What Is Management? Definitions, Functions and Styles

Updated February 27, 2023

Workplaces depend on the strength of those in management positions. In addition to directing employees, managers must communicate with more senior professionals in their company to ensure the team meets goals and furthers the company’s mission. Although the duties of managers differ based on their industry and workplace, most fulfill the same basic responsibilities. In this article, we discuss what management is, the operations of management and how you can become a good manager.

What is management?

Management is the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal. Such administration activities include setting the organization’s strategy and coordinating the efforts of staff to accomplish these objectives through the application of available resources. Management can also refer to the seniority structure of staff members within an organization.

To be an effective manager, you’ll need to develop a set of skills, including planning, communication, organization and leadership. You will also need extensive knowledge of the company’s goals and how to direct employees, sales and other operations to accomplish them.

Related: What Is a Manager?

Five basic operations of a manager

In general, there are five basic functions of a manager:

1. Setting objectives

Setting and achieving objectives is the primary way a manager accomplishes and maintains success. They must also be able to convey them to their staff or employees in a compelling manner. For instance, a restaurant manager could state they want to improve service times and remind employees that faster service increases revenue and tips.

2. Organizing

Managers evaluate the type of work, divide it into achievable tasks and effectively delegate it to staff. Organization consists of a series of relationships among individual staff as well as departments or entities inside the organization. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that these individuals and entities work together in harmony, which includes motivating staff members and departments to stay on task. A good manager is skilled at building interpersonal relationships among their team members and can troubleshoot when members confuse their encounter challenges.

Organization also requires a manager to establish relationships of authority among their team members. Maximizing organizational arrangements can help businesses enhance the company’s efficiency in the market, reduce the costs of business and improve productivity.

3. Motivating the team

In addition to the tasks of organization and delegation, motivation includes having the skills to handle different types of personalities in a team. An effective manager must know how to form and lead successful teams and know how to galvanize team members around a cause.

4. Devising systems of measurement

Managers need to set targets or key performance indicators that the team aims for and then generate ways to measure whether their team is on track to meet those goals. Because it can be challenging to come up with measurable ways of understanding performance, managers must often be creative and thoughtful. However, like the other functions of management, measurement is critical to improving business performance.

5. Developing people

In addition to leading their team toward a goal and measuring their progress along the way, good managers invest in their staff’s development. Managers can, for example, work with their team to help them set goals to move up in their careers.

Managers must have leadership skills to use these five operations successfully. They are responsible for coaching their team members by helping them recognize their strengths and weaknesses and improve their performance. Different managers may have different styles of leadership. Regardless of their style, managers should develop their leadership skills to be effective supervisors.

Read more: What Are the Responsibilities of a Manager?

Management concepts

A manager needs to understand a few simple ideas to employ the five basic operations. These concepts are essential to ensure their team comes together to reach the company's goals:


Employees of an organization need to understand the goals that they are aiming for as well as the measurement that will be used to determine whether they have been successful. Different staff members in a company have different roles that entail separate levels of responsibility. A manager must have control over what the members do, how they do it and how to measure their progress. Control over these factors helps a manager reach success.


The best managers know that planning is critical before the implementation of any strategy, but it is also an ongoing activity. Planning does not end when implementation begins. Rather, management needs to be prepared to answer the questions of who, what, when and where a team is working to implement the organization’s mission. Planning should include selecting objectives as well as implementing them.


Staffing is an underappreciated but crucial function of management. Managers need to ensure that they have the right people for the job, but they also need to pay attention to issues like organizing workplace policies. The company needs to retain the best talent by providing incentives such as benefits, paid time off and a thorough training program.

Related: How To Become a Manager

Management styles

Analysts who study management have identified several effective leadership styles. There is no one best style of management, and some people will feel more personally suited to one type or another. You can also select elements of different styles of management to create the best archetype for you and your company.

Here, we briefly review three positive management styles that can help make any manager a more effective leader.

Persuasive management style

A compelling leader spends a lot of time with their team members. Being engaged with employees allows the persuasive manager to lead by example, and to gain buy-in and compliance from the team by persuading rather than instructing or demanding. Influential managers are aware of the work that their team members are doing on a day-to-day basis and are involved in their work lives.

Democratic management style

A democratic manager invites the team to be directly involved in decision-making. Open lines of communication between democratic managers and employees allow these types of managers to understand the skills and advantages that each employee brings to the table. Open participation and exchange of ideas among different levels of employees allow everyone to contribute to the outcome of a decision or a project.

This style of management is more successful when managers develop organized and streamlined decision-making processes. Otherwise, accepting input from everyone can make the process sluggish and disorganized.

Laissez-faire management

The laissez-faire manager functions almost more like a mentor than a manager. They empower their employees to step up and make decisions. This allows the team to feel like they own a part of each project. The manager takes a backseat role, stepping in to offer advice or get things back on track when something goes wrong. Otherwise, they stand aside, allowing their employees to flourish creatively and exercise their own leadership.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Three layers of management

Large businesses and corporations often have three primary levels of management organized in a hierarchical structure. You may be familiar with these terms that refer to these different layers of management,  such as “middle management” or “senior management.” 

Low-level management

Low-level managers include roles like front-line team leaders, foremen, section leads and supervisors. This level of management, the lowest in the three layers, is responsible for overseeing the everyday work of individual employees or staff members and providing them with direction on their work.

Low-level management’s responsibilities often include ensuring the quality of employees’ work, guiding staff in everyday activities and routing employee problems through the appropriate channels. They also are responsible for the day-to-day supervision and career planning for their team, as well as providing feedback on their employees’ performance.

Middle management

Middle managers, the next layer in the management hierarchy, are overseen by senior management. Middle management includes those working in the roles of a department manager, regional manager and branch manager. Middle management is responsible for communicating the strategic goals developed by senior management down the line to front-line managers.

In contrast with senior management, middle managers spend more of their time on directional and organizational functions. This includes defining and discussing important policies for lower management, providing guidance to lower-level management to achieve better performance and executing organizational plans at the direction of senior management.

Senior management

Senior management, including the chief executive officer, president, vice president and board members, is at the top layer of this management hierarchy. Senior management needs to set the overall goals and direction of an organization. Senior management develops strategic plans and company-wide policy and makes decisions about the direction of the organization at the highest level. They also usually play an essential role in mobilizing outside resources and are held accountable to the company’s shareholders as well as the general public for the performance of the company.

Related: Manager vs. Senior Manager: What's the Difference?

Tips for being a good manager

There are several ways to advance your management skills, including:

  • Communicate. It is important to communicate with your team so you can understand their needs, evaluate their progress and help them achieve their goals.

  • Be positive. You should be the one to set an example for your team to follow. Be positive during your interactions with your team so they feel more comfortable communicating with you.

  • Train when needed. Assess the skills of your team and see if you could improve any areas with training. Training also helps your team learn new skills and fosters growth.

  • Collaborate. As a manager, you should feel comfortable delegating tasks, but you also work with your team to accomplish common objectives. Collaborating with your team will also allow you to see if there’s anything you can do to help individual teammates or the team as a whole.

  • Practice. Perhaps the best way to acquire new skills is to practice them in a real-life management setting. Gaining on-the-job experience in these skills will help you on the promotion ladder. Do your best for your team, serve as a leader and treat your team fairly.

Read more: How to Be a Good Manager

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