Management theories and Styles

Management theories and Styles


Management styles in nursing refer to the different approaches and strategies that nurse leaders use to manage their teams and achieve organizational goals.

These styles can have a significant impact on job satisfaction, nurse retention rates, quality of care, and patient outcomes. 

Management styles in health practice and within health care institutions include the 3D’s, i.e Directing, Discussing and Delegating.

  • Directing Style: 

Managers tell people what to do, how to do it and when to have it completed. They assign roles and responsibilities, set standards and define expectations. The people who use this style are called Autocratic (or authoritarian) managers i.e. they make all the important decisions and closely supervise and control workers. Managers do not trust workers and simply give orders (one-way communication) that they expect to be obeyed. This approach derives from the views of Taylor as to how to motivate workers and relates to McGregor’s theory X view of workers. 

  • Discussing Style:

 Managers who adopt this style take the time to discuss pertinent business issues. They encourage individuals to present their ideas, ask questions, actively listen, provide feedback, challenge assumptions, and offer guidance when necessary. Ensuring that ideas are thoroughly discussed and debated is considered essential. In this style, managers often assume the role of facilitator, ensuring that the discussion remains focused and that everyone has an opportunity to contribute. This management style is commonly referred to as paternalistic management.

  • Delegating Style:

Managers using this style usually explain or get agreement on what has to be accomplished and when it must be completed. The how-to-do-it part of the equation is left up to the employee. Responsibility and authority are given to employees to get the job done.


Understanding management theories is important for developing effective management styles, especially in roles like building up nurse leaders. There are four key theories focused on management, particularly for nurse managers:

  1. Scientific management theory.
  2. Classical organizational theory.
  3. Human relation theory.
  4. Behavioral science theory.



Around a century ago, Frederick Taylor argued for enhanced efficiency in jobs through thorough analysis. With well-designed tasks and adequate incentives, workers could achieve higher productivity. For example,  Taylor advocated for paying based on output rather than hours worked, creating incentives for efficient work. In health care, the equivalent would be by the number of patients bathed or visited at home rather than by the number of hours worked. This would create an incentive to get the most work done in the least amount of time.  

In Summary,

  • Frederick Taylor argued that most jobs could be done more efficiently if they were analyzed thoroughly.
  • With a well-designed task and enough incentive, workers could be more productive.
  • Taylorism stresses that there is a best way to do a job, usually the fastest way.
  • The work is analyzed to improve efficiency, such as reducing excess staff or increasing productivity.
  • Nurse managers using scientific management principles focus on assessments, treatments, equipment, and strategies for efficient task accomplishment.
  • They keep careful records of work accomplished and reward high performers.

Achievements of Taylor

  • Trained his workers to follow the time of completing their works. Therefore the most productive workers were hired even when they paid them an incentive.
  • Labour costs were reduced as a result.
  • Responsibilities of management were separated from the functions of workers.
  • Developed a systematic approach to determine the most efficient means of action.
  • Consider that the management function is to plan.
  • Increased production and higher profit e.g. in a health services delivery of a profit making organization, good production will lead to increase in clients therefore increasing high profits.


Classical organization theory is the oldest theory and is sometimes referred to as traditional management theory.

Classical organization theory considers the organization as a whole, rather than solely focusing on production

Henri Fayol, a prominent contributor to this theory, identified the functions of managers and concluded that management is universal. Fayol emphasized planning, organizing, issuing orders, coordinating, and controlling as essential managerial responsibilities. He advocated for specialization, equal treatment, stability of personnel, and the teaching of management in colleges.

Importance of Classical organization theory

  • It makes organization to be viewed as a whole rather than focusing solely on production.
  • It gives the view of control, authority, responsibility and accountability.
  • He studied the functions of managers and concluded that management is universal. He believed that;
  • All managers have the responsibilities of planning, organizing, issuing orders, coordinating, and controlling.
  • He derived general principles of administration from his observations.
  • He believed in the division of work.
  • He argued that specialization increases efficiency.
  • Advocated that there is a place for everything and everything in its place.
  • He developed group harmony through equal treatment and stability of tenure of personnel.
  • He also urged that management be taught in colleges.


Human relation theory concentrates on the impact of individuals on an organization’s success or failure.

Instead of solely focusing on the organization’s structure, managers encourage the development of employees’ potential and help them meet their needs for recognition, accomplishment, and a sense of belonging. 

Mary Parker Follett, an influential figure in this theory, stressed the importance of coordinating the psychological and sociological aspects of management. She believed that management is a social process and emphasized the importance of situational factors in decision-making.

  • In this theory, the focus is on the empowerment of the individual worker as a source of control, motivation, and productivity in the organizations.
  • The Hawthorne studies led to the belief that human relation between workers and managers and among the workers were the main determinants of efficiency.
  • The Hawthorne effect refers to the phenomenon of how being observed or studied results in a change of behavior.
  • This theory also emphasizes participatory decision making which increases worker’s autonomy.
  • It also lays emphasis on the training of the employees to improve work.


The behavioral management theory is often called the human relations movement because it addresses the human dimension of work. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs also lies under behavioral science theory.

Behavioral theorists believed that a better understanding of human behavior at work, such as motivation, conflict, expectations, and group dynamics, improved productivity. Therefore it examines human behavior and social interactions within an organization. Douglas McGregor’s theory X and Y are important implications of this theory. Theory X assumes that employees dislike work and must be directed and controlled, while Theory Y suggests that employees can find satisfaction in their work and are self-motivated.

Douglas McGregor expressed his views of human nature in two sets of assumptions. They are popularly known as ‘Theory X’ and ‘Theory Y’

Theory X assumptions: Theory X reflects a common attitude among managers that most people do not want to work very hard and that the manager’s job is to make sure that they do work hard. To accomplish this, according to Theory X, a manager needs to employ strict rules, constant supervision, and the threat of punishment (reprimands, withheld raises, and threats of job loss) to create industrious, motivated workers. 

  •  Employees inherently dislike work and, whenever possible, will attempt to avoid it. 
  •  Since employees dislike work, they must be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment.
  •  Employees will avoid responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.
  • Most workers place security above all other factors and will display little ambition. 

Managers who believe on the assumption of Theory X will always do the following;

  • He/she will always do the thinking and planning with little input from staff.
  • He/she will always motivate workers through fears and threats.
  • He/she will be failing to make use of workers’ potential.
  • They will delegate little but supervise closely.

Theory Y assumptions: Theory Y managers believe that the work itself can be motivating and that people will work hard if their managers provide a supportive environment. A Theory Y manager emphasizes guidance rather than control, development rather than close supervision, and reward rather than punishment. A Theory Y nurse manager is concerned with keeping employee morale as high as possible, assuming that satisfied, and motivated employees will do the best work

  • Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play. 
  • People will exercise self-direction and self control if they are committed to the objectives. 
  • The average person can learn to accept, even seek, responsibility. 
  • The ability to make innovative decisions is widely dispersed throughout the population.

Managers who before in Theory Y will always do the following;

  • They will always delegate where necessary.
  • Will allow participation in work by all employees.
  • Will give general supervision than close supervision
  • Normally motivates employees by praises and recognition.


Principles of management are the means by which one actually manages, that is, gets things done through others—individually, in groups, or in organizations. 

Fayol has given 14 principles of management with the intent to improve the functioning of the managers.

  1. Division of Work: The work should be divided among the individuals on the basis of their specializations, so as to ensure their full focus on the effective completion of the task assigned to them.
  2. Authority and Responsibility: The authority and responsibility are related to each other. Authority means the right to give orders while responsibility means being accountable. Thus, to whomsoever the authority is given to exact obedience must be held accountable for anything that goes wrong.
  3. Discipline: The individuals working in the organization must be well disciplined. The discipline refers to the obedience, behavior, and respect shown by the employees towards others.
  4. Unity of Command: According to this principle, an individual in the organization must receive orders from only one supervisor. In case an individual has the reporting relationship with more than one supervisor then there may be more conflicts with respect to whose instructions to be followed.
  5. Unity of Direction: Unity of direction means, all the individuals or groups performing different kinds of a task must be directed towards the common objective of the organization.
  6. Subordination of Individual to General Interest: According to this principle, the individual and organizational interest must coincide to get the task accomplished. The individual must not place his personal interest over the common interest, in case there is a conflict.
  7. Remuneration of Personnel: The payment methods should be fair enough such that both the employees and the employers are satisfied.
  8. Centralization: Fayol defines centralization as the means of reducing the importance of a subordinate’s role in the organization, and the extent to which the authority is centralized or decentralized depends on the organization type in which the manager is working.
  9. Scalar Chain of Command: This means there should be a proper hierarchy in the organization that facilitates the proper flow of authority and communication. It suggests that each individual must know from whom he shall get instructions and to whom he is accountable to. Also, the communication either going up or down must pass through each level of authority. In certain circumstances where the quick flow of communication is required, the rigidity of a scalar chain can pose problems. Thus, Henry Fayol has suggested “gang plank” which means anybody in the hierarchy can interact with each other irrespective of their authority levels.
  10. Order: This principle is related to the systematic arrangement of things and people in the organization. This means every material should be in its place, and there should be a place for every material. Likewise, in the case of people, a right man should be in the right job.
  11. Equity: All the employees in the organization must be treated equally with respect to justice and kindliness.
  12. Stability of Tenure: The employees should be retained in the organization, as new appointments may incur huge selection and training cost.
  13. Initiative: The manager must motivate his subordinates to think and take actions to execute the plan. They must be encouraged to take initiatives as this increases the zeal and energy among the individuals.
  14. Esprit de Corps: This means “unity is strength”. Thus, every individual must work together to gain synergy and establish cordial relations with each other.
Importances of management

Importances of management

The aim of all managers is the same regardless of rank and type organization – to increase productivity. This means effectiveness and efficiency that is achieving organizational goals and achieving them at low cost. Effective management therefore is the concern of a corporation president, a medical superintendent, a commissioner in the ministry, a church Bishop, a school head prefect, and others.

  • Achievement of Organizational Goals: Effective management ensures that organizations are able to set and achieve their goals. Managers develop strategic plans, define objectives, allocate resources, and coordinate efforts to ensure that the organization’s objectives are met.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: Management helps in optimizing the use of available resources such as human capital, financial assets, and technological resources. By effectively allocating resources and avoiding wastage, management enhances productivity and reduces costs.
  • Decision Making: Managers are responsible for making important decisions that impact the organization. Through their expertise and experience, managers analyze information, evaluate alternatives, and make informed decisions to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities.
  • Motivation and Employee Engagement: Effective management creates a positive work environment and motivates employees to perform at their best. Managers inspire and empower their teams, provide guidance and support, recognize achievements, and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.
  • Conflict Resolution: Conflicts and disagreements are inevitable in any organization. Skilled managers are equipped with conflict resolution techniques and can mediate disputes, promote understanding, and maintain harmonious relationships among team members.
  • Adaptability and Change Management: In a dynamic business environment, adaptability is crucial. Managers play a key role in identifying changes, formulating strategies to respond to them, and guiding the organization through transitions effectively.
  • Enhancing Communication and Coordination: Effective management facilitates communication and coordination among different levels and departments within an organization. Clear communication channels, efficient information sharing, and collaborative efforts are vital for organizational success.
  • Risk Management: Managers assess and manage risks that an organization may face. They identify potential risks, develop contingency plans, and implement risk mitigation strategies to protect the organization’s interests.
  • Continuous Improvement: Management encourages a culture of continuous improvement by promoting innovation, conducting performance evaluations, and implementing feedback mechanisms. This helps organizations stay competitive and adapt to evolving market conditions.
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