The issue of how to manage people effectively is a tale as old as time. And it’s easy to overlook how many different people management styles there are. Workplace cultures vary almost as much as the people within them. What’s expected of a boss depends not only on what kind of business it is, but also on the people in that company’s workforce.

Some businesses need rapid-fire decision making, unhampered by lengthy discussions and bureaucracy. But many employees work better under managers who give them autonomy to approach their work how they see fit.

There are six types of manager

According to Hay McBer, there are six broad types of people management styles. These can be used to achieve different management goals:

  1. Affiliative management
  2. Authoritative management
  3. Coach-style management
  4. Directive management
  5. Pace-setting management
  6. Participative management

It might be tempting to write off people management styles as twaddle, but it makes more of a difference than you might think. Gallup revealed that the wrong person is chosen for management 80% of the time!

Just as each form of people management has its own benefits, they also have their drawbacks. And while different managers tend to favor different approaches, the hallmark of a truly skilled people manager is the ability to switch between styles as needed. This is just one reason why HR must support managers to be the best possible role model for their team.

1. Affiliative management style

Affiliative management is basically the super friendly approach. This style aims to reduce conflict by creating a harmony between junior and senior members of staff. As you can probably guess, this is one of the best types of manager for bosses looking to support employee wellbeing and build up strong social connections in their team.

When to use affiliative management: It’s a great approach for the routine, day-to-day stuff, and can enable early conflict resolution. But where purely affiliative managers can fall down is w

When to avoid affiliative management: When the business enters crisis mode. It’s fine if everyone gets on. But someone who spends all their time trying to be everyone’s friend can struggle to get their team to focus when things start going wrong.

2. Authoritative manager

Authoritative management, also known as visionary leadership, is a broad-stroke approach. An authoritative manager style sets out their vision, and guides their team to success. Authoritative managers use constructive feedback to bring out the best in their team. This approach uses charisma and persuasion to keep employees engaged. But it does require a certain amount of confidence and competence to pull off effectively.

Things can get a little confusing here though. Because outside of Hay McBer’s work, some define authoritative management as directive management, which we’ll also be discussing.

Where these two methods diverge is that once an authoritative leader has set down their overall vision, they tend to let their employees function with relative autonomy. However, if someone’s work isn’t up to standard, an authoritative manager will use frequent feedback to re-align their focus and direction.

When to use authoritative management: Experienced teams who understand what’s expected.

When to avoid authoritative management: Less experienced or junior staff who might require a more hands-on approach. While the emphasis on feedback is great for helping less new employees develop, the lack of more direct guidance can make them struggle to engage.

3. Directive management

Directive management lays out what you expect to be done, and your employees do it to your specifications. Compared to authoritative management, the directive approach involves a greater degree of direct oversight. These managers exert more control over the specifics of how employees work.

But the directive management style is often viewed unfavorably. It’s not uncommon for directive managers to use harsh words and threats of discipline to compel employees to deliver results. Plus, the lack of discussion and personal autonomy can stymy innovation. This can limit the ability of employees to engage with their roles. And left unchecked, directive management can easily mutate into authoritarian micromanagement.

When to use directive management: When decisions need to be made quickly, especially during a crisis. No drawn-out discussions, no bureaucracy. Just action.

When to avoid directive management: When an employee is clearly competent in their role and performs it with the right outcomes.

4. Coach-style management

No, this doesn’t mean striding up and down the office in shorts while blowing a whistle. But it does mean that you’ll guide and push your employees towards success and better performance by leaning into the mentorship-based responsibilities of a manager. This means putting a heavy emphasis on personal development and up-skilling. This is great for boosting employee loyalty and reducing turnover. And staff are more highly engaged because they feel part of the bigger picture.

However, it requires you to have a greater level of knowledge and experience than your employees, making it less effective if you’re not that much more experienced than the people on your team. It might also put you in the position where you’re keeping someone on who doesn’t have the right skills, because you keep expecting them to improve.

Other than that, it’s worth remembering that being a mentor to even one person can require you to make a lot of time for them. So attempting to coach everyone in your department can result in you having to keep a lot of plates spinning on top of your regular responsibilities.

When to use coach-style management: When employees are seen as an investment.

When to avoid coach-style management: When the manager is only slightly more experienced that their team.

5. Pace-setting management

Pace-setting managers have extremely high standards. And they expect their employees to meet them. That said, pace-setting managers tend to lead by example, so it’s not a case of do as I say, not as I do. So if they expect employees to work hours of overtime to hit an approaching deadline, chances are they’ll be doing the same thing themselves. Leading by example can be a very effective way of coaxing more discretionary effort out of your team.

Like authoritative management, pace-setting can be quite a hands-off approach to leadership, but without so much emphasis on the mentorship aspect.

When to use pace-setting management: Highly driven and competent teams.

When to avoid pace-setting management: Young or inexperienced teams. Employees who are still trying to develop may find that the aggressively high standards of a pace-setting manager can make them feel inadequate. This can put them at increased risk of disengagement or even cause them to burn out due to workplace stress.

6. Participative management

Other models refer to participative management as democratic management. A participative leader relies on broad consensus rather than strict direction. A participative manager encourages employees to speak up. But be warned. Resentment may kick in if decision-making is suddenly withdrawn without good reason.

When to use participative management: Stimulating a sense of employee involvement in company decisions and success. It’s an effective way to build employee advocacy and encourage discretionary effort from your staff.

When to avoid participative management: If quick decision-making is critical to business success. Or when a firm managerial response is needed.