Top Down vs. Bottom Up Management

The management style is very important for the success of a project. There are two key management approaches or styles: the top down and the bottom up management.

Choosing the right approach

How does one choose the management approach? Careful consideration of numerous factors depending on the company type and culture lead to the right management approach decision. Some of the criteria include the overall company culture, the business approach, and the personalities of the leading and managing layer of the company. Moreover, the management approach depends on management tools as well.

Top-Down Management

This management style is also called “autocratic” management. It is characterized by a strong hierarchy and a powerful CEO who sets the organization, the roles, and has the greatest authority.

One step below are the successive executives. They take orders from the CEO. They are superior to middle management. The middle management gives responsibilities to the bottom layer.

From the above said, it is obvious that the key peculiarity of top-down management is the hierarchical chain through which the responsibilities are transferred to different roles on different levels. Moreover, there is usually no much room for giving opinions from the bottom layers.

At the same time, top-down management is the most widespread managerial approach. You can recognize this type of management if there is a CEO, middle management, and team leaders. The CEO usually becomes the trademark of the company or a recognizable face representing the company values and ideas.

Key pros and cons of the Top Down Style

The key advantage of the top-down style is the fact that it sets very clear goals given by one person from the top – the CEO. The leader must be a very strong personality with a clear vision.

Moreover, expectations are very clearly defined. The instructions and goals are never diluted as there aren’t many opinions and voices around. The employees are focused on delivering the tasks rather than joining the decision-making process.

Its key disadvantage refers to a weak or dictatorial leader. If the leader is dictatorial, there might be some difficulties or problems within the company which are latent and can cause lots of trouble suddenly. If the leader is weak, the business will again suffer as the decision-making process will be jeopardized.

Bottom-Up Management

Unlike the idea that too many voices dilute the business goals, some experts and companies believe that several heads are smarter than a single one and rely on a more creative and liberal managerial approach.

Namely, the Bottom-up management style believes that there are certainly many talented and smart people within the organization who can significantly improve and benefit the decision-making process. That’s why this managerial approach allows a freer infiltration into the decision-making process.

In addition, another situation when organizations opt for this management approach is when the leadership is not experienced enough. In that case, they observe other layers as valuable consultants in the decision-making process.

Simply put, this type of management is based on a structure that allows everyone (the whole organization) participate in making decisions. This leads us to the following question: How are the teams organized in such a company?

The bottom-up management company has its teams organized based on experience and skills. Moreover, the teams are self-directed and enjoy trust of the leader. They make decisions themselves rather than wait for the instructions from the top.

This style is not as widespread as the top-down management approach is, but it is gaining more popularity. The most prominent examples of companies with this management approach include the IBM and The New York Times.

Key pros and cons of the Bottom Up Style

The strongest asset of the bottom up management is giving everyone a voice and motivating all team members. This approach can retain talents and is peculiar for including all parts of the organization into the decision-making process. This does lead to an improved and increased the productivity of the company.

Moreover, it significantly reinforces the sense of belonging to the organization. Such companies have a strong culture and shared values. Each employee also feels ownership regarding setting the goals and working on achieving them. This guarantees the dedication of each employee.

Its disadvantage is the fact that too many opinions do slow down the process. This sometimes leads to losing precious time and resources.

In addition, it is not easy to keep high business agility with this approach, as there are so many ideas. Also, it is not always easy to choose the very best idea or goal. Unexpectedly, such a management approach can sometimes even lead to conflicts. This happens if there are many individuals with a strong ego in the organization. They might be looking for their own affirmations and interests rather than being devoted exclusively to the company goals.


There are two key management approaches or styles. Those are the Top down and the Bottom-up approach. Currently, the Top down approach, which is the more traditional one, and emphasizes the role of the CEO, is more widespread. However, the Bottom-up approach keeps on gaining more popularity, especially among large and successful organizations and corporations.

There are pros and cons of both of these approaches. Namely, the Top down approach can become weak and unsuccessful if the leader is not strong enough or it can go into dictatorship if the leader is too strong. Other than that, this approach usually provides very clear and defined goals and is beneficial from the aspect of saving time and resources.

The Bottom Up approach is more creative and liberal. It gives voice to all employees and aims to choose the best idea and goal from the sea of choices provided by different teams and team members. However, it does have slower processes than the Top-down approach and it can lead to cul-de-sac if the ideas are not carefully chosen.

Choosing the right approach depends on a series of criteria, including the type of the company, organizational culture, and type of management and leadership.

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