Management Style and Successful Leadership: A Short Guide

  • Brace
  • December 11, 2018
  • 6 min

A leader needs a team, and successful leadership means choosing the best management style. But how can you find the right way to lead employees and help them contribute to company goals? To help guide your search, we did a bit of digging and collected the best-known leadership styles.

Leadership Styles: Lewin’s “Glorious Three”

In the late 1930s, the social psychologist Kurt Lewin categorized existing leadership styles into three sections: Authoritarian, participative and delegative. Even with a world of knowledge between then and now, his concepts still offer valuable insights today.

  • Lewin’s first style, the authoritarian or autocratic leadership style, describes leaders that make decisions on their own. They are the ones that know everything, give instructions, and expect obedience. Errors are unacceptable and should be reprimanded. Employees of an authoritarian manager do the tasks assigned to them without any ifs, ands, or buts.
  • Surprisingly, there are still certain situations in which an authoritarian style is justified. One example is in emergencies where life-saving measures must be taken immediately. Quick action and skilled observation are necessary in these moments, which functions best when decisions are centralized.
  • Democratic leadership is very different. You have to be cooperative, supportive, encouraging, give recognition to your employees, and involve them in any decision-making processes, all while giving continuous feedback.
  • As a democratic leader, you create a high level of employee engagement and motivation, and thrive on a culture that accepts and learns from mistakes. Whenever people want to participate, they are taken seriously.
  • The Laissez-Faire principle is the third style of leadership and it’s all about being hands-off. Decisions on tasks or goals are left entirely to your employees, who enjoy a great amount of freedom. If you manage groups of experts or creative departments, this style — including its risks — may serve you well.

These differing methods suggest that there is no perfect leadership style, at least not according to Lewin. Every leader must come up with their own mix of styles appropriate to the situation and business model.

“It’s All About The Situation!”: Fiedler, Hersey & Blanchard

Fred Eduard Fiedler’s 1967 concept of Situational Leadership was one of the first theories of leadership. The organizational psychologist was convinced that successful leaders not only use different styles, but also make their success dependent on the following factors:

  • Personal relationships with employees
  • Task structure
  • Their position in the hierarchy

Researchers Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard have further developed this approach by adding employee maturity (motivation, potential, abilities) into the equation.

As a “situational” supervisor, your personal relationship with the staff reflects on their motivation. If there is a strong connection between the employee and the company, it’s a win-win situation, and instead of controlling, you simply help them to succeed.

9 by 9 Leadership: Blake & Mouton

At the heart of the Managerial GRID Model of psychologists Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton is the supervisor themself. The behavioral grid depicts how 2 behavioral dimensions — concern for employees and concern for tasks — interrelate. If nothing else, the findings are super diverse, showing that leadership comes in 81 different varieties.

5 models that stand out:

“Gentle Touch” Method: The behavior of the boss is characterized by a high interest in the well-being of employees. You act carefully with your team and are careful not to stress them out.

Command/Obedience Management: This style is equivalent to Lewin’s authoritarian leadership style with the interpersonal elements falling to the wayside.

Survival Management: Only minimal rules here. Neither results nor the people in the company play a role. This method has similarities to the Laissez-Faire style mentioned earlier.

Organizational Management: Balance and willingness to compromise determine your actions. It includes a bit of everything: You deliver the necessary performance and motivate employees.

Team Management: For Blake and Mouton, this style is the best. As a team manager, you are agile, have a clear vision, use different approaches, and act as a mentor to your team. High employee engagement meets high work performance. Bingo!

Drive From Within: The Transformational Style

Transformational leadership is a part of the Full Range of Leadership Model. As a transformational boss, you enable each team member to act on their own initiative. Imposed goals from higher management are obsolete and undesirable. By acting agile, strengthening the individual, and promoting their development, common goals and visions emerge. To learn more about the difference between agile management and micromanagement styles, check out our article, “Leadership Style: Agile Vs. Micromanagement.

Conclusion: The Style That Fits

Leadership styles come in many colors and each has its own shades. From the approaches we found – and, of course, there are many more – one can conclude that there are different ways and recommendations for each situation and every employee.

Successful leadership is only possible when people and their needs are at the center. From the customer, to the working student, to the boss, everyone has needs that should be taken seriously. The more comfortable everyone in your company feels, the more balanced and productive they become.

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