Abstract image representing 5 Management styles you should know

5 Management styles you should know (and when to use them)

Written by Alison Robins, Illustrated by Valérie Gatien

April 3, 2020

Reading time : Clock8m

As a manager, you have one of the most wonderfully impactful roles in the workplace. Much like that elementary teacher whose name you still recall for helping you stretch beyond your limits, you will be a memorable stepping stone for your employees’ careers. You want nothing more than to help your team achieve their goals and grow in their expertise. After all, their success is your success. We’re here to help you develop alongside them by equipping you with all the management essentials you need to grow.

Management fundamentals include the basic manager skill set you need to do the job right, and the different types of management styles. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong style, it all depends on the needs of your team at large, each individual employee, and where you’re at in your career.

We’ll take a look at 5 prominent management styles, their benefits, and when to use each one.

The 5 essential management styles we cover:

  1. Participative management
  2. Network management
  3. Mentor management
  4. Pacesetting management
  5. Authoritative management

The 5 most essential types of management

1. Participative management

A participative management style refers to actively involving employees in the decision-making process. It’s all about piecing together the different ideas, opinions, and skill sets of each individual, and then prioritizing and planning accordingly. By getting insights and input from your employees, you can then narrow your team’s focus, and organize and manage workloads from there. Not only does this management style encourage creativity and innovation from your employees, it can also help foster inclusivity on your team.

When to use participative management

This participatory management style works well when your employees have a strong understanding of business objectives, priorities and goals. For example, if your organization is very client-oriented and your employees are the ones in direct contact with clients, they might know best what to prioritize. It’s a way of flipping the typical top-down structure on its head — and can lead to big new ideas and approaches, as well as long term employee ambassadorship.

The benefits of participative management

The more people are involved in the decisions being made, the more accountable and invested they will be in the work!

2. Network management

A network management style emphasizes building connections and lines of communication between teams and then trusting them to work collaboratively with each other. This is a fairly hands-off management style, as your employees’ first contact for resolving problems or getting initial approvals are each other, not you. The role of network managers is maintaining the connections between your employees so they can work effectively together. This could mean scheduling regular cross-team touchpoint meetings or setting up the right Slack channels — you might have to test out a few things before you find what works best.

When to use network management

For managers and leaders who oversee multiple teams, this is an ideal management style to master. Weekly syncs or joint retrospectives are a good start when your teams are small, but as your teams grow and it becomes harder to manage cross-team communication, try developing leadership from within: appoint one person from each team to take charge of this sync initiative. That being said, even if you’re a new manager with a small team, building up a skill set that allows for bridging team gaps will be imperative to your success as a leader. Keep your vision wider than the scope of the team to understand how everyone connects and can work together.

The benefits of network management

Cohesion, communication, collaboration, and solid relationships. The more people are connected, the better the workflow and the greater the output for your customers.

3. Mentor management

A mentor management style means shifting between a hands-on and hands-off approach to management to develop your employees’ skills and lead them to be more autonomous. With this style, you act as a coach and work one-on-one with your employees to understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can develop their expertise. By having regular touchpoints where you set goals, create development plans, and follow up on progress, you help your employees become masters of their craft. Helping employees utilize their strengths every day impacts both their sense of achievement, and the business’ bottom line.

When to use mentor management

If you were a star performer in your field and got promoted into management, you’re perfectly primed to be a mentor manager. It’s about passing the torch and developing your employees to hone in on their skills and become experts themselves (and then getting out of their way). That being said, you can still be a mentor even if you don’t have the specific expertise your employee is developing — connecting them with the right coach or resources is a form of mentorship, too.

Apply mentor management with employees who want to develop and apply their strengths, or underperforming employees who need direction in their expertise. Be sure to ask the right questions for underperformers, because it’s not always as simple as ‘they aren’t getting it’. Are they not feeling connected to their work? Not using their strengths? Don’t see their opportunity for growth?

The benefits of mentor management

More than ever, modern workers expect this coaching management style, not an old school boss. Employees are most engaged when they are being mentored to hone in on their skills, not being told what to do.

2 person talking about measure engagement






Learn more




4. Pacesetting management

A pacesetting management style is hands-on and directive about the pace of work that is set, but hands-off about how the work will be completed. This style of management means implementing more aggressive goals, strict deadlines and checkpoints for projects, but leaving methods and execution up to employees. It is not always the most popular management style, as it can be more challenging and competitive, but there are teams who thrive in these settings.

When to use pacesetting management

For example, with high performing teams that aren’t quite living up to their potential, setting standards higher and offering stretch goals might be just the kick of motivation they need to boost engagement. It might not be sustainable for the long term, but if you have a specific project or a short term goal, this style could work. When teams are self-motivated, pacesetting may be all they need from you. Some teams work well when left to their own devices, and just need deadlines to structure their work around.

The benefits of pacesetting management:

A dose of healthy competition to reach ambitious goals re-ignites motivation and engagement in teams that have become unstimulated in their day-to-day.

5. Authoritative management

An authoritative management style is the old-school, autocratic style of management, more aptly known as micromanagement. It goes against the grain of servant leadership where managers support a team from the bottom up, and instead follows the traditional top-down management model. In this style, you dictate exactly what is done, when, by who, and how, with no input from your employees.

Authoritative management is not necessarily in line with a people-first modern workforce, but under very specific circumstances, it can be a necessary, temporary approach. The trick is using it for the right reasons at the right time. Good managers remain clear in their intent behind choosing this style, as it is often circumstantial.

When to use authoritative management

The clearest time to use an authoritative management style is when your company or team is in a state of crisis. In a moment where everything is up in the air, and either the health of your employees or the bottom line is at risk, a more authoritative approach can actually help take the pressure off your team. The trick with this (and a key to being a good manager in general) is a strong foundation of trust between you and your team.

For an authoritative approach — even a temporary one — to work, your team has to trust that you have their best interest at heart. Use the other styles outlined in this article to connect with your employees and build trust day by day, and only implement this one when it’s absolutely necessary. A version of authoritative management can also work with junior employees who need direction at the beginning stages of their career, but it should never last too long.

The benefits of authoritative management:

Removes burden from a team and ensures a lower margin for error in time of a business crisis.

Managing your management styles

The first step in developing your own management style is understanding the reality of your team, its individuals, and your own skills. From there, you can begin to implement them and draw on aspects from each one to discover the combination that works best for your team. It’s all about finding the balance between hands-on and hands-off approaches.

Finding your groove will take some time and practice, and will probably involve some learning from trial and error — but fear not. Committing to testing out different styles and being open to learning is the best place to start, and continual growth and development are key to being a good manager, and a great leader.

Tell us your experiences with these different types of management and how you’ve used them in the comments below!

Keep reading on this topic