Three common management styles

Business leaders of all kinds have radically different styles of management. What's your style – or the style of your immediate manager or supervisor?

Management styles make a difference in how we communicate, how we delegate, and how we move businesses forward.

Let's look at some common fundamental management styles and characteristics to understand how these orientations and choices affect our business relationships.

Autocratic and Permissive Management Styles

In some ways, a greater range of management style is based on a simple duality: autocratic versus permissive.

In fact, looking at both autocratic and permissive management helps us to document the ways that business has changed throughout the last several decades.

An autocratic style of management works on a top-down, hierarchical model. It’s great for the boss, and often, not so great for those being bossed. It’s also very much a part of many world societies going back through the centuries. But it’s now giving way to new ways of thinking and managing people.

Permissive management, which is on the rise, is a management style in which the boss takes more of a back seat. There are many ways to frame this. Permissive management may mean unlocking more worker creativity and getting more feedback from the front lines. It may mean making concessions to talent in order to compete in a particular industry. In either case, permissive management means less top-down instruction and micromanaging.

Over the last hundred years or so, permissive management has become very much more the norm. Companies have realized that they need to accommodate their top talent, and that their workers have discretionary productivity. That's even more relevant when you're dealing with knowledge work or similar highly skilled work. So some types of permissive management more accurately display how most people manage in the 21st century.

Three Key Permissive Management Styles

These three relatively permissive management styles are very much in vogue today. See which one best describes the person or people in charge of your office.

The Democratic Management Style

This type of management style is very much oriented towards making decisions as a group. In that sense, the manager is not the rule maker, and everything that is decided falls back on the entire group as a whole. No one person takes all of the credit or all of the blame for decisions. Things are done “by committee.”

This can be a very motivating form of a management style because many workers want to have input. Employees want to have ownership of their own work processes. Job experts talk about the many ways that democratic styles unlock productivity and spurs innovation. After all, we have accepted this mode of management in our governments – why not in our workplaces?

Some of the hazards of this type of style, though, involve conflicts where nearly half of the office wants to do something, and the other half wants to do something else. In situations like this, supervisors may have to take on a more traditional decision making and delegation style of management.

The Persuasive Management Style

Many of the managers who may have been autocratic in an earlier age now practice the persuasive management style. They use the power of their ideas to get their will accepted by the workers. They may even use various kinds of soft power, like their authority, to get their ideas accepted. In those ways, the persuasive style can be very much like a “kinder, gentler” version of the autocratic style – the iron fist inside of a velvet glove.

Persuasion is an interesting thing. It's sometimes also referred to as coercion. There are a lot of different ways to go about persuading people, and persuasive managers use a lot of these parts of the toolkit. You may or may not find a hint of autocracy in a manager’s persuasion.

The Laissez-Faire Management Style

You might remember this term from studying American history in school.

The term “laissez-faire,” taken directly from the French language, describes some of the philosophies of the American founding fathers and other leaders throughout history. It's the idea that you can sit back and let systems govern themselves. Today's free market ideology is very much based on a laissez-faire sort of management philosophy.

Laissez-faire leaders will essentially turn workers loose and have them figure things out for themselves. There's not a lot of intrusion, and there's a good deal of freedom and autonomy. Again, this works very well in some offices, and less well in others where it might lead to different sorts of chaos and confusion.

Now that you know some of the hallmarks of different management styles to look out for, take a quick quiz. Who in your office is a persuader, a democratic boss, a hands-off manager? And who hearkens back to the age of autocratic rule?

For more on what it takes to create a winning corporate culture, follow Cornerstone OnDemand as we counsel businesses on how to put together the best road map for the future.

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

Cornerstone Performance: Holistic talent development that drives business forward


Cornerstone Performance: Holistic talent development that drives business forward

Whether you do performance reviews only once a year or have a robust, continual performance management process, with Cornerstone Performance, you can set goals, coach employees, receive feedback, guide development, and give recognition. Seamlessly link performance and skills data with internal learning opportunities to enable employee-driven, manager-supported growth. Because the best way to invest in business growth and achievement is by investing in the growth and achievements of your people with Cornerstone Performance.

Schedule a personalized 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organization’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2024