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Management Training: Tips for Adapting Your Leadership Style

06 August 2015
management styles

After the initial euphoria of that well deserved promotion, one of the few first questions team leaders or managers can be forgiven for asking themselves is how am I going to manage my team and what approach to management should I take?  

There are of course so many different ways of managing people. Different leadership styles will vary in terms of decision making, empowerment and the level of responsibility given to employees, before even taking into account the culture of the organisation. Certain leadership styles work better than others and are more successful when attention is given to individuals, some of whom may benefit more from one style of management than another.


According to Melody Moore, from Hay Group

“Good management has the power to energise, engage and motivate staff to go the extra mile for their organisation. Poor management will have the opposite effect, creating a de-motivating environment and leading, in time, to poor team performance – including high staff turnover and frequent absences.”

The only certainty is that it is important that managers identify a sustainable approach to their leadership style, and implement changes that will result in a continuing improvement within the business.

So here comes the science part…

Leadership styles can be categorised into the following three variations:

  1. Autocratic - An autocratic manager dictates to his/her task force, making decisions on the goals of the team, controlling each action taken, with low autonomy throughout the team/group

  2. Laissez-Faire - A manager who takes this approach allows his/her workers to have more freedom on decision-making, offering guidance and support when it is required or requested, creating a high degree of autonomy within the team/group

  3. Participative - This management style encourages employee involvement at all levels of the business in terms of problem solving, strategies and solutions. Autonomy is extremely high throughout the team/group.

So far, so good. However, it is all very well to simply categorise these leadership styles, but which style should you use, in what situation and how? 

Let’s discuss this further, focusing on the advantages and disadvantages of each style, and how each style can be used in relation to typical managerial tasks such as delivering feedback, objective setting and delegating tasks.

Read more: What is Leadership in Management?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Autocratic Management

It is possible to use an autocratic approach to management without being dictatorial, as some would have you believe. There are also certain businesses or organisations that benefit from this style more than others, such as the Military and the Police for example, or working environments that come with safety issues if rules or tasks are not followed correctly, such as in a factory environment for example.

This form of Directive management is advantageous when:

+ decisions need to be made quickly

+ tasks need to be assigned to the workforce

+ efficiency is paramount

+ deadlines need to be met

 This will only work if tasks are communicated effectively, and that you as the manager show a respect to your team. If this style is overused it can result in

- The workforce seeing you as bossy, controlling and dictatorial:

- A feeling of resentment

- The workforce may feel frustrated at not being able to contribute ideas

- It may hinder performance and create low morale among team members

Autocratic style – Delivering Feedback

When delivering feedback in this style, the aim is obviously to give a review of an employee’s performance on a task in a direct manner, making sure that you are clear in your assessment of their work, in terms of both positives and negatives. 

Starting with what you are pleased with sets the tone of the conversation, and will make the team member more receptive to your feedback. Moving onto any improvements you want to advise of, it is important to remain positive in your tone, and give clear directions on what you would like the employee to address.

  • Be direct
  • Be positive
  • Make sure the employee is clear on expectations

Autocratic style – Delegating Tasks

When delegating work to a team in this style, it is important to have a clear set of instructions on what you would like to be done. Specific tasks and deadlines should be communicated, and whilst there should be a clear outline of tasks, it important to ensure that you have been understood in terms of the tasks and the deadlines.

  • Be clear
  • Be firm
  • Outline deadline expectations

Autocratic style – Objective Setting

Setting objectives are a key factor in management. When people know what is expected from them, they have a goal to work towards. The team will work better if they are completely clear on what is expected from them. These objectives should be realistic in order to keep the team motivated, without causing a dip in morale.

  • Outline clear objectives
  • Give realistic deadlines
  • Keep the team motivated

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laissez-Faire Management

Laissez-Faire is loosely translated from French, meaning “leave it be” and this style of management has been under criticism for being too relaxed and not achieving what other styles can. However, there are positives associated with this style of management, and if undertaken correctly can achieve great things.

This form of management is advantageous:

+ if your team are “self-starters” and motivated

+ if your team are naturally efficient

+ if your team are knowledgeable and highly skilled, but are not afraid to seek help or guidance

+ when tasks can be assigned personally, allowing each person to set their own objectives

It will be less effective and possibly detrimental if:

- your team requires “hand-holding” and lacks confidence

- there is minimal knowledge within the team/individual members

- workers lack organisational skills

- efficiency may be hindered where people work better under strict deadlines and objectives, lacking the ability to set these for themselves

Laissez-Faire style – Delivering Feedback

Feedback given in this style allows your employee the space to talk about what s/he feels s/he has done well and areas s/he feels could be worked on. Opening the floor up for discussion; as a manager you could firstly ask their opinion on the subject e.g. “So, how do you think things have been going with your project?” “Are you happy with the stage that the project is at right now?” and “What do you think you need to focus on next?” 

Your opinion can be communicated in relation to the employee’s thoughts and opinions, giving him/her the freedom to make suggestions which you can then add to. The tone is always positive, and the employee should feel empowered to action any points that were raised.

  • Be open in your approach
  • Be positive
  • Allow the employee to give their own feedback before you make your observations

Laissez-Faire style – Delegating Tasks

This style is a useful way for you to prioritise tasks before setting them for your team. It shows your team that you have trust in their abilities, which goes a long way in terms of team autonomy. When delegating work to your team in this style, you are likely to be more relaxed in your approach, rather than dictating “I need this done by midday tomorrow!” you would be more likely to say “Mr X called, he needs this doing sometime today or tomorrow. Could you email him when it has been done and copy me in please?” Instructions are still clearly set, but your employee is empowered in terms of deciding when s/he undertakes the task at hand in relation to other priorities, as long as it is achieved in the more flexible timescale that you have set. Often if you have a team, it may be that more than one member can undertake particular tasks, so you might approach the situation in terms of “This needs doing, Jan, Peter can one of you do this please?” and leave it up to the team themselves to decide who will undertake the task. 

  • Express what needs to happen in terms of task and deadline
  • Empower the team in terms of when they fit the task into their working da
  • Hand over delegation for the team to take ownership amongst themselves

Laissez-Faire style – Objective Setting

Objectives always need to be set in any business, but using this style you will be able to access the skills your employees possess and draw on each person’s individual skills, abilities and knowledge when setting objectives. 

  • Delegate objectives in terms of skill set
  • Give expectations in terms of deadlines
  • Empower the team, in terms of acknowledgement of individual skills

Advantages and Disadvantages of Participative Management

Sometimes referred to as a Democratic Management style, this approach will allow great autonomy within your team and allows team members to participate in terms of ideas, opinions and strategies, again empowering your employees, which historically has resulted in employees remaining within Organisations for longer, with a high level of job satisfaction.

This form of Participative management is advantageous in terms of:

+ Increased productivity

+ High levels of motivation

+ Less supervision means reduced costs 

+ High level of job satisfaction

This style, as with others also has its disadvantages:

- With increased involvement from many people decision making takes longer

- Sometimes too many opinions can be a hindrance, resulting in a “too many cooks spoil the broth” situation

- Security issues, where many people are privy to sensitive/important information

- A loss of control from a management perspective, with the input from many employees

Participative style – Delivering Feedback

Delivering feedback using this style is really based on two-way communication. It allows you to give your response and opinions to work performance etc., but also allows your employee to communicate his/her own views as well. 

  • Be liberal with praise
  • Be unprejudiced with criticism
  • Talk, but also listen

Participative style – Delegating Tasks

When delegating work to an individual using this style, your team is being given more responsibilities, and therefore needs to be aware that they are accountable for this. Motivating and encouraging your team in this situation will bode well for you, as you have the opportunity to instil Organisational values at the same time as giving instructions on specific tasks. 

  • Empower, in terms of tasks and accountability
  • Motivate and encourage
  • Instruct with company ethos always in mind

Participative style – Objective Setting

Objectives set in this style are a discussion between you, the manager, and your team. The objectives are reached as a team effort, steered by you, but lead by your employees. In this situation, it is your role to equip your employees with the values and vision that you have, which in turn will help to guide their objectives, with your involvement when needs be.

  • Set out values and vision for your team to use as a springboard
  • Minimal involvement from you
  • Keep the team on course, gently encouraging further discussion until a suitable objective is reached

These three leadership styles are a broad spectrum, and other variations on these are interspersed along the way.  There is no cut and dry way to manage your team. There are however methods and tips that can be taken from this. It may be that in reading this, you could put yourself in a hypothetical situation at work where you could see yourself using one or more of these methods and styles in your approach.

Further reading, to follow on from this is the Situational Leadership Model, a theory based on the assumption that no management style is better than another, but instead should be based on the task at hand and the maturity level of the people involved. In this way, management styles can be adapted in relation to the task, person or group, job and desired outcome/function to be accomplished. Their model was built up of 3 different areas;

  • Behaviour Types 
  • Maturity Levels 
  • Development Levels

There are no hard and fast rules to govern which management style works the best. It is dependant on a variety of factors including;

  • personality trait differences
  • preferences in working/learning styles 
    • whether someone is a visual or non-visual learner
    • auditory learner who listens and talks through problems
    • tactile learners achieve their objectives by “doing”  
  • Competence
  • Commitment and motivation

Having awareness of these factors and adapting leadership styles accordingly can go a long way in terms of staff retention, motivation and achieving the business results that you aspire to.

For more tips, or to learn more about our leadership training, please call us on 01295 675506 for a free consultation.

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