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20 Management Styles: A Quick Reference Guide

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No two managers are exactly the same. Our personalities, experiences, and access to leadership development opportunities shape how we choose to manage a team. However, in order to understand the world around us, our brains are wired to use categories and labels to organize information to make it easier to consume. Throughout the years, researchers have created names and categories for common leadership habits and traits they witness in the workplace, to help us understand the different managerial styles.

In this quick reference guide, you’ll find the 20 most commonly referenced management styles. Use this guide to gain knowledge about the different managerial styles, which style you may want to adopt, and which styles you will avoid.


Types of Management Styles

  1. Affiliative
  2. Authoritarian
  3. Authoritative
  4. Autocratic
  5. Bureaucratic
  6. Charismatic
  7. Coaching
  8. Collaborative
  9. Consultative
  10. Democratic
  11. Directive
  12. Laissez-faire
  13. Pacesetting
  14. Participative
  15. Paternalistic
  16. Persuasive
  17. Supportive
  18. Transactional
  19. Transformational
  20. Visionary

20 Types of Management Styles - Niagara Institute (1)

Do you know what your leadership style is? If not, take this quiz to find out!

Affiliative management Style

Focused on positivity, this management style is known for its ability to resolve conflict by building trust with employees and creating an environment of community and collaboration among employees. They’re brilliant at creating connections between themselves, their employees, and promoting those who follow them to do the same.


Authoritarian Management Style

Authoritarian leaders manage by giving directions and retaining control. They’re not one to seek input from others, as they like to make decisions based on their own opinions, ideas, and experience.


Authoritative Management Style

Not to be confused with the authoritarian management style, authoritative leaders are characterized by their team mentality and bringing together individuals to achieve a common goal. Leaders who use this management style create a clear team vision for success, explain why it should be done, and guides others by leading by example. Through these actions, an authoritative leader inspires aection, builds trust, and drives engagement in those they lead.


Autocratic Management Style

Autocratic is a management style characterized by their command and control style of leadership. This style is typically the primary category that similar management styles such as authoritarian, bureaucratic, and paternalistic fall under.



The bureaucratic management style is known for its traditional hierarchical structure and top-down leadership, where there is an abundantly clear chain of command. This style of management is characterized by highly formalized rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and processes that employees must follow in order to meet their objectives.


Charismatic Management Style

Charismatic leadership taps into their ability to speak with clarity to charm their audiences to take action. Their goal is to make the current reality better and have the conviction that it can be, and the commitment to make it so. They are strong at creating connections with others by relying on their captivating personality and communication skills, making them a leader many are eagerly willing to follow.


Coaching Management Style

Leaders who use the coaching management style believe they can unlock the potential of their people and do so through collaborative communication with an employee where they ask questions, give feedback, and provide motivation. This is all done with the end goal of developing the employee and enhancing their skills, for the greater good of the team and the company.


Collaborative Management Style

This management style lives to break down silos and brings employees, teams, and the organization together. Collaborative leaders believe in diversity of thought as a central way to make good decisions and the final decisions are made by the majority consensus. This belief ensures that information is shared freely across an organization, teams are cross-functional, and employees are empowered to take accountability for the outcome.


Consultative Management Style

Much like the collaborative management style, consultative leaders seek out thoughts and opinions from others before they make a decision. However, they do not do this across an organization. Rather they consult each individual on the team they lead. This type of leadership is often found where the team has technical or specific subject matter experts whose input is needed.

Democratic Management Style

Democratic management style, as the name suggests, centralizes on seeking input from others before making a decision but ultimately the leader makes the final call. Communication is bi-directional from the bottom-up and top-down, making employees feel valued, engaged, and involved. This style is typically one of the main categories for management styles and includes spin-off styles of consultative, participative, and collaborative.


Directive Management Style

Also known as authoritarian, this management is all about top-down leadership and decision-making. 

Laissez-faire Management Style

This management style is the polar opposite of autocratic styles. Laissez-fair leaders empower their employees to determine the path forward and typically make very few decisions themself. This hands-off style does not give employees much guidance or instruction, as the leader is confident in their employee’s skills and abilities to get the job done, which may be a good or bad thing depending on the employee.


Pacesetting Management Style

Pacesetting leaders are task-oriented and focused on getting things done better and faster. These leaders create and thrive in a high-intensity work environment and expect those around them to keep up. The expectation is individuals produce results as results are valued over everything else.


Participative Management Style

The participative management style is very similar to the collaborative and democratic management style in that the leader seeks out input from everyone before making a decision or when resolving a conflict. However, unlike the democratic or collaborative style, the participative management style only involves their team members to make a decision, not the entire organization and the team comes to a consensus on the final decision, not the leader. 


Paternalistic Management Style

As the name suggests, this type of leader takes the role of head of the group, much like a parent, and treats employees like a second family. In this management style, the leader makes the decisions and creates an environment where employees respect their authority and believe that the decisions made are in their best interest.

Persuasive Management Style

This style is characterized by relying on their own judgment and decision-making, much like the autocratic management style. The difference between the two is their approach to getting others to follow. Persuasive leaders invite questions and inquires into the decision made, whereas autocratic relies on command and control. They take the time to communicate the rationale behind decisions to get buy-in.


Supportive Management Style

Characterized by their concern for the well-being of their team, the supportive management style seeks out opportunities to support those they lead by removing obstacles so each individual can succeed. They work with each employee to develop their skills to the point where tasks can be delegated and employees feel empowered to get the job done with minimal supervision.


Transactional Management Style

This management style uses their formal authority in the organization as the reason why those they lead need to obey their orders. They believe their employees are only motivated by reward or avoiding punishment. Because of this belief, the transactional management style does not feel employees are self-motivated to get the job done, so they micromanage them every step of the way.


Transformational Management Style

Vision, change, and innovation are the key characteristics of the transformational management style. This type of leader inspires those they lead by having the belief that every employee has the power to shape the success of the organization through their ideas and innovations. They motivate their workforce by giving them autonomy at work and ownership in their roles to develop innovative solutions.


Visionary Management Style

These leaders have a clear vision of the future state they’re trying to achieve and are brilliant at painting that picture so others can follow. The visionary management style is characterized by a focus on the big picture by developing a strategic plan that addresses how they are going to achieve their vision. From there, once everyone understands and has bought into their vision, they empower each individual to do what is necessary to make it a reality. 


Do You Know Your Leadership Style? Take This Quiz and Find Out Now