Four Basic Management Styles

by Neil Mantyla

Effective Management is a long-time human problem that in simplest terms is getting a group of people to work toward a common goal. Entire libraries have been written about it, so let’s break Basic Management Styles down into some digestible chunks.

Emotional Control

Getting a person to do what you desire can be a tough prospect. In every group, there are numerous competing wills and motivations. Some people want to work the least and take home the biggest pay check. Others are not looking for monetary rewards, but recognition or power. Whatever the motivation, it is probably represented in the group you are trying to manage in some degree or another

Machiavelli wrote an entire book (The Prince) under the assumption that using fear to manage people was the way to go. However, it can be a tough chore to create fear without adding more detrimental emotions like hate and contempt. Plus, fear can really stifle innovation which is what keeps an organization evolving.

Conversely, Sun Tzu was of the opinion that a group needed to be managed by discipline and respect. If the leader wasn’t respected by the people, they would not be motivated to do his bidding.

More contemporary theories have focused on using other emotions like pride, but most managers still rely on the two-prong attack of the stick and the carrot, which is just a mix of happiness or pride (carrot) and fear (the stick).

Economy of Action

Groups only have as much time as the combined working hours of the individual participants. As such, a manager must maximize results. This is usually done through specialization. The more each person specializes in a given field, the larger their results become and more efficient the group becomes. This is mainly due to the time loss in setting up and dealing with disruptions. Specialization allows for batching and therefore minimizes set-up costs.

The flip side of specialization is that there can be an entrenchment of individuals into their given fields and a loss of focus on the overall goals of the group. They become great at their individual jobs, but start hurting the larger picture with a narrow focus.

Big vs Small

Moving from a grand idea (like creating a profitable product or balancing the US budget) to the small technical details that each individual has to perform is the quintessential problem for any organization. As such, a manager has to be the middleman that converts large ideas into practical applications.

This tends to involve scrutinizing the requirements that are needed to stalwart process, since out-dated processes can prove detrimental to current day situations.

Running the Numbers

Making decisions about how well an idea is either working or being implemented must include the use of a measurable metric. Without some hard data, decisions are based on assumptions and individual perceptions, which are extremely unreliable.

Therefore, every manager needs at least a basic understanding of statistical analysis and the scientific method. This includes understanding how to create unbiased tests. Determining how large the sample size must be and how to break down the data into simplified ratios can immediately show whether they are improving or not.

This all sounds complicated, but it’s just a game of hot and cold, which is being whispered to you by reality. Statistics and the scientific method are the tools that amplify that whisper into something understandable.


Ultimately, managing people in a group is never easy, but practice and experimentation makes perfect. So read what you can and test each theory for yourself. That is the only true way to grow.