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Published on July 2, 2019

4 Types of Management Styles to Master to Become a Strong Leader

4 Types of Management Styles to Master to Become a Strong Leader

The type of leader you are has a significant impact on the success of your team. A strong leader is likely to inspire loyalty, hard work, and high levels of morale, whereas a poor leader can result in frequent turnover, loss of productivity, and unmotivated employees.

There are many steps you can take to make sure you’re in the former category. One of the actions you can take today is to understand and implement the types of management styles that will inspire your team to do their best work.

Company leaders and managers interact with their employees in a variety of ways – from collaborating on projects to providing feedback. So it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that leaders also have a lot of influence on how employees feel about their jobs. In fact, a study found that nearly half of employees said they’ve quit a job because of a bad manager.[1]

If you take a closer look at the situation, you can find several direct correlations between the quality of a manager and important factors like employee engagement, retention, and happiness. That’s why mastering the most effective management styles is one of the key components to nurturing and growing a successful team.

1. Visionary Management Style

The visionary leader excels at articulating a high-level, strategic direction for the company and mobilizing the team towards this goal. In other words, the visionary leader is the person who provides a roadmap for the company, and the employees are the ones who use this map as a guide to pave the path forward.

However, this doesn’t mean that the visionary management style encourages authoritarian decision making. Even though it’s the leader who ultimately decides on the direction of the company, this vision is shaped based on what’s best for both the organization and its employees. That’s why visionary leaders need to be open minded – this allows them to absorb feedback from employees and make changes when obstacles arise.

One of the benefits of this type of management style is that it inspires trust between the leader and the employees. Visionary leaders rely on their teams to get the work done and, as a result, employees have more autonomy over their day-to-day roles. This is a productive way to build a strong relationship with your employees, especially since 39% of workers said being a micromanager was the worst trait a boss could have.[2]

Another benefit is that this management style is extremely flexible. One of the great things about a vision is that there’s more than one “right” way to reach it, which gives companies the ability to test out different paths and methods.

The characteristics needed to master this management style include:

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  • High emotional intelligence
  • Flexibility when obstacles come up
  • Being open-minded to feedback
  • The ability to inspire, motivate and mobilize groups
  • Strategic and long-term thinking skills
What the Visionary Management Style looks like in action:

A startup is launching a new product. The CEO sits down with her leadership team and, together, they come up with a high-level strategy for the release. She hosts an all-hands meeting to share the vision with the whole company and have a discussion around it. From there, she empowers her staff to come up with next steps.

The CEO is available to provide guidance along the way and checks in with team leads regularly to make sure everything is headed in the right direction, but doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day activities.

2. Democratic Management Style

A leader who follows the democratic management style collects the perspectives and feedback of their employees to inform decisions. This is done with the intention of building consensus among key stakeholders. Unlike top-down management styles, where decisions are made only by the leadership team, the democratic management style is transparent, encourages participation from employees, and is relatively objective.

This is beneficial because it ensures that the whole organization is aligned or, at the very least, understands how a major decision was made. This is important because employees can feel left out when decisions are made without their input. A Democratic Management Style is also effective because it gives everyone at the company a voice, which can lead to more diversity of thought.

This style has benefits for the leaders and managers of a company as well. Having the opportunity to consistently check in with employees and collect their feedback can lead to critical insights into the overall sentiment, frustrations, and desires for the future of the organization.

The characteristics needed to master this management style include:

What the Democratic Management Style looks like in action:

A manager has to decide whether or not their team should scrap a project that’s producing ambiguous results. Instead of making the decision on his own, he has one-on-one meetings with everyone involved in the project, puts out an anonymous survey, and gathers additional data.

After collecting all the feedback, he decides to cancel the project because most of the feedback suggested that it wasn’t a productive use of time.

3. Coaching Management Style

This management style puts the emphasis on the professional and personal growth of employees. Leaders who follow this style are deeply invested in the needs of their team and take on more of a mentor role versus a traditional “boss” role. This means they’re available to share advice and guidance, willing to serve as an advocate, and always looking for opportunities to help their employees thrive.

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What does this look like in practice? For instance, let’s say an employee demonstrates a lot of interest and promise in the field of inbound marketing. A leader who follows a coaching management style will find opportunities for this employee to work on inbound marketing projects, encourage him or her to attend relevant events and provide the space and resources to further develop the skills needed to succeed.

The coaching management style is a great one to master because it demonstrates to employees that their leaders care about their success and wellbeing. This inspires employees to produce high-quality work and makes it more likely that they’ll feel safe confiding in their managers about any issues that arise in their jobs. This is a much better alternative to having an employee who doesn’t trust their manager and leaves the company without warning.

The characteristics needed to master this management style include:

  • A strong desire to help employees grow personally and professionally
  • Strong listening and feedback skills
  • Empathy and the ability to connect with others
  • Problem-solving skills
  • The ability to build trust and meaningful relationships
What the Coaching Management Style looks like in action:

A manager has a struggling employee named Tim. She recognizes that Tim is a smart person and a hard worker but is going through a slump, so she uses an upcoming performance review as an opportunity to see how she can better support him. The manager uses strategic performance review phrases such as:

You excel at [action], and I would love to continue seeing that from you.

or

I encourage you to keep doing [action]. I’ve received positive feedback that this has really helped the team [result].

to deliver feedback in a clear but empathetic way, and this opens up a productive dialogue around the challenges Tim is facing at work

Culture Amp, a company dedicated to making it easy to collect, understand and act on employee feedback recently compiled a great list of all these phrases and filled them in with real life examples in their article on performance review phrases, here are a few of them:

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You excel at [action], and I would love to continue seeing that from you.

Example from Culture Amp:

You excel at creating thoughtful marketing decks. I would love to have you continue taking the lead on them, especially since I know you enjoy the creative process.

I encourage you to keep doing [action]. I’ve received positive feedback that this has really helped the team [result].

Example from Culture Amp:

I encourage you to keep being a sounding board for your teammates. Many of your team members say you’re a great listener, and they feel comfortable sharing ideas with you.

Together, they come up with a plan of action that includes adding more variety to Tim’s workload and giving him the opportunity to refresh his skill set through company-sponsored online courses. The manager checks in with Tim regularly to make sure he feels like he has everything he needs to succeed.

4. Laissez-Faire Management Style

The laissez-faire management style is very hands-off and encourages employees to take initiative on most of the decision making, problem-solving, and work. When implemented in the right work environment, employees will appreciate having the trust, space, and autonomy to work in ways that will maximize their output.

Typically, companies that have a flat structure or don’t want to follow a rigid hierarchy are the best candidates for this management style. It’s also important to make sure you have a team of extremely driven and competent employees who are comfortable with having minimal oversight from leadership.

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Managers should also be prepared to go into conflict management mode whenever their employees lose focus or butt heads.

The benefit of this type of leadership is that it can lead to increased innovation, creativity, and productivity since there are no restrictions placed onto the way employees have to work or think. Similar to the Visionary Management Style, the amount of freedom granted to employees is also a great way to build a strong relationship based on trust.

The characteristics needed to master this management style include:

  • An immense amount of trust in your team members
  • The ability to be hands off but available when needed
  • Conflict management skills
  • Comfortable with decentralized structures
  • A knack for checking in on progress without being overly involved
What the Laissez-Faire Management Style looks like in action:

The Head of Marketing is launching a new project with his highly motivated, competent, and independent team. He assigns large chunks of the project to employees based on their strengths, gives them a deadline, and lets them run with their individual tasks. He’ll check in occasionally with the team members to see if there’s anything they need from him but, otherwise, remains completely hands off until the deadline.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the type of management style you decide to go with is completely up to you. If you need some guidance on how to make this decision, here are a few key questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  • Which of these management styles aligns most with my existing strengths?
  • What are the gaps in my management style right now, and do any of these other alternatives fill those gaps?
  • What are the needs of my organization at this moment?
  • Have my employees shown a preference for one type of management style over another?
  • What type of management style do the company leaders I admire use?

Keep in mind that you’re not committed to a single type of management style throughout your career. You can test out a few and see what feels right to you, or you can create your own management style by blending your favorite parts of each one.

Don’t be afraid to explore and get creative – the ultimate goal is to master the management style that feels natural to you and also brings out the best in your employees.

More About Leadership and Management

Featured photo credit: Charlie Solorzano via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dmitry Dragilev

Single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views, Dmitry is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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