Once you figure out how your manager operates on a day-to-day basis, you’ll be better placed to meet his or her expectations of you. Working with and for people is rarely simple. Different managers have different management styles. The sooner you figure out what your manager’s leadership style is, the sooner you can adapt to it.
Consulting firm Hay/McBer notes that there are six basic leadership or management styles, although many managers will utilise more than one in the workplace, depending both on their employees and the situation at hand. In addition to identifying your manager’s leadership style, you should try understand his or her values and principles.
The better you understand your manager and what motivates him or her, the better you will be able to anticipate what he or she expects from you.
COERCIVE OR DIRECTIVE Managers who use this style control employees closely (read: they micromanage) and demand immediate compliance. The coercive manager directs by threats and discipline. This is not a particularly effective leadership style and tends to only work when there is a crisis. The coercive manager needs constant information, so try to keep him or her in the loop by providing constant status reports.
AUTHORITATIVE OR VISIONARY Of all the six management styles, this is arguably the most effective. These managers are good at providing long-term direction and vision for staff, and good at identifying the standards that reinforce that vision. They are usually good at articulating their vision and what they require of their teams, but then step back and allow their staff to get on with the job at hand. They tend to be firm but fair, and motivate by persuasion and feedback on performance.
DEMOCRATIC OR PARTICIPATIVE This manager tries to build consensus and commitment among employees. He or she encourages staff to participate in decision-making. The manager motivates by rewarding the team effort. Democratic leaders are able to build and maintain trust, and there tends to be a high level of morale in their teams. This style is effective when staff have experience and credibility. However, you will need to speak up if you need help.
PACESETTING The primary objective of this manager is to accomplish tasks to a high standard, setting the bar very high and obsessing over details. Such managers may even take over tasks themselves if they feel they’re not being done to the right standard. This type of manager expects staff to direct themselves, but this is only effective when staff are highly motivated and competent, and don’t require much direction. You’re unlikely to get much coaching from this type of manager.
AFFILIATIVE The focus of the affiliative manager is to keep employees happy, which means that people come first and the task at hand, second. This manager tends to avoid conflict and emphasises good relationships between team members. He or she motivates by trying to keep people happy. This type of style works when there is a need to grow staff morale, improve communication or repair broken trust, but performance can suffer and it can be frustrating for staffers with A-type personalities.
COACHING These are developmental-style managers who aim to develop their employees professionally for the long term. Unfortunately, there are not many managers who utilise this style of management. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and creativity with this kind of manager and ask for help or advice when you need it. While such a manager will delegate responsibility and empower staff, he or she will expect commitment and involvement in return.