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4 Core Management Styles and When to Use Them

Published: March 20, 2020

Last Updated: February 7, 2024

  4 min read

Learn how key management styles can be adapted and used in various contexts for managers to improve relationships with employees and engagement.

Have you ever taken a personality test?

Did you feel as though the results painted an incomplete picture of your personality? Or did you feel like it was tricky to answer some questions thinking—sometimes I act like this, and sometimes I don’t?

If yesdon’t worry. This experience is entirely normal.

That’s because personality doesn’t occur in a vacuum. In other words, context and setting have a profound influence on behaviour. That’s why most people have moments of feeling extroverted; while other times, feeling introverted. It depends on the context. 

The same idea goes for management styles.


What is a “Management Style”

A management style isn’t intended to permanently label everyone; it’s meant to illustrate overarching characteristics and tendencies, and their related benefits and weaknesses. In short, how each style is valuable in a specific context.

One thing remains true across contexts: Success as a manager is contingent on being adaptable. Great managers know this truth.

Just like a personality test, a management style test is a fun and informative way to get an unbiased assessment of your general tendencies. As a result, you can learn and grow to become a more flexible and adaptable manager. Because if ONE person holds the power to make (or break) the employee experienceit’s a manager.

Remember: There is no "right" or "wrong" style. Each management type is beneficial in its own way.

What managers must remember is that some management styles are helpful in specific environments, industries, and particular employees— while others can be harmful.

So, let's explore the list and look at some of the overarching styles of management we find in the workplace, and where and when they should each be put to use.


Asset 1-54 Core Management Styles

The four management types aim to represent a boiled-down version of the broad spectrum of management styles that exist.

In short, don't think of these styles as cut and dry categoriesinstead, approach them as different points on a spectrum. These styles are dynamic and blur into one another.

On one end of the spectrum: a highly structured and hands-on style of management defined as the "Teacher." On the other end: the most unstructured and hands-off approach, otherwise known as the "Silent."

Let's go into a little more detail.

1- The Teacher

Asset 2xThink about the position of a teacher in a typical classroom scenario.

The Teacher is the authority figure. They are standing tall in front of their pupil. There is a clear divide between the Teacher and students. Tied to these roles are unwritten rules and expectations of power and authority. 

Importantly, the Teacher is considered a subject matter expert—someone who is passing along their knowledge to less experienced individuals.

Moreover, just like a classroom teacher, the Teacher-style approaches things with a high level of structure and planning. A teacher can sometimes have a very hands-on approach and coach a student carefully, while others may offer more freedom. However, the Teacher is always presentintellectually and physically when the student needs them.

When it’s useful: The Teacher style is a more traditional style of management and highly beneficial in scenarios where employees are young or less experienced. Perhaps interns or junior-level individual contributors who have recently graduated and are in "apprenticeship" mode. These employees require structure and guidance to flourish; they are not subject matter expertsyet.

2- The Strategist

Asset 3xThe Strategist is a goal-oriented planner at heart. They are great visionaries, and they feel a sense of safety and security, knowing there is a plan to follow. Similar to a Teacher, they provide clear performance metrics, direction, and overall structure to their employees. They are also inclined to stay connected to their team and check in regularly.

The strategic manager knows and understands exactly how each employee plays a role in their overarching plan and makes sure they are trained and well-equipped to execute the strategy. Unlike the Teacher, the Strategist feels comfortable allowing some autonomy to their employees and doesn't feel the need to be always present. Especially once metrics are established and a plan is in place.

When it’s useful: This management style is beneficial for task-oriented teams where each individual has expertise or skills that are utilized to achieve a specific end goal. For example, this style is beneficial in the manufacturing industry, engineering, construction, public sector jobs, or in the medical field.

3- The Pioneer

Asset 5xThis management style is forward-thinking and modern: preferring to give freedom, move fast, and experiment. Suiting those who are more valiant by nature, when a plan is too rigid or detailed, the Pioneer feels stifled and even drained.

They put a great deal of trust in their team and know that with only basic planning and structure, employees will thrive. Moreover, they believe that employees should not only be executing the work, but also involved in planning and strategy. Commonly allowing employees wiggle room to brainstorm ideas, develop their mandates, and manage their schedules and work. In short, they give ownership. 

When it’s useful: This style is highly beneficial in industries where employees are in senior-level positions, or on their way to attaining "expert" or "specialist" level knowledge. Such as in technical fields like programming and web development, creative fields such as marketing, architecture, design and illustration, writing, and film and television.

4- The Silent

Asset 4xEschewing traditional hierarchical systems, the Silent manager places a great deal of trust in their team and offers plenty of autonomy by principle. Decision-making power and authority are equally distributed among a group.

Considered a highly progressive style of management, the Silent manager gives their employees extreme ownership and accountability over all their mandates and responsibilitieswhich employees develop on their own. Moreover, the Silent manager offers employees the freedom to choose how and when they do their jobsthere are no strict start or end times to the workday, for example. The Silent manager believes employees are experienced professionals who should be able to decide how and when to do their work freely.

When it’s useful: By nature, this style of management is not suited for industries and jobs that are task-driven and require shift work, such as retail, customer service, manufacturing, warehouses, construction, etc. On the other hand, this style of management can be very beneficial in business and creative and technical fields. Especially to manage senior-level employees and directors, or highly experienced and tenured employees.


Final Thoughts

There is no right or wrong when it comes to management styles.

What's important in management is that you remain flexible and open. Adapt your style to the changing needs of your employees and the context of the industry you work in.

The Teacher, for example, is considered a "micromanager" under specific contexts. For example, when a manager tries to control experienced workers. This will undermine the senior employee's sense of pride and expertise--leading to employee disengagement as a result. 

On the other hand, Pioneer-style management is not fitting for an inexperienced employee. Junior employees need frequent feedback and hands-on guidance and coaching. They may feel lost and overwhelmed with too much autonomy and ownership.

Bottom line: context is everything.

When it comes to management styles, remember to stay open-minded and flexible. Get to know your employees, and tailor your approach to their specific needs. 

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