Managerial leadership style: definition and principles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An effective way to engage your team members as a manager is to include them in your vision for the team. This approach to leadership is typically known as managerial leadership. If you work in a senior management or HR role, you could benefit from learning about this leadership style. In this article, we discuss what a managerial leadership style is, why it's important, the key differences between leaders and managers and the principles of managerial leadership.

What is a managerial leadership style?

A managerial leadership style is a style of leadership that combines management and leadership qualities when running a team. Individuals that adopt this style act as both a leader and a manager interchangeably. This leadership style typically involves:

  • setting achievable goals for a team and achieving those goals

  • planning and strategising with subordinates to achieve inclusiveness

  • designing and implementing rules and performance evaluations to keep everyone productive

Managerial leaders usually apply both a soft and firm approach when managing their team. By applying a soft approach, a managerial leader can include team members more in decision-making and promote a healthy work relationship between them and their team members. In addition, a managerial leader balances this with a hard approach to prevent team members from neglecting their duties. This ensures that the team remains as productive as possible.

Related: How to answer the question ‘What Is your management style?'

The importance of managerial leadership

A study on the impact of leadership styles reveals that team members appreciate it when the leader considers the inputs of their subordinates while making important decisions. This is especially true when the decisions directly impact the team. In addition, this study also reveals that there's a weak relationship between team members and a leader when the leader makes rules without including team members or when they delegate tasks without providing proper supervision and support.

While those that adopt this style actively participate in their team member's tasks, they also recognise when and who to delegate tasks to without offering supervision. Adopting this style can therefore discourage a leader from micromanaging their team, which can negatively impact team members. One of the key challenges that managers face in an organisation is maintaining and increasing productivity levels within the team. Managerial leaders attempt to overcome this by helping their subordinates understand their contribution to the organisation and how their efforts can result in an organisation's success.

Differences between leaders and managers

While leaders and managers both supervise their subordinates to ensure that their team achieves its aims, there's also a significant difference between the two terms. Leaders typically have followers that believe in them and the team's aims. A leader's followers complete their work voluntarily, without the need for enforcement. These followers enjoy their work and aren't necessarily motivated by monetary rewards.

In contrast, a manager ensures that their subordinates complete their work by creating and enforcing workplace rules. These subordinates don't always enjoy their work and monetary rewards can influence them to work harder. Managerial leaders combine the characteristics of a leader and a manager so that they can lead effectively. Below are some of the key characteristics for a leader and a manager in more detail:

Leader's characteristics

The following are some of a leader's key characteristics:

  • Include others in their vision: Leaders understand a current situation and know what they want to achieve. They also include their team in their plans to achieve these aims.

  • Honesty and integrity: This trait makes a leader's followers believe in them and their vision, which makes it more likely that team members put in the effort to assist them.

  • Communication: Leaders are good communicators that update their team on their progress towards achieving their aims. They also communicate to their team when they encounter challenges and work with them to collectively solve them.

  • Source of inspiration: Leaders are a source of inspiration to their followers and help them to understand how significant their role is to the organisation's success.

  • Creative and flexible: Leaders are creative and flexible. They can develop different strategies whenever they encounter a challenge that results in them adjusting their initial plans.

Related: 13 leadership styles and their characteristics

Manager's characteristics

The following are some of a manager's key characteristics:

  • Share vision: Managers have a clear vision and they can break this down into a roadmap for their team to follow.

  • Direct team members: They can direct their team members effectively by assigning tasks to them and reviewing their daily performance to gauge their effectiveness. In addition, a manager also recognises what their team members need and provides it to them so they can work more effectively.

  • Create structure: Managers establish rules and procedures for their team members to observe and they also create organisational standards and principles.

  • Enforce rules: They ensure that their team members follow the organisation's rules and principles. Managers reward those that follow these rules and impose consequences on those who break them.

  • Consider the team's well-being: Managers care about the well-being of their team members and provide them with the means to ensure that they remain productive.

The principles of managerial leadership

There are several principles that guide this style of leadership. By applying these principles, you can lead your team to success. Below are the main principles for this style of leadership:

Be consistent

To be an effective managerial leader, consistency is key. For example, make sure that you follow the same approach when you handle a particular situation, such as when disciplining or rewarding staff for their actions as this can discourage and encourage others from certain activities. Consistency also helps to build a sense of familiarity since your team members know what they can expect from their efforts.

Lead by example

Managerial leaders give instructions, delegate tasks, demonstrate how to complete those tasks effectively and follow their own instructions for their subordinates to emulate. Doing this encourages your subordinates to act according to your instructions and, if they see how you handle a task, it inspires them to follow your style. Leading by example also builds trust within a team and encourages participation. In addition, team members can help you achieve your vision if they see that you're committed to achieving it.

Clear communication

Managerial leaders provide team members with detailed and complete instructions so that they understand what they're expected to achieve. Here, communicating clearly is key so that team members can easily and quickly follow these instructions. Doing this ensures that team members complete their work correctly and increases the likelihood of the team's success.

Focus on people

When leading others, it's vital to focus on the people you lead as they're crucial to your success as a manager. A managerial leader builds good work relationships with their team members and uses their strong communication skills to frequently engage with their team. Effective managerial leaders engage with the whole team and not just those in senior positions. Doing this is key as by focusing on your team members, you're more likely to improve their job satisfaction levels as they feel more valued.

Encourage team spirit

To prevent your team members from feeling isolated or limited, you could set goals that encourage your team members to work together. By doing this, you create a feeling of unity within the team and a collective sense of purpose. Enhanced collaboration also increases the opportunities to come up with innovative ideas that can solve complex issues.

Focus on transformation

Because it's ideal for every business to grow and business growth is mainly a result of a transformation, you can reiterate your goals and objectives to remind your team members of the need for an innovative approach to achieve the desired transformation to encourage growth. When they get familiar with your vision and the requirements to achieve it, they may then be eager to adapt and effect changes. This way, transformational changes can occur, which leads to organisational growth and development.

Related: A guide to the visionary leadership style with tips

Recognise and reward hard work

Rewarding a team member when they perform exceptionally well is a great way to encourage hard work. You could even make the reward public and create a little ceremony to recognise those putting in the effort towards achieving the team's goals. This makes the recipient feel valued and satisfied in their role and encourages others to improve their work ethic.

Admit and learn from your mistakes

When you admit your errors to your team members, you demonstrate to your team that it's okay to make mistakes. It's common for someone to feel sad about an error they've made and they might be reluctant to share it with the rest of the team due to a lack of confidence. But, by sharing your mistakes, this may encourage your subordinates to share theirs as well. You can then collectively find ways of learning from them to ensure that the same mistakes aren't repeated.


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