Every leader has their own style, philosophy, and approach to management. Some inspire you and help you grow, bringing the structure and room needed to do your proudest work. Others may offer more limited support, often stifling or limiting your growth. Regardless of style, each type of leadership offers its own lessons.
Understanding different styles of management and the pros and cons of each can help you better navigate the relationships and work together successfully with your leader. It can also help you develop your own leadership style when the time comes.
The deadline-driven manager
Less talking, more doing. The deadline-driven manager is task oriented. A slip of a deadline is the worst case scenario for this leader, so they expect you to be able to manage work to strict timelines — no excuses.
Deadline-driven managers may come across as no-nonsense folks. The best way to get their attention is with facts and data. They want you to identify solutions, rather than just pointing out problems.
These managers can be demanding, but they can also compel you to think more thoroughly about your ideas and their execution. They may also give you a high degree of autonomy and expect you to be able to work primarily independently.
On the other hand, these managers can be demanding and seem rigid or inflexible. They may also expect you to sacrifice yourself for the sake of the job. Be direct about your boundaries around work hours and availability as soon as possible.
When communicating about project progress, find a succinct way to capture what’s happening. You may have to be creative about engaging this leader in problem solving. Be sure to come with ideas or, better yet, proof that you’ve already tried to tackle the issue yourself.
The fun-loving friend
Having a manager with a friendly personality or demeanor is a huge plus. We should all be so lucky. And yet, even a fun, friendly manager can have their challenges.
While a friendly manager may be understanding and compassionate, their style of leadership could quickly veer into ruinous empathy territory — a term coined by author Kim Scott that describes a scenario in which people or teams fail due to being overly polite, flattering, or accommodating with one another.
Sometimes you need your coach to do you the kindness of giving you critical feedback in order for you to improve. Managers who focus on fun also run the risk of being too lax, which could affect your team’s productivity and even your team’s reputation within the company.
Toxic positivity is also a thing. A manager who can’t recognize an issue or tends to sugarcoat a crisis can’t be trusted to communicate clearly. Toxic positivity in the workplace can “lead individuals to feel invalidated, unseen and unheard,” says Julia Wuench, a contributor for Forbes.
You can set boundaries around personal conversations at work. This can help to you draw the line between your private and professional life.
The servant leader
Servant leaders have a “serve-first” mentality. They see their role as being a coach or a champion of their team and the wider organization, putting their own needs last.
Servant leaders can be empathetic and charismatic. They may also show a keen interest in your growth and career trajectory, given that their mission is to serve the people around them. Ideally, this could lift the team’s spirits and provide people with access to opportunities. Altogether, it’s not a bad kind of leader to have (or become).
But what happens when you and your servant leader don’t see eye-to-eye? The challenge with working with someone who’s so invested in your future is that they may be invested in a future that you don’t want for yourself. Work starts to feel like a tug-of-war between your needs and your leader’s vision. You have to be a strong advocate for yourself and be able to consistently communicate on your own behalf.
Servant leaders may also lean toward making decisions by committee, which means decision-making can take longer. The fact that the servant leader defers to the group can also mean that the leader may lack the authority to give the necessary oversight or provide the right direction. All of this can actually serve to erode trust in a servant leader’s abilities.
Toxic leadership traits
Regardless of management style, there’s a slew of management red flags that you can spot from the get-go. Here are some toxic leadership traits to watch out for:
- Win-vs-learn culture: Leaders intent on “winning,” as opposed to experimenting and learning, is a sign of a cut-throat style of management. This can lead to a high pressure environment that’s big on ego and low on satisfaction.
- Glory hogger: A leader who takes credit for the team’s hard work is one who is not likely to support your own growth. Run, don’t walk.
- Manipulator-vs-motivator: Unfortunately, the only way that some people know how to get what they want is by tricking others into doing their bidding. Watch out for managers who have a tendency to over-delegate or over-burden the team with work, while they seem to be enjoying perks.
Pay attention to the different types of leaders you encounter in your career. Your collective lessons from each will help you build your own management skill set.