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What is Your Management Style?

A common interview question is “what is your management style?”  There are many books and articles that enumerate a number of styles and argue one is the best but the fact that is each can be effective with certain types of employees. The following three do a good job of offering you a range to describe your style:

Directive – You are the boss and you tell everyone what to do and how to do it.  It is your ideas and yours alone that get implemented.  You expect tasks to be completed and micromanage all the details.  Directive types pay little attention to the wants or needs of staff.  Instead, you are obsessed with having things done a certain way. Creativity is non-existent.  If deadlines are missed or tasks are completed in a sloppy manner, you become upset.  Too much directive managing can drive down morale and increase turnover.  However, there are people or tasks that need to be managed this way – a new person in the company, less educated/low skilled staffs, and personalities with a high need for structure.

Laissez-Faire or Hands-Off – You are the boss and need projects completed on time. You assign the projects, issue a deadline and allow staff members to complete without interference.  You make yourself available for consultation, but allow people to complete the work on their own.  And, you accept their end results. This is most effective with high skilled, seasoned professionals, e.g., as a University Department Chair managing Professors or in an R & D function managing highly educated and experienced Scientists or Engineers. This approach can produce a small number of Stars – individuals able to show what they are capable of and shine. It will fail though with those with a high need for direction or externally imposed structure.

Consultative – You are the boss but want input before decisions are made.  You think several heads are better than one.  You present a problem to the team and ask for creative solutions realizing you don’t have all the answers.  This style motivates people by keeping them engaged and knowing their input has meaning.  They are more likely to have higher morale and lower turnover.  Gaining consensus does take time and facilitation skills to work. In general, the most effective approach that can work well with both of the above groups as the highly skilled will actively participate, the lower skilled may not but will learn from the process. Therefore, does the best job of developing the most people.

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