Organizational Wellness

Management Styles: Driving Team Success

Oct 30, 2023
Last Updated May 24, 2024

Are your people happy? Do they show up to work with a smile on their face and a spring in their step? If so, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s also statistically unlikely — Gallup reported in 2022 that 60% of American employees are emotionally detached at work, and nearly 20 percent are downright miserable. Stress, anger, sadness, anxiety… these are not the kinds of words that you want to have come to mind when you think about your workforce.

Perhaps even more worrying is that in many cases management (as in the people who should be championing employee engagement and satisfaction) are often the root of the problem. Gallup further reports that approximately 80% of employees distrust their leaders, and a survey from GoodHire found that 83% of American workers said that they could just as easily do their jobs without any managers at all. This doesn’t paint a great picture of the current state of management.

Still, whatever the unhappy employees may think, leaders are important. Seventy percent of the variance in team engagement is tied directly back to the manager. It’s just that while good managers can boost their people to greater heights, bad ones tend to drag everyone down. So, how can you help ensure that your organization is fielding the kinds of managers that make a positive difference? The key lies in mastering the art of the most effective HR management styles. It’s the compass guiding you towards a brighter, more engaged future.

Here, we take a closer look at five different management styles in HR, so you can help your people succeed by developing an inspiring leadership environment that fits your managers’ strengths, promotes success, and doesn’t leave your top talent feeling miserable.


Understanding Management Styles

Before we get into the meat of it, let’s take a second to be clear on our definitions. First and foremost, we need to distinguish management from leadership in the context of HR. Although these terms are often used interchangeably (and will likely continue to be used interchangeably in this article for the sake of a little language variety), the two terms are not strictly synonymous.

Leadership is about influencing others and motivating them to achieve their goals. Leaders are part of the team; they are an authority responsible for providing direction. In terms of hiring, a leader is more focused on determining what kind of talent is required to meet future business needs.

Management, on the other hand, is more about solving specific problems. Managers make sure that the teams are doing what they need to be doing. Managers are in the details with budgeting, assigning tasks, reviewing performance, and hiring to ensure that positions are filled with the best people to get the job done.

Leadership is about leading people, and management is about managing the tasks those people perform. Or, as Dr. Brian Chupp puts it while writing for SHRM:

The old adage “managers do things right; leaders do the right things" is so true. Yet, I think the adage could be slightly altered: "The leader in the person decides on the right things to do, then the manager in her/him decides on the right way to do them.

This comparison can be a good way to distinguish between the roles or responsibilities associated with leadership when compared to those that are more management focused, but don’t let the lofty idealism of leadership devalue the importance of management. Managers, and the types of management styles they employ, play a key role in business success. Managers ensure that things get done. Effective management styles are essential for driving team performance, enhancing employee engagement, and achieving overall success in the workplace. The characteristics of an effective manager include:

Strong Communication Skills

One of the key traits of an effective manager is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively with their team members. This includes not only conveying information but also actively listening, providing feedback, and fostering open dialogue. Clear communication helps to prevent misunderstandings, align goals, and create a sense of transparency and trust within the team. It makes sense: if you can't share information clearly and effectively, then you can't really collaborate.

Leadership and Vision

It might seem counterintuitive after we spent all of that time talking about the difference between leadership and management, but the truth is that effective managers possess strong leadership skills. They have a clear vision for the team and organization and motivate their team members toward shared goals and objectives. By providing a compelling vision, managers create a sense of purpose and direction, enabling their team to perform at their best.

Adaptability and Flexibility

The modern workplace is ever-changing, requiring managers to be adaptable and flexible in their approach. Effective managers are open to new ideas, embrace change, and adjust their strategies as needed. They are quick to respond to challenges and opportunities, fostering a culture of agility and innovation within their teams.

Decision-Making Abilities

Managers are regularly faced with making decisions that impact their teams and organizations. This is where the ‘getting things done’ aspect really takes off. Effective managers possess strong decision-making skills and are capable of considering various perspectives, analyzing relevant information, and weighing the potential risks and benefits. They are confident in their choices and take responsibility for the outcomes.

Empathy and Other Soft Skills

Even the most clear-headed, adaptable, confident, and visionary manager is completely ineffective if they can't connect with the others on their teams. This is why the best managers also possess strong interpersonal skills. They understand the value of empathy, actively listening to their team members, and showing genuine care and concern. By fostering positive relationships and demonstrating empathy, managers create a supportive work environment that enhances employee morale, engagement, and productivity, while also inspiring trust.

OK. We’ve got the background taken care of, so let’s talk about management styles.

5 Different Management Styles

Much like styles of leadership, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to management. Instead, managers have the opportunity to explore and adopt various management styles that align with their personalities, the goals of their company, and the needs of their team. In other words, there’s some freedom here for managers to find the style that works best for all involved.

Each management style brings a unique set of strengths and considerations, impacting how managers communicate, make decisions, and move the needle toward team goals. In this section, we will delve into some of the most commonly recognized management styles. By gaining a deeper understanding of these different approaches, managers can enhance their leadership capabilities and find the management style that resonates best to help them get the best effort out of their teams.

  1. The Autocratic Management Style

The autocratic management style is characterized by a top-down approach, where the manager holds all decision-making authority and exercises almost complete control over their team. In this style, the manager provides clear instructions and expects strict adherence to guidelines and protocols.

This style of management is not always the most popular with team members — it can feel kind of dictator-like and often excludes things like autonomy. That said, there are some distinct advantages to an autocratic management style (as well as a few disadvantages):


  • Quick Decision Making: Autocratic managers are known for making decisions swiftly and efficiently, as they have the authority to do so without extensive consultation. This can be advantageous in fast-paced environments or during crisis situations when immediate action is required.
  • Clear Direction: Autocratic management provides clear instructions and guidance to employees, leaving little room for ambiguity. This clarity can be beneficial, especially for tasks that require strict adherence to protocols or specific guidelines.
  • Maintaining Control: Autocratic managers maintain a high level of control over their teams and projects. This can be advantageous in situations where precision and consistency are critical, such as in highly regulated industries or when handling sensitive information.
  • Crisis Management: Autocratic management may be particularly effective during times of crisis or emergencies when quick decisions and a centralized command structure are essential. This style allows for rapid response and decisive action without the need for extensive deliberation.


  • Reduced Employee Engagement: The autocratic management style often leads to reduced employee engagement. Employees may feel disempowered and disconnected from the decision-making process, which can negatively impact their motivation and commitment to their work. Without ownership, motivation tends to slip away.
  • Lack of Creativity and Innovation: Autocratic management can stifle innovation within the team. The strict control and limited input from employees may discourage them from offering new ideas or exploring alternative approaches.
  • Limited Collaboration and Teamwork: In this management style, collaboration and teamwork may be limited since decisions are predominantly made by the manager alone. This can hinder the exchange of diverse perspectives and tank the collective problem-solving abilities of the team.
  • Reduced Employee Morale: The lack of involvement in decision-making and limited autonomy can lead to decreased job satisfaction overall. Employees may feel undervalued or unappreciated, leading to higher turnover rates and potential conflicts within the team.

As addressed above, the autocratic management style can be a reliable option when dealing with tasks that demand a high level of precision, require strict regulatory compliance, or occur in environments where safety and/or security are top concerns. Individuals with a clear vision and the ability to provide unambiguous instructions tend to excel in autocratic management roles. Just be aware that this approach to management may not be suitable for all circumstances or personalities (and can lead to some of those statistics we mentioned in the intro).

  1. The Democratic Management Style

Democracy is great, isn’t it? Absolutely — provided that everyone involved in the decision-making process is informed and aligned toward common goals. The democratic management style is characterized by leaders who actively involve their team members in decision-making processes, seeking their input and feedback and allowing everyone a say in management decisions.

This management style offers several benefits, but it also presents some challenges:


  • Increased Employee Engagement: In a democratic management style, employees feel a sense of ownership and engagement as they are involved in decision-making processes. Their opinions and perspectives are valued, leading to a clear sense of ownership, higher levels of job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization's goals.
  • Enhanced Creativity: By encouraging open dialogue and diverse viewpoints, the democratic management style fosters a culture of creativity and innovation. Employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and thinking outside the box, leading to fresh approaches to problem-solving.
  • Better Problem Solving: Two heads are better than one, and the democratic management style leverages the collective wisdom of the entire team. By involving team members in decision-making, a broader range of perspectives is considered, leading to more comprehensive problem-solving and a higher likelihood of finding effective solutions.


  • Inefficient Decision Making: The democratic management style can be time-consuming, particularly when multiple viewpoints need to be considered and discussed. Consensus-building and reaching a decision through collaborative efforts may take longer compared to other management styles, which can impact efficiency in fast-paced environments.
  • Difficulty in Reaching a Consensus: In a democratic management style, reaching a consensus or agreement among team members may prove challenging, especially when there are differing opinions and preferences. This can lead to prolonged discussions or even deadlock, requiring additional effort to find common ground.

The democratic management style is well-suited for leaders who value inclusivity, collaboration, and respect for individual opinions. Employees who are self-motivated, enjoy autonomy within their roles, and are open to sharing ideas and feedback thrive under leaders who encourage their active involvement. On the other hand, a democratic management style may not be ideal in crises or when immediate action is necessary. In business, democracy is a luxury that the circumstances can't always afford.

  1. The Transformational Management Style

The transformational management style is characterized by leaders who inspire their teams to achieve exceptional performance and personal growth beyond comfort zones. These leaders focus on empowering their employees, fostering a sense of purpose, and encouraging innovation.

While transformational managers have been known to push employees, they are seldom seen as tyrants. These managers motivate team members and help them recognize and achieve their potential, and they're generally extremely willing to step in and work by the employees' side when needed. The pros and cons of transformational management include:


  • Increased Employee Motivation: Transformational managers have the ability to inspire and motivate their team members by creating a compelling vision and setting high expectations. They encourage their employees to go above and beyond, instilling a sense of purpose and pride in their work.
  • Enhanced Team Collaboration: This management style prioritizes building strong relationships with team members, fostering a culture of trust and collaboration. Transformational managers promote open communication and create an environment where ideas and feedback are welcomed, leading to increased teamwork and synergy.
  • Development of Future Leaders: Transformational managers focus on developing their employees' potential and providing mentoring and coaching opportunities. They invest in their team's growth, offering training and guidance to nurture future leaders within the organization.


  • Time and Energy Intensive: The transformational management style requires significant time and energy from the leader. Building relationships, providing guidance, and fostering personal growth demands continuous effort and dedication.
  • Dependency: The success of the transformational management style can sometimes create a reliance on the leader for guidance and motivation. This dependency may hinder the team's ability to be self-sufficient and make decisions independently.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Transformational managers may set high expectations for their team members, which can occasionally lead to unrealistic goals or performance targets. This may result in stress or burnout if employees feel overwhelmed or unable to consistently meet these expectations.

The transformational management style is well-suited for leaders who possess strong interpersonal skills, vision, and a passion for inspiring others, and who genuinely care about their employees' growth. Circumstances where transformational management shines include organizations that value innovation, creativity, and continuous improvement. It is particularly effective in knowledge-based industries, startups, and projects that require a high level of employee engagement and adaptability.

  1. The Coaching Management Style

The coaching management style blurs the line somewhat between ‘management’ and ‘leadership.’ Sure, coaching managers are willing to tell their people what needs to be done and even make tough calls when necessary, but they prioritize the development and growth of their team members over other considerations — acting as mentors, offering guidance, and providing constructive feedback to help individuals reach their full potential.

This management style has the potential to create extremely unified, loyal teams. It also has the potential to lose focus on what’s important to the company as a whole. Some pros and cons include:


  • Employee Development: The coaching management style focuses on nurturing the skills, knowledge, and abilities of team members. Through regular coaching conversations, leaders help employees identify their strengths and areas for improvement, fostering continuous growth and development.
  • Empowerment: Coaching managers empower their team members by encouraging autonomy and decision-making. They provide guidance and support, allowing individuals to take ownership of their work, make informed choices, and learn from their experiences.
  • Improved Communication: This management style emphasizes effective communication. Leaders actively listen, ask probing questions, and facilitate meaningful conversations with their team members. This promotes clarity, understanding, and open dialogue, leading to better collaboration and alignment of goals.


  • Time Intensity: The coaching management style requires a significant investment of time and effort from leaders. Regular one-on-one coaching sessions, providing feedback, and tracking progress can be time-consuming, particularly in larger teams or when dealing with multiple employees.
  • High Skill and Experience Requirements: Effective coaching requires leaders to possess strong motivational skills, active listening abilities, and a deep understanding of their team members' strengths and development areas. Developing and honing these skills may require training and experience.
  • Individual Focus Sometimes Takes Priority Over Team Goals: The coaching management style focuses primarily on individual development. While this approach is beneficial for personal growth, it can occasionally lead to less emphasis on overall team goals and collaboration, potentially impacting team dynamics and cohesion.

The coaching management style is best suited for leaders who have a genuine interest in their team members' growth, possess strong interpersonal skills, and are committed to ongoing development. Leaders who are patient, empathetic, and skilled in active listening tend to excel in the coaching management style. Circumstances where coaching management thrives include environments that value employee engagement, continuous learning, and personal development. It is particularly effective when managing high-potential employees, individuals in need of skill enhancement, or when fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.

Coaching comes naturally to some management and not as naturally to others. The good news is that coaching management can be learned. To implement the coaching management style effectively, consider the following tips:

  • Establish Trust: Build trust with your team members by fostering open and honest communication. Create a safe space for them to share their challenges, aspirations, and ideas.
  • Listen Actively: Practice active listening during coaching conversations. Focus on understanding their perspectives, concerns, and goals, and ask probing questions to encourage self-reflection.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer specific and actionable feedback to help individuals improve their skills and performance. Ensure that feedback is delivered in a supportive and constructive way.
  • Set SMART Goals: Collaborate with your team members to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that align with their individual development plans. Regularly review goal progress and provide guidance to help them move past obstacles.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones and successes along the way. Recognize and appreciate your team members' efforts, reinforcing a positive and motivating work environment.

  1. The Situational Management Style

Each of the aforementioned styles has its own advantages and may be well suited to specific circumstances. Unfortunately, none of them are a perfect choice for every circumstance, and this is where situational management comes in.

The situational management style (also known as contingency management) is a flexible approach that emphasizes adapting management strategies based on the specific needs of a situation. This style recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to management and that effective leadership requires adjusting to varying factors such as task complexity, employee experience, market stability, training, and the need for conflict resolution.

Situational management has the potential to provide a "best of all worlds" approach, allowing HR managers to assess each situation and choose the most suitable course for achieving optimal results. By embracing the situational management style, HR managers can adapt their leadership approach to meet the unique demands of each new challenge. This approach requires managers to be flexible and skilled at assessing and understanding the nuances of different circumstances, and it emphasizes the importance of considering individual needs alongside broader organizational contexts.

Ultimately, the situational management style provides a framework for HR managers to be responsive and adaptive, striking the right balance between task requirements, employee development, market conditions, training needs, and conflict resolution. Because, hey, why pick one approach when you can just use them all?

A Management Style for All Seasons

Effective management is the cornerstone of a thriving organization, influencing everything from employee engagement and satisfaction to productivity and overall performance. By understanding multiple management styles (and how best to implement them), HR professionals have the power to tailor their approach to meet the unique needs of their teams and organizations. After all, every business, every employee, and every circumstance is unique — finding the right management style helps turn those unique traits into strengths to guide and grow your success.

Ready to elevate HR management into a competitive edge? A great place to start is by taking care of your employees. Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to learn more about what you can do to support the people that drive your business.

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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