Management styles

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It depends on countless factors how a project organizes communication and how it makes decisions. Professional literature often emphasizes the inequality of team member as to how decisions on the handling of resources are made (skills) and how these decisions are allowed to be made (formal competences). Both influence the management style of a person or as part of a corporate culture, of an organization.

Most of the models that are published in the literature represent the management styles in the form of a continuum: On one side there is the power of control and decision of individuals (leaders), on the other the power of everyone. We are referring to Lewin’s model, which was first discussed in 1939[1] but still is in use due to its simplicity and applicability.

Authoritarian / patriarchal management style

Guidance and control

Cooperative management style

Guidance based on agreement

Laissez-faire management style

No guidelines, no control

More Flexibility

Practice shows that both authoritarian and domination-free management styles quickly lead to problems. On the one hand, volunteers often derive their intrinsic motivation from the opportunity for co-decision. Not every team member is keen on achieving the goal of the project at each moment - the questions of how and with whom are also crucial. For them, hierarchy as a means of centralizing power leads to a loss of motivation. And to be perfectly honest: Is a project team that solely rests on the decisions of one person able to make our societies more democratic?

On the other hand a non-hierarchically organized team will struggle if not all members participate in pleasant and unpleasant activities in equal measure. At least in theory all members would have to be able, but also willing to be equally committed. But, in practice, those who perceive themselves as more responsible are often frustrated and feel pressured into an informal leadership role. The environment of a project also demands the definite responsibility of certain individuals (e.g. in case of signatures on contracts). This way informal hierarchies emerge that are not in accord with the team’s self-perception.

In diverse groups and diverse facilitator teams there is a need to apply leadership according to the situation. We are still in front, but more often in the background, or observing from the side, or moderators or coaches. Sometimes even participants take the lead. By contrast, in classic educational settings, the role of a facilitator was clear – it was in front of the group.


  1. Lewin, K. et. al. (1939) 'Patterns of Aggressive Behavior in Experimentally Created Social Climates, The Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 10, 1939