Using the right Project Management Style

Different projects call for different project management styles. Team leaders subconsciously default to a management style that they are most familiar with. Because of this, many teams face challenges including:

  • Overlooking ideas. Autocratic decisions can leave ideas unexplored.
  • Dissatisfied employees. Successful projects are completed by happy teams. Top-down decision making can leave employees disconnected.
  • Indecisiveness. Quick decisions solve emergencies. Slower management styles cause delay.

Management Styles are tools in your toolbox. You have choices, and that is important. You need to use the right tool for the job; not just your favorite.

Autocratic Management

What is Autocratic Management?

Autocratic management is a top-down management style. The team leader makes all decisions with little to no consultation with the team. Team members follow a strict hierarchy, policies, and guidelines. Motivation comes from fear of discipline.

This management style prioritizes efficiency, often at the expensive of effectiveness. Popularized by Fredrick Taylor in the early 20th Century, Autocratic Management came to define the “Titan” of industry and set the status quo by mid-century.

The Telegraph, double entry bookkeeping, and the assembly line helped make autocratic management styles the default in businesses and business school by mid-century. Telegrams allowed managers to give orders to far off branches. In addition to telegrams double entry bookkeeping provided accurate records of what exactly happened.

Potential Problems

This management style relies on the team leader’s ability to make decisions. Inexperienced and misguided leaders can quickly make compounding mistakes.

Additionally, autocratic management does not take advantage of team member’s brainpower. There is no participation in the decision process. New ideas, thoughts, and feedback are not acknowledged, causing limited employee buy-in.

The rise of flatter organizations in the 21st century has led to autocratic management losing popularity. Work has turned to creativity and complexity as repetitive jobs become automated. Modern project management practices call for intense sprint planning and recurrent feedback loops.

When to use

Emergency and highly structured projects require a management style that is quick and decisive. Use autocratic management when you are experienced with the situation and decisions need to made without hesitation.  

Defined, repetitive factory jobs work well with autocratic management. Employees have a specialized job that is structured by expectations and standards. When an emergency arises, the team leader makes a decisive decision without consultation.

Consultative Management


Consultative management is similar to autocratic management. Both management styles rely on a top-down management approach. The team leader makes decisions and guidelines are expected to be followed.

However, a feedback loop is encouraged in consultative management. Employees are asked for their opinions on decisions. The team leader uses employee ideas and feedback to guide his decision. Ultimately, team members do not have a direct say on the decision.

Notably consultative management improves on autocratic management. Including team members in decisions helps build a feedback loop. This helps team leaders make better decisions. Team members will feel understood and know they will impact the decision.

Potential Problems

The team leader’s experience with the situation remains important. The leader must understand when he has enough feedback to make the decision. Taking too long disregards the decisiveness of this management style.

Ultimately team members do not have a vote on the decisions. Team members who want a direct say may feel ignored and distance themselves from the project.

When to use it

Consultative management works well with projects that have defined roles with minimal overlap. Teams that appreciate being involved but do not want to make the final decision fit well. This style also retains the ability to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

This is the new standard for labor-intensive and repetitive jobs. Employee buy-in and happiness greatly increase when using this style. Team members appreciate being consulted and still have clear guidelines and expectations to meet. It provides balance when a top-down management style is needed.

Persuasive Management


Persuasive Management is still a top-down management style. The team leader makes the decision but works to build consensus within the team. Persuasive management helps spread creative vision.

The process of persuading can take considerable effort and time. However, with a strong feedback loop, team member buy-in is high. This style helps coordinate multi-team projects.

Potential Problems

Persuasive management requires a leader who has experience and can make compelling arguments. Unconvincing reasoning is a waste of time. Additionally, decisions can take considerable time since persuading the team can take time and effort. Because of this, switching to a different management style is necessary for emergency situations.

When to use it

Persuasive management is important for multi-faceted projects with multiple teams. Keeping multiple teams coordinated is difficult. Each team can develop their own idea of the goal of the project. This can quickly lead to teams choosing different paths that do not align. Taking the time to share the vision and direction of the project helps keep the team on the same page.

Democratic Management


Democratic management is one of the most classic management styles. This management style distributes decision making power by giving every team member a vote. In addition, the team shares their opinions and participates in discussions. When it is time to decide, team members vote to decide on the course of action.

In contrast to autocratic management, democratic management provides high team buy-in thanks to the distribution of decision making. However, debating large decisions can quickly become a lengthy process.

Potential Problems

Building consensus takes time and requires a large number of meetings. Many team leaders choose to switch to top-down management styles in situations where quick decisions are good.

When to use it

Democratic management is great for teams tackling difficult problems. This management style helps create creative solutions by encouraging team members to submit their ideas and thoughts. This is the best way to use the brainpower of your team. For example, brainstorming sessions are a perfect example of democratic management.

Chaotic Management


Chaotic management applies a purely flat organization to decision making. There is no structure or processes to be followed. Team members make their own decisions, and it is very little to no group consensus.

Flat organizations started to make a comeback in the early 2000’s. The philosophy of everyone having the same amount of power and lack of structure allows for creativity and gets rid of bureaucratic waste. However, in reality, most “flat” organizations retain a reporting structure.

Potential Problems

Because of the lack of structure things can quickly become disorganized and unaligned. Decisions are made on an individual basis and therefore will most likely not align with each other. Solve issues that are complex and require one path by using other management styles.

When to use it

Using Chaotic management sparingly during projects. This style can work when you have an experienced team who is familiar with how to complete requirements. It allows the maximum amount of freedom to complete work. However, using this for long periods of time can lead to scope creep and losing sight of the end goals of the project.

Laissez-faire Management


In Laissez-faire management, the team leader serves as a mentor and a guide. The leader looks to inspire and motivate the team towards making the correct decisions. Team members make all of the decisions, and only consult the team leader for guidance.

This management style is a direct counter to overmanagement. It is best to give team members freedom when they are within their comfort zone.

Potential Problems

Not all leaders are capable of mentoring a team to choose correct decisions. The team leader must build respect and credibility. Team members can also be lead in opposite directions if the mentorship is not consistent between members.

Debates can meander without one leader making final decisions. This management style does not fit well with emergency situations.

When to use it

Laissez-faire is incredibly effective for teams working to solve problems within their comfort zone. Make sure to not over-manage team members who are capable of solving the problem. Laissez-faire management gives the team freedom to execute while still providing both guidance and support.

Using Bric with Project Management Styles

Switching between project management styles can be difficult. We know because our founders ran agencies, software development teams, and consultancies. Because of this, they created Bric to build the software they wish they had.

Understanding your project progress and the complexity of the project is important. Bric’s project plans and at-a-click report gives you the information you need to decide what project management style to use. Additionally, Bric makes it easy to manage people working multiple roles in multiple projects.

Bric is only USD $7 per team member per month, and can help you follow these project management steps to delivering successful projects.

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