What's Your Management Style?

publication date: Oct 24, 2022
author/source: Mike Hughes

manager with chef

Is your management style flawed?

Sometimes I get asked about "management styles".

What style is most effective, and what style is best left for 30 years ago.

As restaurant managers, we are all looking for the same things; We want results, we want a committed team, we want compliance towards our rules, regulations and policies, with the icing on the cake being 100% on board with the company mission.

There are more ways to actually manage your people and results than there really should be. Let's review some of the ways we work with our people, shall we?


Some managers use the authoritarian approach, where they demand, command and manage through fear, guilt and doubt. These are your micromanagers and your buffalo's. They think that by instilling fear into their staff they are more effective at getting things done. In my experiences, NOBODY wants to work for an autocrat.


There are administrative managers that use rules and policies to drive nearly every directive out of their mouths.


Political managers tend to constantly rally the troops around why they are the boss, why there are so great, and why you should get on board with them. They also limit the flow of information to the rest of the team, thinking that if THEY have all the knowledge, they have all the power. One big flaw with this one, is that by sharing our results with our teams, we can gain valuable insight to any problem areas within those results.


How about the inspirational manager? They are the ones who hang quotes on the wall and spout out sports analogies all shift in hopes that something they heard Lou Holtz say once will stimulate their team. If I'm an hourly on the floor during a busy shift, the last thing I need is the MOD quoting Covey all night!

Example Setting

Example setting managers will usually be the ones fixing the toilet or mopping the floor or doing dishes or any number of hourly tasks to prove to the team that if they can do it, you can do it. Keep in mind here that the more you do this type of thing, the less your staff will.

There are many more as well, but the one form of leadership that really doesn't have a label, I like to call the Educational style of Leadership.

This is where you may cite specific examples based on results and data, that can prove to a team why they should be 100% committed to your message. Prove to your staff that if they do A, B and C, then they will make more money.

It reminds me of an example...A restaurant I was GM at used to have 4 table stations for wait staff. The company went to a mandatory 3 table station floor plan. If I said, you are all going to 3 table stations, and if you don't like it, there's the door, what kind of commitment would I get? Conversely, if I said that it's been proven that by increasing the level of service to your smaller section that those guests are likely to leave a 22% tip vs a 15% tip. So, you will potentially make more tips on a smaller section. Hmmm, less work but more money? The differences in this example are huge and the buy in is far more likely to happen than threatening people into compliance.

When you teach people why something is good for them, instead of demanding they do something, you may find they are committed to you and your restaurant faster.

Managing by intimidation may get your people in compliance, but RARELY will they be committed to you. They will hate working for you and you will be hiring every week. Forever.

Commitment VS. Compliance...What's that mean and why is it important to shoot for commitment?

Team members who are committed, WANT to do things and may inspire other to do things.

Whereas team members who are compliant do things because that have to do them. They will do things if they are told, but rarely on their own, and usually kicking and screaming. You see the big difference here is that Committed people are all in, while compliance is about going through the motions out of fear.

You can muscle your staff into complying, absolutely, but getting them all in, rarely happens with that style of management. The commitment comes with coaching, direction and trust.

One thing I have found to be true is that managers that have been in the game a while will change how they manage over their career. They will also take little bits of management styles and merge them together. Eventually with trial and error, and sometimes LOTS of errors, they find the best way to get the results in their restaurants through their team. It's interesting to see a new manager come out of the gate all full of piss and vinegar. They are fired up and they now have control over others. Guess what style of management they typically start with? They rely on my way or the highway, they yell and scream and lose their minds often when they don't get the results they want.

This tactic never works, and either that person changes styles or they get taken away in a strait jacket. The other end of the spectrum for new managers is the buddy/buddy approach. Befriending staff, hanging out with them after work (easily the best way to get fired BTW), and instilling that they were one of you just last week. These managers get walked all over and taken advantage of because they are just too nice. You don't have to be a flaming jerk to your team, but you also can't be Mr. Rogers.

Balance your management style and perhaps even use the styles of past mentors to you. If someone in your past had a great reputation for getting every member of their team on board with them, find out how THEY did it. Emulate them. While the whole trial and error thing can work and allow you to find out how you should direct others, the wheel need not be recreated here. I'm guilty of trying to recreate the wheel over the last 30 years of running restaurants, that is why I can say with certainty that there are better ways.

One last thing here...When you finally discover what is getting you the best results, the most commitment and the team around you that wants to work with you, stay the course for as long as you can. While one predominant management style may be preferred, there are times on any given busy shift that you may have to yell, threaten, pull out the employee handbook, quote Tony Robbins, unclog a toilet, tell your team how awesome you are and teach somebody something!!!

Happy leading!!!

Mike HughesMike Hughes is a freelance writer, Blogger and has nearly 3 decades in Restaurant Operations Management.