Leadership and management styles

Types of Management styles

This blog is an adaptation of a blog I wrote some time back. This blog talks about various management and leadership styles in practice today.

There are 3 distinct, different types of management styles that are recognized out there today.

While there are several types of leadership styles recognized today, the most major / early study of leadership styles was performed in 1939 by Kurt Lewin who led a group of researchers to identify different styles of leadership (Lewin, Lippit, White, 1939).

Authoritarian or autocratic

The leader tells his or her employees what to do and how to do it, without getting their advice.

Democratic or participative

The leader includes one or more employees in the decision making process, but the leader normally maintains the final decision making authority.

Delegative or laissez-fair (free-rein)

The leader allows the employees to the decisions, however, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made.

Authoritarian or autocratic style

An autocratic management style is one in which the leader makes decisions unilaterally with team members not being a part of the decsioning process.

Authoritarian and autocratic styles work for leaders who are visionary and they have proven capability to be able to drive phenomenal success through their products. If you don’t have an extremely proven background, don’t try to thrust your vision onto someone else without convincing them first.

Persuasive management style share certain characteristics with authoritarian management. Persuasive managers will control all decision making but they will spend more time with colleagues explaining the rationale of the decisions that they already took.

Participative management style

Participative style of leadership can be a good driver of growth in fast growing companies or startups. It helps for leaders to ask for opinions and also delegate after trusting the next level of leadership. Participative leadership is when the leader lets decisioning be democratic and while the final decision is still owed by the leader, the subordinates often are allowed to discuss / debate and propose solutions and the the risks that are associated along with the decisions.

This type of decisioning depends upon trust. The more you trust your team, the more likely they are to rally around you when you need it the most. This style of leadership has known to build long lasting organizations and a work culture that is more of a cult than anything else.

Delegative or Laissez-fair management style

Delegative or laissez-fair decisioning lets employees partake in all critical decisions where the leader is generally hands off. Laissez-fair decisioning considered to be useful in more creative situations or in early stage companies central decisioning is not needed and may not necessarily add value to the organization.

Managers have to be willing to adjust their management styles depending on the situation when it comes to laissez-fair type of management. A manager is one that is expected to adjust their management style to suit the needs of employees.

With respect to startups, I’d think that delegative decisioning works best in early stage startups where either there’s no concern for cash burn or until the point when the startup ceases to be an idea and becomes a business. It could also be useful in creative / media startups where creative freedom is more important.

I believe that this kind of leaderships also works very well with later stage startups where a fair amount of product market fit is well established and leaders don’t necessarily want to be in charge of details.

With respect to startups, I would say that this form of leadership might be well suited for startups where there’s tremendous growth and focus on more things that the entrepreneurs or the CXOs can handle. However to mitigate risk, it is best to then treat the employees’s decisions as a series of minor pivots, as much as risky as it sounds — an experiment can be conducted and a decision can be taken to move or not move in that direction, with employees heavily participating in the decision. Quick decisioning, data driven feedback and logical reason would be enough ways to checkpoint faulty decisions.

In Conclusion Managers to be able to identify their management style as it can help in determining how best to work with people reporting to you. Establishing a managerial style early on a managers’ career is important so that the right expectations in terms of decisioning to avoid any ambigiuity.

Additionally, checkout resources below on different management styles

Resources on management styles / leadership styles




An AI powered, Personal Learning Cloud that provides a better way to develop, measure and improve your team’s skills.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Career Transition: How new Leaders plan for success

CRITICAL — Know your WHY

How Your Poor Behaviors Are Translated By Your Team

Beyond Agile: Why Agile Hasn’t Fixed Your Problems

The Best Managers SCREAM at People

Stop Making Employee Accountability A Once A Year Thing (Do This Instead)

Musings on what it means to lead

African Business School ~ Think! Be the catalyst that makes things happen!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


An AI powered, Personal Learning Cloud that provides a better way to develop, measure and improve your team’s skills.

More from Medium

The role of management is irrelevant in the Digital Age, Is it?

The Tuckman Model of Team Development


One Reason Transformations Fail: They Are Managed Like Changes