Managers come in a variety of leadership styles. Some favor instilling a collaborative work environment, while others prefer to take full control of business processes. While leaders may prefer different tactics, are some better than others? To find out, we’ve interviewed 1,010 managers to learn more about the impact that their leadership style may have on their employees and on their business as a whole.
Especially amid the Great Resignation, employee retention is of utmost importance. With people leaving in droves to find better work accommodations, managers must do all they can to reduce turnover. In the article that follows, we’ll assess multiple managerial styles and determine who has the most success instilling a prosperous work culture, and who is struggling to rally their troops.
Before diving into the results, let’s first differentiate two polar opposite management styles—collaborative and authoritative. An increasingly popular style that leaders have begun to adopt, collaborative leadership aims to align managers, executives, and staff in a way that facilitates organic information-sharing and fosters a sense of responsibility for the whole. On the other hand, authoritative leadership positions managers as the sole decision-makers with utmost influence over their subordinates. Authoritative leadership can manifest in different ways—there are authoritarians who use their power to intimidate, but there are others who use their knowledge and experience to efficiently guide their teams without coming off as overbearing.
From the data, we can see that collaborative managers were the most likely to say they had a high employee retention rate during the Great Resignation. Authoritative managers were not nearly as fortunate. Collaborative leaders are known to prioritize team collaboration to build strategies and solve problems together — perhaps their employees feel more engaged and trusted, giving them less reason to find work elsewhere. Meanwhile, the authoritative management style might be too overbearing and intense for some people. This, paired with the amount of stress that people felt during the pandemic, could explain why authoritative managers experienced the highest employee turnover.
Just under half of managers were negatively affected by the unexpected labor shortage. Authoritative leaders suffered most, as 70% said they were reeling from it, which was 10% higher than any other leadership style. Interestingly, democratic/participative managers suffered the least—only 46% said they were negatively affected.
|Collaborative-styled managers retained the most employees during the Great Resignation.|
Relationship building is one of the most effective skills a manager can use to increase employee retention. It improves collaboration, sharpens individual productivity, and boosts morale. When employees feel valued, they can produce better work, enjoy success, and are more inclined to stick around for the long run. Collaborative managers understand this well, which is likely a factor in why they lead the pack in claiming to have good relationships with their employees.
How does one become a collaborative manager? There are some key skills to learn initially. First and foremost, you will need to build a strong sense of trust with your employees. Giving your team a heightened sense of responsibility and putting your faith in them is paramount to becoming this type of leader. Expanding communication between departments, promoting diversity in experience, and sharpening your listening skills are also important steps in implementing a collaborative management style.
Meanwhile, the laissez-faire management approach might be a little too hands-off for some employees, as these managers were the least likely to say they had very good relationships with their subordinates.
Regardless of management style, checking in with your employees is always a good idea. Over half of them said they were doing it once or twice a day, and just under a third were syncing up three or four times daily. According to our managers, checking in with employees once a day was the sweet spot. Meanwhile, managers who were doing it three to four times per day were falling into micromanagement territory, something that could lower employee satisfaction and consequently lower retention rates.
We know what kind of leadership styles lead to high employee satisfaction and retention rates—let’s now assess what kind of overarching traits contribute to those aspects as well.
The most important trait to have as a manager was deemed to be reliability. As people who hold influential positions, it’s crucial for managers to set the tone and lead by example. Being dependable is an exceptionally important trait, especially in collaborative settings, because people count both on themselves and one another for success. If a leader sets the reliability standard, the team can flourish. The next most important trait was integrity. Again, in order to build a strong foundation for organizational success, building trust and having strong moral principles is paramount. In third place came teamwork—a trait that is essentially the root of the collaborative leadership style.
Meanwhile, managers most prioritized building trust, being flexible, and understanding employee personalities. Once again, collaborative leaders are known to focus on these key employee relationship aspects as well. It’s no surprise that the top traits and priorities of managers with high employee retention rates align with the goals and guidance styles of collaborative leaders.
When asked how many of their employees were underperforming, an interesting trend emerged—the higher the retention rate, the less likely managers were to believe their employees were not working up to standard, and vice versa.
Overall, a fifth of managers were displeased with their employees’ performance. By management style, laissez-faire leaders were the most critical. While this approach does give subordinates more autonomy and might allow for faster decision making, the passivity can hinder them. Laissez-faire managers can often be withdrawn and out of touch with their employees—underperformance might occur, but the lack of managerial guidance may very well be the culprit here. Meanwhile, collaborative leaders were the least likely to think their employees were not working up to standard.
In the case of an underperforming employee, these same managers shared some of their most effective strategies to deal with the problem. The most common one was to talk to the underperformer privately. This way, the employee can (hopefully) express themselves freely. Another popular step that many managers took was to consider the cause of the issue and whether they might have contributed to the problem. Another strategy that over half of managers used was to create a performance plan with the employee in question to effectively resolve whatever issue was at hand.
Managers lead in many styles, but collaborative leadership performed best. Collaborative leaders enjoyed the highest employee retention rates and believed they had built the most prosperous relationships with their teams. On the other hand, authoritative and laissez-faire managers struggled on both fronts, likely with the former being too harsh and the latter too passive. No matter how agreeable a manager was, though, checking in on employees more than once a day was anything but appreciated.
Aside from leadership style, the best traits for an effective manager were reliability and integrity. Building trust, being flexible, and making an effort to understand employee personalities were of utmost importance. These are all things that collaborative leaders prioritize, which is partially why they were the least likely to think that they had underperforming employees. To get the most from your team, giving them the necessary tools and support to thrive in the workplace is the only way to do it. This is why collaborative management is quickly becoming the go-to leadership style to ensure long-lasting organizational success.
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We surveyed 1,010 managers. For employee retention rates, the sample sizes were as follows:
To determine retention rates, we asked respondents to tell us about the turnover rates their companies experience. We grouped their responses as follows:
For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed.
To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting.
If your readers are interested to learn more about management styles, we encourage you to share the results of this study with them. We just ask to only do so for noncommercial use and to include a link back to this page when you share it so they can access our full findings and methodology.