While many factors influence workplace performance, among the more significant elements are the attitude and behavior of supervisors. The behavior of the supervisor in a workplace can explain a great deal about the way employees are motivated. Four of the primary types of leadership styles in a company are autocratic, consultative, participative and free-reign supportive. These various methods have different implications for employee motivation and workplace performance.


The autocratic management style involves a supervisor simply dictating instructions to employees. Some organizational behaviorists divide this management style into two subtypes: pure autocratic and benevolent autocratic. Pure autocratic simply involves dictating instructions, whereas benevolent autocratic involves giving instructions while providing an explanation. Whether pure autocratic or benevolent autocratic, this type of management style tends to negatively affect employee motivation and, ultimately, workplace performance.


In the consultative approach to supervisor management, the supervisor retains the authority to unilaterally make decisions, but consults employees to receive input into the decision-making process. This type of management style tends to give employees a greater sense of involvement in their department and may therefore encourage them to perform better. Because the manager retains the option to completely disregard employee suggestions, however, employees may become frustrated with what they see is only a nominal interest in their input.


The participative style involves giving employees some level of decision-making authority. This can be done, for example, by letting a department vote on certain key decisions and holding the supervisor to the results of that vote. The supervisor may provide input and vote along with the rest of the group. Another example would be an employee-proposed plan that requires some level of supervisor approval. This type of leadership approach tends to give employees a feeling of ownership in their jobs and, for that reason, may motivate them to perform at a higher level than if they were simply ordered around.


The free-reign management style is on the opposite extreme of the management spectrum from autocratic. In the free-reign model, employees are essentially left to their own devices and may simply be given a few general directional objectives to pursue. This type of style is very uncommon, but is used occasionally in the more informal setting of some start-ups. While this style can make employees feel a great sense of ownership over their work, it is often difficult to focus their efforts toward a common goal.