Management Styles Vs. Leadership Skills

Comfort in offering routine feedback to employees is critical to motivating and growing employee performance.
Comfort in offering routine feedback to employees is critical to motivating and growing employee performance. (Image: Images)

Management styles and leadership skills are strongly correlated. Typically, the leadership skills a person possesses contribute strongly to the approach taken in managing employees. While many descriptions are commonly used to explain different management styles, the Theory X and Theory Y concept of management usually addresses the two basic approaches to managing employees.

Management Basics

Theory X and Theory Y management styles were presented by Douglas McGregor in his 1960 book, "The Human Side of Enterprise." He explained that a Theory X manager operates with the basic belief that employees do not like work and require direction and a more authoritarian approach to leadership. Theory Y managers conversely believe that employees have varying levels of potential and the job of the manager is to coach and develop an employee to reach her potential.


During the early to mid-20th century, Theory X was a popular approach to management. This is why the Theory X style is often referred to as the traditional management style. During this earlier time frame, managers in the U.S. tended to operate with a manager says, employee does attitude. During the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, a shift toward more coaching and participatory approaches to management become popular. Thus, more managers view their role as supervisory in nature, with employee empowerment common in many workplaces.

Leadership Factors

The setting, communication and traits of the manager and employee are key factors that impact the nature of management and leadership skills required in an organization. Though Theory Y management has become more pervasive, some organizations, the military is a prime example, still rely heavily on more authoritative management. The skill level of managers and employees impact the communication and the expectations. More highly skilled and specialized employees are less likely to require more specific direction on technical work.

Leadership Skills

Whereas personal strength, command-and-control capabilities and attention to detail are core skills common to the Theory X manager, Theory Y, or coaching style managers typically need skills that correlate to coaching and interaction with employees. People skills, interpersonal skills, communication and listening skills, the ability to motivate and compassion are all skills the equip managers with the ability to lead employees to achieve the goals established for the company, department or for the individual employees.

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