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Understanding Management & Leadership Styles


Michelle Elliot


5th November 2019


If managers are to be effective in their role it is important for them to think consciously about how they manage – what kind of management style suits them best and will work well in their team and organisation. Adopting an appropriate style helps managers to establish rapport, trust and respect, engage their team members and build good working relationships.

Action Checklist

1. Know yourself

Assessing your personal management style can certainly be an uncomfortable process. However it is important to understand what you actually are and how you actually behave not just what you think you should be or should do. If you do not understand this, you will never know what needs to change. Looking at the models described above, ask yourself where you fit in. Think about which styles you feel most comfortable with. What are your preferred ways of working? What motivates you? How do you communicate with your colleagues and team members? You may wish to complete a diagnostic test – tests administered by HR professionals are generally recommended as opposed to online tests which may have no sound theoretical basis – but you can also gain powerful insights by consulting with your colleagues. Consider the styles you may need to adopt to suit your individual context as well as your natural approach to managing and think about what your organisation, team, peers and colleagues expect of you?

2. Look at your work habits

How do you manage your time? Do you set work priorities? How organised are you? Do you focus on formal team and one to one meetings or do you prefer to manage by walking about?

3. Think about how others see you

Reflect on how your colleagues and team members interact with you. How do they react when you ask them to complete a task or comment on their performance? Look at times when things have gone well or badly and try to identify how your own behaviour contributed to these outcomes. How we see ourselves may be at odds with how others do. Ask a few people whom you trust and respect how they see your management style and also seek opinions from superiors, peers and subordinates. In practice, the views of these groups may differ considerably so you will need to find a balance between them and be honest with yourself about which of them strike a chord with you.

4. Take account of the context in which you work

Mintzberg (2009) comments on the importance of context in partnership with style and refers to a symbiotic relationship, where ‘style matters and context matters, but mostly they matter together’. Above all, think about the organisation you work for. What kind of management structure is in place? How are objectives set and how is performance managed across the organisation? What are the accepted behavioural and cultural norms? Do you work in a high pressure environment or are things more informal and relaxed? How well do you think you are fitting in? Then focus on the immediate context by asking questions such as: What motivates your team members? What do they expect from you? How much guidance and support do they need? Are they used to working autonomously? The answers may vary depending on age, educational level or cultural background as well as experience and familiarity with the work. What may be acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another.

5. Identify areas for adjustment or development

Think about your strengths, weaknesses and also any problems that have become apparent. Are there any areas where you need to develop your skills, adjust to the team you are leading, or maybe adapt to the wider culture of your organisation? Consider what you need to work on and decide how you will go about this. Can you get advice from your line manager or can you find a mentor with whom you can talk things through? Would structured training in skills such as time management, communication or presentation be appropriate? Remember you will also need an element of flexibility. Monitor your approach to managing and leading on a regular basis. Be honest with yourself about what is working well and what is not effective. Prepare to make changes in line with changing circumstances and conditions. The key point is that if you understand yourself (i.e. your strengths and weaknesses and how you approach your work) then it is easier to determine what adjustments or developments you need to make to suit the current situation. If your management style is inconsistent with the dominant organisational norm, then you cannot hope to optimise your performance.

Download the Manager’s Quick Guide to learn more.