management styles: which style & why

There are 3 factors that together influence which particular style will be chosen by the manager. They are:

the particular context
the personal preference of the manager
their skills set

Looking at each in turn:


The situation should often have a key influence on the style chosen; for example, the tell style might be more appropriate in a crisis, but less appropriate when there is a need for consensus.

The context of time can often play a part in influencing style, too.  Collaboration and coaching styles all require time; whereas when time is short, managers might unconsciously choose a telling style, because it is quick.

The preferences of the staff member or team can also be influential; some individuals might prefer to be directed, whereas others love to be empowered.

Finally, the culture of the organisation (or sub unit such as department) might have a strong, unconscious influence, as in ‘this is the management style we use here…’

Personal preference:

The manager’s own personal preference clearly might have a strong influence on the style they choose – consciously or unconsciously.  Each of us naturally prefer to work in our comfort zone, and that includes how we work with and relate to others.  It may or may not be the best approach, but it is the one we are comfortable, or are familiar, with.  And by the same token, the manager is more likely to avoid any particular style they don’t feel comfortable with.

Skills set:

Of course this follows on from the above.  A manager is more likely to choose a particular style if they feel comfortable with it, and one reason they feel comfortable is that they are good at it, or at least feel they are.  And of course, the more they choose a particular style, the more they practice it, and the better (probably) they get at it.

Similarly the manager is more likely to avoid styles that they don’t feel they have the right skills for.

The consequence of this is that the style chosen – consciously or unconsciously – by any manager is as much if not more to do with the combination of personal preference and skills than it is by the actual situation.  Preferences may be based on comfort, which may be based on confidence in key skills, which make it more likely those skills will be reinforced through practice, making it even more likely they will continue to choose that style, as they become more and more comfortable with is, even if it is not particularly appropriate for the particular situation.

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