible as it is. If the manager lacks expertise in leading teams, it’s better to use a different management style. Sometimes, it’s not the manager but the team. If the performance discrepancy is too great, it’s difficult to pinpoint a poor performance with this approach.


Do any of these management styles sound familiar to you? Remember, there is no right or wrong approach. Each situation requires a different method depending on the employees involved and the end result you are looking to achieve. By being a flexible manager that can adapt to new environments, you can be successful in your endeavors while also being valued and trusted by your employees.