What makes a good leader or manager? For many it is someone who can inspire and get the most from their staff.

There are many qualities that are needed to be a good leader or manager.

  • Be able to think creatively to provide a vision for the company and solve problems
  • Be calm under pressure and make clear decisions
  • Possess excellent two-way communication skills
  • Have the desire to achieve great things
  • Be well informed and knowledgeable about matters relating to the business
  • Possess an air of authority

Do you have to be born with the correct qualities or can you be taught to be a good leader? It is most likely that well-known leaders or managers (Winston Churchill, Richard Branson or Alex Ferguson?) are successful due to a combination of personal characteristics and good training.

Managers deal with their employees in different ways. Some are strict with their staff and like to be in complete control, whilst others are more relaxed and allow workers the freedom to run their own working lives (just like the different approaches you may see in teachers!). Whatever approach is predominately used it will be vital to the success of the business. “An organisation is only as good as the person running it”.

There are three main categories of leadership styles: autocratic, paternalistic and democratic.

Autocratic (or authoritarian) managers like to make all the important decisions and closely supervise and control workers. Managers do not trust workers and simply give orders (one-way communication) that they expect to be obeyed. This approach derives from the views of Taylor as to how to motivate workers and relates to McGregor’s theory X view of workers. This approach has limitations (as highlighted by other motivational theorists such as Mayo and Herzberg) but it can be effective in certain situations. For example:

When quick decisions are needed in a company (e.g. in a time of crises)

When controlling large numbers of low skilled workers.

Paternalistic managers give more attention to the social needs and views of their workers. Managers are interested in how happy workers feel and in many ways they act as a father figure (pater means father in Latin). They consult employees over issues and listen to their feedback or opinions. The manager will however make the actual decisions (in the best interests of the workers) as they believe the staff still need direction and in this way it is still somewhat of an autocratic approach. The style is closely linked with Mayo’s Human Relation view of motivation and also the social needs of Maslow.

A democratic style of management will put trust in employees and encourage them to make decisions. They will delegate to them the authority to do this (empowerment) and listen to their advice. This requires good two-way communication and often involves democratic discussion groups, which can offer useful suggestions and ideas. Managers must be willing to encourage leadership skills in subordinates.

The ultimate democratic system occurs when decisions are made based on the majority view of all workers. However, this is not feasible for the majority of decisions taken by a business- indeed one of the criticisms of this style is that it can take longer to reach a decision. This style has close links with Herzberg’s motivators and Maslow’s higher order skills and also applies to McGregor’s theory Y view of workers.

Summary of management styles

Description Advantages Disadvantages
Autocratic Senior managers take all the important decisions with no involvement from workers Quick decision making 

Effective when employing many low skilled workers

No two-way communication so can be de-motivating 

Creates “them and us” attitude between managers and workers

Paternalistic Managers make decisions in best interests of workers after consultation More two-way communication so motivating 

Workers feel their social needs are being met

Slows down decision making 

Still quite a dictatorial or autocratic style of management

Democratic Workers allowed to make own decisions. 

Some businesses run on the basis of majority decisions

Authority is delegated to workers which is motivating 

Useful when complex decisions are required that need specialist skills

Mistakes or errors can be made if workers are not skilled or experienced enough