Management style is learned - new skills can resolve issues

Dear Joan:
I am doing a research paper on various styles of management, such as micromanagers. But I’m not sure of other types. But I am having such a difficult time finding the appropriate names of different styles in order to narrow it down to a few and begin my research to develop my paper.  

Do you know the appropriate names of the various styles of managing, or any other resources?

If there is a definitive list, I’ve never seen it. But there are plenty of leadership books, all with their own categories and definitions. Take a trip to your local bookstore and look in the Management/Leadership section. Then take a look at the table of contents, to give you some ideas of different categories of leadership styles. 

But I suspect that most of the clever names you’ll find in those leadership books will give you versions of the following basic types. The styles refer to how managers try to get people to do things. Since management is the art of getting people to do the right things for the right reasons, a lot of time and energy is spent trying to figure out how best to accomplish this.  


These folks just can’t let go. Typically, they have worked their way up the ladder and they are familiar with the work that needs to get done. They find satisfaction in doing the work, so they like to do it themselves, or tell their employees exactly how to do it.

Often, micromanagers are perfectionists, so they breathe down the necks of their employees, checking their work to see if they have completed it exactly like the manager would have done it.  

Sometimes micromanagers are created because their boss is pressuring them for fast, specific results. This causes the manager to hover over their employees’ and frequently inquire about the progress of the project. If the manager’s boss is the punitive type, you can bet the manager will be micromanaging his or her employees, so no heads will roll.  

Sometimes, a manager will micromanage an employee who has a performance problem. In cases like this, it makes sense for the manager to drill down into the employee’s work to see where the problem is and to guide and monitor the employee’s work.   

Other than the last example, micromanagers tend to stifle creativity and motivation. They don’t develop and challenge their employees and so they don’t keep smart, ambitious people.

Hands-off managers

This is the other extreme. These folks aren’t around much and so their employees are left to figure things out for themselves.   

Hands-off managers may be on the road a lot, visiting customers or other sites. For example, a sales manager with a large sales force may be out of the office traveling with sales representatives, or meeting with large customers. Other than occasional sales training sessions, sales people generally work without much direction.   

Another type of hands off manager may be physically on site but focused on activities that pull him or her away from the day-to-day work. For example, a CEO may be actively working on strategic issues and may not work very closely with his direct reports, other than for regular staff meetings or planning meetings.   

In some cases, a hands-off manager can be less involved with his or her staff because the staff is mature and experienced and can be trusted to get their work done. However, a good manager still stays involved enough to help with problems and to coach and develop the team.  

Some hands off managers are more interested in their own careers than in the careers of their employees. They are busy meeting with the people they want to impress, rather than getting involved in making the department better.   

For the most part, a hands-off style can be a problem if there aren’t enough touch points with employees. Most employees want to have meetings with their manager to get direction, company information and feedback and coaching. In addition, most groups of employees want to feel a connection to the company and to their team, so a hands-off manager is too removed to meet the needs of employees.

Authoritarian managers

This is a dying breed. Until roughly the 1960’s and 1970’s, most managers used this style. If the boss said “Jump!” the employee said, “How high?” When the Baby Boomers began to hit the workplace in large numbers, this style didn’t work as well. Instead of saying “How high?” the hippie generation said, “Why?”   

Authoritarian managers issued orders and they expected them to be followed without question. This style is a direct result of the military model from the generations following both World Wars.

The reward for doing what you were told was that you: a.) were left alone b.) didn’t get yelled at c.) didn’t get fired. As a result, the employees were easy to manage and the managers held all the control. The downside is, without employee’s questioning and suggesting, good ideas were never heard, or employees didn’t deviate from their orders, even if they didn’t make much sense.  

The Authoritarian style has passed out of favor in modern organizations. However, there is still room for this style in certain situations, such as during a crisis or a company turnaround.

Participative managers

This general term describes the kind of manager who “shares leadership” to some degree with his or her employees. The employees can participate with the manager in making some of the decisions about how the work should get done.   

Some managers subscribe to this style on a daily basis, involving employees in planning meetings, discussing and deciding policies, figuring out how to improve the processes and how to measure quality. Others only use this style for some things, such as when a new program is launched and the leader invites the employees to help figure out how to implement it.  

Participative management can go too far. For example, some managers can’t seem to make any decision without getting input from their staff. This slows down the process and the organization can’t react quickly enough.   

The best leaders, in my opinion, favor participation but also know when they need to be directive or make decisions on their own. When the situation calls for it, they will be hands off but they may also need to drill down into the details. It is a continuum that requires art as well as science, so the best leaders will have a little of every style. It’s knowing when to apply each one that makes the difference.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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