There is a wide range of researched and published management style models. Most of them are concerned with the degree of autocracy or democracy involved.
I have never found any of the models to be true for any one person. Most people use different levels of autocracy and democracy in different situations. For example, with new, inexperienced staff a manager may be more autocratic and with experienced staff be more democratic. In tense situations such as a major safety incident, the most democratic managers may become autocratic.
I have observed over thirty years, however, that most managers fall into one of these categories:
These managers care about process more than outcome. They have a belief that if the process is right the outcome will be guaranteed. The benefit of this style of management is that there is clarity around common tasks and the opportunity exists for continuous improvement in performance. The problem with this style of management is that only a few companies in the world have managed to embed continuous improvement to the extent that process design itself is continuously improved. These managers’ results are tied closely to the effectiveness of the company continuous improvement processes.
These managers believe that as long as they concentrate on the outcomes people will find a way to achieve the outcome. I have seen managers poorly implementing management by objectives, who have set targets in a cooperative manner and then left their subordinates and colleagues on their own without ensuring that they have the data, skills, knowledge, behaviour, authority and resources required to achieve the goals. It was bizarre and demonstrates the extreme failure of this style of management.
These managers are, first and foremost, concerned about equity within their team; everyone has to be treated fairly and equally in their eyes. While these managers, in the beginning, create a sense of team spirit, it dies quickly when the expectations of people of what fairness and equity is, diverges from the manager.
These managers are driven by an understanding what makes their team as individuals, tick. They are also driven by understanding what tasks and tactics will contribute to executing the strategy to achieve a goal. They understand that there are times to be democratic and times to be autocratic, times to concentrate on process and times to concentrate on outcome. They judge equity against contribution to the goal.
A corollary of different management styles are leadership styles.
I use Peter Drucker’s definition to differentiate managers and leaders; “Leaders do the right things, managers do things right”.
In my experience, there are three basic leadership styles; from the front, from the back and collegiate.
“From the front” leaders lead by example, giving a strong lead to their team on what the “right thing to do” is. To be successful, these leaders must be very competent about the business they are in.
“From the back” leaders help their people understand the goal and facilitate their teams by ensuring the resources, team composition and know-how to achieve the goals.
“Collegiate” leaders, seek advice from all interested stakeholders before making decisions in the interests of reaching the goal and keeping in balance the often competing needs of stakeholders. Collegiate leaders do not pass over accountability for decision making to others. Leaders who do that do not lead at all and give rise to management by committee, a precursor to poor, slow decision making, at best.