Management Styles: Definition, Theory & Types

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Shawn Grimsley

Different management styles are constantly rising and falling in popularity. In this lesson, you'll learn about some of the more prominent styles of management and the theory underlying each. You'll also have a chance to take a short quiz after the lesson.

We also recommend watching Theory X & Theory Y: Two Types of Managers and Modern Theory of Management


Management style is the manner in which an organization manages its employees and their work activities and will vary depending upon factors such as the characteristics of employees, the work activities engaged in and the culture of the organization. A successful management style should effectively build teams and be able to motivate.

Types of Management Styles

Participative Management. If you make sure that you share important information with employees and let them participate in the decision-making in matters that directly affect them, then you are using a participative management style. In order for participative management to work, employees must have the knowledge and ability to effectively participate and the company's culture must support the approach. Participative management is a good choice in organizations that are not concerned with a strict hierarchy of power and employ educated and skilled workers. An example of a business that may work well with participative management is an engineering firm.

Theory X and Theory Y. Whether you use Douglas McGregor's Theory X or Theory Y as a management style depends on how you generally view people. If you adhere to Theory X, you assume that people don't like work, they must be coerced and controlled to work, and the average person prefers to be directed because she or he doesn't want responsibility and places job security above ambition. Under this theory, you manage by using extrinsic motivators such as rewards (money and bonuses) and punishments (being written up or fired for not meeting goals).

On the other hand, if you believe people might like work, will exercise self-direction and self-control, see satisfaction as obtainable from work, seek responsibility, are creative at solving problems, and believe that everyone has intellectual potential, then you will seek to help employees achieve their potential by getting satisfaction from their work. This is Theory Y. Helping employees reach their potential and achieve job satisfaction also advances organizational goals because employee potential and job satisfaction are tied to goal achievement.

Theory Z. If you admire Japanese business, then you may like Theory Z, which combines Japanese and U.S. management elements. Specific features of Theory Z include support of long-term employment, less specialized career paths for employees, informal control, group decision-making and a concern for the individual above work issues. This management approach is designed to satisfy both lower-order needs such as basic physical and psychological needs and higher-order needs such as self-actualization. You help satisfy lower-level needs by looking out for your employees and help satisfy higher-level needs by encouraging them to take responsibility for their work and invite them to participate in decisions.

Total Quality Management. Total quality management is all about, well, quality. This management style sees that customer satisfaction and quality is the responsibility of all employees. It also sees value in teamwork and employee participation. TQM strives to have employees continually improve the quality of their work, products and services.

Management by Walking Around. You manage by walking around. The idea is that you are on the ground listening to your employees and gathering information so you can take care of problems as they emerge rather than wait for them to fester into a serious malady. However, you've got to be careful not to micromanage and second-guess every decision your employees make. You're supposed to be a coach, not a dictator.

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