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Are You a Consultative Manager?

Two men giving a presentation in front of a workplace.

So far in our Management Style blog series, we have looked at the autocratic and laissez-faire styles, and how each can be used to effectively approach different situations. This week, we will be looking at one of the more common leadership styles: consultative.

As you may have guessed, a consultative manager is one who listens to input from their team before making any final decisions. It is the happy medium between autocratic and laissez-faire, and is generally more accepted by team members. But like all things in business, consultative management has its pros and its cons. 

When is it Effective?

Consultative management is much more widely applicable than the two styles examined previously. Like the laissez-faire style, it is most effective when used with teams who know more about a specialised subject than you. Unlike laissez-faire leaders however, you play an active role in both the decision-making process and the execution of the idea, making you a much more engaged leader. 

In order for this style to be effective, you need to be comfortable with the fact that your team members know more than you do. You may be learning the ropes after switching to a different sector, or the subject matter may simply be beyond your grasp. Either way, if you’re the type to get jealous or insecure, you’re probably not a consultative manager. But if you can look past your own limitations, this style can help you combine your leadership and organisational skills with the practical and industry knowledge of your team, and achieve much better results for everyone. 

What are the pros and cons?

The two-way communication that defines consultative management enables you to form a deeper and more meaningful bond with members of your team. Consulting with them not only shows them that their opinions matter, but that you trust them and their expertise. By establishing an environment where team members feel as though their input has value, you encourage them to take initiative, which leads to more varied and more innovative ideas. A crucial aspect of this is listening to the negatives as well, which enables tasks to be fine-tuned before they are carried out, minimising potential problems. 

Of course, consulting means the decision-making process will be more time-consuming, making it less effective for urgent tasks. It can still be used to make quick decisions, but you’ll need to have a lot of trust in your team. The biggest drawback of this style however is that it can be discouraging or frustrating for team members who feel as though their ideas are always overlooked. If your team is allowed to speak, but you never listen, they could become bitter over time. An element of this, which can also be problematic within itself, is that consulting with a number of people often results in conflicting opinions. It then falls to you to make the best choice, while still keeping your team happy and motivated. 

Consultative management can help you learn and achieve results that you otherwise never could. It can help you to establish a deep bond with your team, motivating them and encouraging ideas that are original, creative, and innovative. The potential for feelings to get hurt means this style can be a bit of a balancing act at times, but if you genuinely respect your team’s input, they’ll be far more loyal and inspired. 

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