Management Styles - An Alternate Paradigm

Posted by - Ketan Bhatt

Management literature is replete with the information on different managerial & leadership styles (in business context) and theories & experiments that explain them. As advocated by the renowned management gurus repeatedly, there is no one panacea style. Like human organisms, organizations too are subservient to circumstances, some within their control and some beyond their command.

Now is an effort to view the management styles (and not the managerial or leadership styles) from the author's eyes. To some readers, it could appear as regrouping of the information already available and that is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, if regrouping helps absorb the concept and information better, then why not try?

Experiences show that there are 5 predominant styles of management, operating either on a standalone basis or in combination, depending on the size, complexity and challenges of the businesses of an establishment. Let us briefly look at each of these styles.


As the word says, the management is developing the businesses gradually or in phases. Depending on the priorities and resources available, some functions of the business need and get more focus, but eventually, all functions of the business have to run in harmony. The progressive style suits when there is sufficient scope for market growth and there is a relative scarcity of competition, either on the product / service basis or for the business. In the current economic and entrepreneurial environment, such a style will be suitable for new businesses or concepts with high entry & exit barriers. The challenge here is to intensify the operations after the business reaches a certain scale as the barriers start dismantling by then. The major flip side of this style is complacency or even laissez-faire.


The adjective means returning or rolling back to a former or less developed state. This is classically true for government organizations and in some cases, even for the government. More than the style itself, it is always interesting to fathom out why, when & how such a style comes into play. It somehow resembles the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. In a few instances, it could be entirely a well-informed management decision backed by a comprehensive analysis. However, it most other cases, it is on account of lack of foresight, inadequate internal controls, fudging of data & information leading to inaccurate MIS, promoters not being focused, the Board being lost on "other" important issues, etc. In a way, regressive style comes into play more subtly and without the management being adequately cognizant. It just sneaks in. If the competition or the market grows faster than a particular company, then the company's management style still could be termed as regressive in a relative sense. The major flip side of this style is an inexplicable loss of key resources.


This style is a lateral form of regressive style. It is observed in many cases that for no valid reasons, the management loses focus on the existing & robust businesses, and suddenly expands its product / service range, coverage, capacity and so on without adequate decision-making or logic. Such expansions by default lead to reallocation of resources irrespective of their opportunity cost. Many of the failed unrelated diversification can be attributed to the digressive style of management. In some instances, it becomes exceedingly hard to recover, if the management takes too long to comprehend the distance travelled. One of the reasons for such a style is having too many priorities coupled with absence of timely decision-making. Besides, the second or third generation young entrepreneurs want too many experiments at a time. Like its vertical form, the major flip side of this style too is an inexplicable loss of key resources and also the likely deterioration of the existing & robust businesses.


Enron & Satyam are two classic cases wherein the management had turned transgressive. The key management officials of these companies not only violated the laws of the land, but also crossed moral boundaries and social norms. One need not be a rocket scientist to recognize the underlying reasons for such a style. They are obviously greed, lack of fear and absence of respect for laid down norms (legal or otherwise). The recent case of punishment to a leading financial wizard (of Indian origin) in the USA could also be ascribed to his transgressive style. The major flip side of this style is the permanent loss of stake-holders' (employees, investors, government, society) faith in the Board, in the management or in the supporters of the management.


In the business parlance, aggressive management style implies speed with determination and audacity. Few other words that match the meaning are energetic, dynamic and enterprising. The challenge is to make sure that the aggression is supported by robust decision-making process at all levels of the organization because; speed requires 'on-the-spot' decisions. In the sectors where there are too many players and low entry & exit barriers, it is a must for every management to embrace this style. In fact, the management of the leading companies should be more aggressive to keep the leadership, i.e. the business growth-rate should outsmart the market growth-rate. With speed, come the higher chances of accidents & even casualties. So the aggressive management style demands a warlike preparation on all the fronts. The major flip side of this style is the unavoidable bloodshed, mostly internally.

By the way:

As long as the management knows its style and the road backward or forward depending on the style, there should not be any trouble. Likewise, when the management is fully aware about the pros and cons of the style and have made them public, its choice of style would be termed as legitimate, except for the transgressive one.

The key point in a nutshell, is that the level of accountability demanded by the external & internal environments has moved up substantially in recent years and no management can any longer afford to neglect this dimension of "accountability".

The past trend was "perform or perish".

The emerging trend is "perform or perform & get punished or perish & get punished". The style of management matters most now.