Is your management style benefiting your business?

As a business manager, the way in which you conduct yourself in the workplace is a vital consideration. Your management style can have a dramatic impact on the atmosphere in your firm and, in turn, on the productivity of your workforce and the success of your business.

Yet a recent survey of working adults suggests that the three most common management styles are, in fact, all negative. Research by the Chartered Management Institute found that, according to employees, the most commonly experienced management style is ‘authoritarian’, closely followed by ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘secretive’. Just ten per cent said their managers were accessible, and even fewer found the top tiers of staff in their organisation ‘empowering’.

A negative management style can be bad for your business. But perhaps inevitably, many managers believe that their style is intrinsically positive – even though their employees see it rather differently. So what are the main management styles, and how can you identify which group you fit into?

The Key management styles

It is generally accepted that there are four main management styles. Within each of these ‘umbrella’ styles there will, of course, be significant deviation; no two managers will ever be the same, and although Manager A and Manager B may both fit under the same umbrella, their day-to-day decision-making process and its effect on their staff could be dramatically different.

Small business owners are also likely to have a much different management style than managers in larger firms, as the success of the business is a much more personal challenge.


A democratic management style sees the manager sharing the decision-making process with employees and other stakeholders. This could happen in a number of ways; important decisions might be taken by a voted majority, or after consultation with staff, for example. Democratic managers also tend to delegate a lot of their authority to staff, although results will obviously still need to be achieved in a timely manner.

Democratic managers often benefit from the in-depth knowledge of certain elements of the business that only staff can offer. They can also build better relationships with employees, who are likely to feel more inclined to work harder if they feel that their input is valued.


An autocratic manager takes sole responsibility for business decisions, with little or no consultation with staff. This type of manager tends to make clear that they are in control of the firm, and their personality will often have a significant impact on the direction of the business and the atmosphere in the workplace.

Decisions made under an autocratic manager are often very quick, and this can make for a more agile company. But the success of the venture rests on the abilities of the manager to a far greater degree than under a democratic management style. Autocratic managers may be ‘directive’, meaning that they keep a tight rein on their staff and may be prone to micro-managing, or ‘permissive’, meaning that they explain the result that needs to be achieved but permit their staff to carry out the work in the manner they see fit.


A paternalistic manager, like an autocratic one, assumes the bulk of the responsibility for decision making. But, although they may not consult staff, they tend to have the interest of their workforce in mind – as well as their bottom line.

Paternalistic managers tend to be confident in their own judgement and abilities, but wish to ensure that their employees have the best possible environment in which to operate. This can be both advantageous and problematic; if the management is good, and staff do not feel patronised, the workforce can be better motivated and more productive. But there is a danger that staff can become over-reliant on the manager, and fail to use their own initiative when it is called for.


A laissez-faire manager tends not to be involved in the day-to-day activities of their employees, preferring instead to let their workers simply get on with their jobs. There is often very little communication between management and staff under this style of leadership.

Laissez-faire management can be successful when there is a very skilled workforce prepared to use their initiative, and when tasks are clearly defined in advance. But, often, a laissez-faire management style is a sign of a lack of managerial experience, and can lead to poor results and inefficiency.

Understanding your management style

It is very difficult to ‘choose’ a management style; instead, your style will, to a great extent, be dictated by your personality. The Chartered Management Institute provides an online tool to help you determine your management style, and you may find it useful to consider the results in some detail.

Think about the elements of your style that are compatible or incompatible with your business. For example, if you are a democratic manager, do you have processes in place to ensure that decisions are still made in a timely manner? If you are a laissez-faire manager, are your employees sufficiently knowledgeable to carry out their work properly?

The way in which you manage your staff and your business as a whole will have a dramatic impact on the success of your venture. You should think carefully about your management characteristics, and consider ways that you can adapt in order to give your business the best possible chance of success.