Why Study Leadership Management Styles?

How do you lead your employees?
How do you lead your employees? (Image: leadership image by Daniel Wiedemann from Fotolia.com)

To understand leadership and management styles, it's important to understand the difference between managers and leaders. How a manager interacts with subordinates is considered that person’s management style. Leadership style refers to how a specific person motivates others. While the most effective managers are leaders, not all leaders are managers.

Types of Management Style

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has identified four main types of management styles: autocratic, permissive, democratic and directive. A leader or manager who has an autocratic style prefers to make all decisions without allowing input from workers. The permissive manager allows workers greater flexibility and freedom in the work environment. A democratic leader allows employees to have input during the decision making-process, while a directive manager tells employees exactly how to do their jobs. In some cases the styles may combine. For example, a permissive-autocratic leader will make all decisions regarding what outcomes are expected, while allowing workers the freedom to decide for themselves how those outcomes will be reached. On the other hand, a directive-democratic leader will allow input from employees, but will then maintain close supervision over their work.


It's important to study leadership and management styles in order to understand how the various styles can work, or fail to work, together. While no one leadership or management style is effective in every situation, there's often a specific style that will be most effective in a given situation. Managers must understand the individual styles, as well as when each particular one is most effective. They must be willing to adjust their style to fit the situation, rather than expecting the situation to change to make their favorite style more effective. For example, a highly motivated employee, capable of working efficiently alone, will likely be demotivated by an autocratic or directive leader. Meanwhile, a worker who has difficulty staying on task may be more motivated to get the job done under the direction of an autocratic leader.

What’s Your Style?

Leaders and managers alike must seek to understand their own personal styles before they can hope to determine the best way to interact with subordinates. One way to determine your individual leadership style is through the use of a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The 16 possible style types, according to the Myers-Briggs theory, explain how a person prefers to interact with others, as well as their individual decision-making patterns. When managers and leaders understand both their own styles, and how best to interact with other styles, they can then communicate effectively with employees.

Turning Managers into Leaders

While some people may be born leaders, managers must often be taught to lead. Managers must not expect their employees to do as they're told simply because the manager holds a position of authority.They should learn from leaders, who inspire their workers to follow their example. Stephen R. Covey, a leading business theory researcher and author, says, “Leadership is not position. It's moral authority. Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity and treating people with respect.” Managers will gain the moral authority to lead effectively only by setting the example they wish their workers to follow.

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