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Make 4 Classic Managerial Styles Work for You

Update and adapt these leadership techniques to get the most out of your service team.

The role of a service industry leader is an important one: How they manage their employees can make a huge impact on operations and revenue.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “quit rate” in the Accomodation and Food Services industry is the highest it’s been since July 2021, sitting at around 5%. In terms of numbers, Leisure and Hospitality alone lost more than 837,000 workers just last month.

Food servers, hotel staff, and restaurant supervisors are leaving these jobs at a consistent pace. Something needs to be done about it.

In order to run a successful operation, your team has to be motivated to stay and work hard, and they have to be led by someone who knows how to do that. Elements of established leadership styles should be combined to make the most of these significant employer-employee relationships.

Here’s a breakdown of 4 classic leader profiles and how each can be applied to create a successful working environment.


In this style, democratic leadership refers to the idea of putting the team first. A democratic manager might appoint various members of the staff to make decisions for the group, or encourage brainstorming. Employees can bring forward ideas that will improve their experience in the company.

When engaging a democratic leadership, the staff has a strong voice. This goes a long way in ensuring satisfaction and promoting a positive work environment where everyone feels like they matter. An update to this system could involve using social media or networking apps to create groups and encourage engagement within the company community.

If employees feel like they can speak openly, it can cut down on resentment and create a sense of transparency and trust between junior staff and upper-level management.


Autocracy by definition considers leaders to have absolute power, and although this sounds intense, it can be really useful in certain situations. There’s a clear system of control and decision-making, so no one is left in the dark in terms of chain of command. Where does the staff go for direction? There is no question, and that sense of order can actually be calming, especially for those who aren’t naturally gifted in climbing the social ladder.

Autocratic leaders tend to focus on details, which is helpful for staff in many ways. No one has to worry about how much input they give, or if they’ll be judged on their engagement with supervisors (or lack of it). In order for these elements to be effective, there has to be a balance. This is an efficient managerial style, but if presented too harshly can be overbearing.

When employees feel like they have a strong leader they can turn to for answers, and an autocratic leader provides stability and structure when they are responsible with their power.


You might consider laissez-faire leadership an extreme version of the democratic style. Translating to “let do” or “let go,” supervisors essentially allow employees to manage themselves. This can provide a wonderful sense of independence and trust for workers, but it can also produce the obvious consequence of an unchecked staff.

Managers applying this style can prevent employees from taking advantage of the relaxed working environment. The website Entrepreneur writes that legendary leaders like Herbert Hoover – the president who believed in a self-correcting economy – and Steve Jobs – who trusted employees to work independently to come up with the latest and greatest in tech – had “a strong belief in their team’s ability to make the right decisions.”

A lot of times people flourish under this technique, feeling like they have the power to manage themselves and producing even more. But you’ll need a strong level of awareness to make sure productivity remains high.


The easiest way to keep track of progress is with strict rules, guidelines, and upfront performance milestones. Bureaucratic leadership relies on strict standards to measure employee performance, and this can inspire motivated employees to stay motivated. The comparison between employees, however, can inspire competition. This can be good, or it can be bad.

Competition is a strong motivator in most cases. But those who already don’t feel like they don’t measure up will feel that even more intensely in this work environment. A bureaucratic leader may get too focused on results and forget about the person behind them. On paper, someone may not seem “useful,” but in real life, they may have a special ability to connect with guests, and that is harder to quantify.

Keeping track of progress holds staff members accountable. It’s a clear payoff for those who do the right thing and sell more. It needs to stay in check with junior staff who may be valuable in other ways.

Borrow from every style to develop your own

Being a manager or supervisor carries major responsibility. You not only have to produce results in the form of revenue, you also have to manage individual people with unique personalities, which can be even more challenging than the duties on paper.

Leaders should use what works from each style, but also consider what suits their natural strengths.

Someone who gets along with different personality types and relishes the social aspect of their job should work the democratic angle. That supervisor should also employ autocratic or bureaucratic techniques to make sure work still gets done and there is a clear voice of leadership when it’s needed. If a manager leans towards bulldozing and barking orders, then they should consider some democratic activities like organizing team building activities at staff meetings so even junior-level staff feels important.

Take what works from each style to create a special, one-of-a-kind mix that engages employees. Adjust the approach when needed. Leaders that pay attention to employees’ feelings will almost always see a connection with sales.

A happy staff creates a positive atmosphere, and guests pick up on that energy more than we give them credit for.