4 leadership styles every manufacturing manager should know about

February 7, 2022

No matter the industry, trade or profession, there's always at least one inescapable professional truth: bosses matter. They make such a difference, in fact, that 57% of people would leave a job because of a bad manager, according to a study by DDI.

With over 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in December alone, the Great Resignation is still rearing its ugly head. For this reason, it's imperative that bosses – manufacturing leaders, especially – consider a new approach to management.

No two leaders are exactly the same, but all leaders may be accurately categorized by style. To best decide how to manage your workforce, here are four styles of leadership every manufacturer should know.

Autocratic leaders rule with an iron fist, so to speak. They make every choice on their own and make little to no effort including the workforce in any critical decision. In other words, it's their way or the highway.

Autocratic leaders are often more confrontational, less flexible and emotionally distant in how they manage – qualities that could strain their relationship to the workforce. In fact, according to McKinsey, 86% of workers say their relationship to management is the biggest factor in overall job satisfaction. Yet, a staggering 75% say the most stressful part of their job is their immediate boss. This gap, in turn, is a major driving force behind employee turnover.

In contrast, laissez-faire bosses are much the opposite. As hands-off managers, they leave all critical production floor decisions to the workforce. This type of leadership is perhaps most effective when a highly skilled workforce is there to support it.

However, laissez-faire leadership can easily appear lazy. It's important for this type of manager to actively monitor productivity and ensure goals are well on pace to be met on a regular basis.

Change agents
Bosses that are not only receptive to change, but actually embrace and facilitate it, are known as change agents. As a rare breed of boss, change agents are keenly adept at making tough calls as needed, especially when it comes to drastic transformations in the facility.

In a survey of manufacturing executives, IndustryWeek notes that change management is among the most important traits of a great leader. Change agents are the leaders that capably raise a company to the next level and away from the status quo.

Rather than the binary selection of making all decisions or none at all, collaborative leaders embrace teamwork. Put simply, they include employees in the critical decision-making process. Better yet, they solicit feedback from the workforce at every opportunity, foster relationships with individuals and communicate empathy and recognition on a regular basis.

In doing so, collaborative bosses often improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. By allowing workers to feel heard and valued, they effectively retain employees and eliminate the costly need to find replacements.

Of course, no single leadership style may be a one-size-fits-all solution. It may be that these leadership styles are best worked in combination with one another to truly take advantage of their benefits. The best bosses know when to be strict, when to be flexible and, above all, when to be compassionate with their employees.