What is Directive Leadership? – Features, Advantages, More


Who is a leader? What defines a leader? Do some ‘specific’ characteristics turn a normal person into a leader? Are there different types of leaders and leadership styles? What is directive leadership? Are there some questions that you are looking for answers to? Then you have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to talk about Directive Leadership. Every single organization has employees who constantly work and deliver their specified responsibilities. But there should be someone who directs, supervises, and leads the entire workforce. A leader is a person who does the job. A leader specifies the workforce with their tasks and responsibilities, assists and guides them on the right path, and encourages the workforce to accomplish organizational and individual goals. A leader demonstrates certain qualities and skills such as integrity, influence, empathy, decisiveness, confidence, self-awareness, courage, accountability, etc. These attributes make him/her distinct from others, and as a result, people consider him/her as their leader. 

What is Directive Leadership?

Directive Leadership, as the name suggests, many of us would elicit the idea and associate the term with an assertive, adamant, and dogmatic leader. It refers to the concept of leadership wherein almost all the power is with the leader-giving instructions, setting expectations, and establishing timelines and performance standards. It is primarily about controlling and regulating the subordinates, and the concept is precisely similar to the autocratic style. 

There is a ‘high task/low relationship’ network established, where the leader defines the roles of subordinates and briefs them about the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of different tasks. Unilateral communication flows from the leader to the followers. In this approach, the leader focuses on goal achievement in his interactions with followers and spends a minimal amount of time considering their feedbacks and reviews. The ultimate objective is to ensure that the followers adhere to the given instructions, which the leader personally supervises.

Activities associated with directive behavior guide and structure followers’ activities, planning, scheduling, assigning responsibilities, defining roles and communication patterns for followers, motivating and conveying expertise, monitoring and following up on assignments, clarifying expectations, goals, and work methods.  

The Origin

To better understand the concept of Directive Leadership, let’s first take a look from where it comes, i.e., the origin of the theory. The concept of ‘directive leadership’ is based on the “Path-Goal Theory” developed by Martin G. Evans in 1970. The theory was further worked upon and updated by Robert House in 1996. The theory states that the “leaders will have to engage themselves in different types of leadership behavior depending on the nature and the demands of a particular situation.” The leader’s job is to guide and assist the followers and provide them the necessary support and direction in choosing the appropriate paths to meet their organizational goals.

The original path-goal theory identifies 4 categories of leadership i.e. achievement-oriented, directive, participative, and supportive leader behaviors. 

  • Achievement-oriented: This refers to the situation where leaders tend to set challenging goals and targets for the workforce and expect them to accomplish these targets. They have confidence in the abilities of their employees and expect excellent performance from their employees. It is most predominant in technical fields such as engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, etc. 

  • Participative: Refers to leadership style where the leader encourages the participation of their employees. They generally try to take suggestions, feedback, and reviews from them before making a decision. This is predominant in the corporate world, where the workforce is generally highly skilled and creative. 

  • Supportive: Refers to the situation where the leader is more empathetic and directed towards employee satisfaction. The leader constantly encourages and motivates the workforce, listens to their grievances, and supports them when needed. The leader is concerned about the well-being of employees apart from the accomplishment of organizational goals. 

  • Directive: Refers to the situation where the leader sets certain expectations and clearly specifies the roles and responsibilities to the employees. The leader uses a ‘command and control’ approach and idealizes organized structure and stringent rules. 

The theory assumes that leaders are flexible and can change their style, keeping in mind the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situations. The theory proposes two contingency variables, such as environment and follower characteristics, that moderate the leader behavior-outcome relationship. 

Features of Directive Leadership

  • Directive leadership promotes direction and assistance to their followers to accomplish goals by giving specific instructions, establishing targets and aims, assessment standards and criteria, deadlines, tasks, obligations, etc.
  • Directive leadership sets comprehensible, precise and distinct rules and regulations and makes sure that it is properly communicated to the subordinates.
  • Directive leadership exhibits and demonstrates attributes such as time management, punctuality, accuracy, and decisiveness.
  • Directive leadership encourages the workers by appreciatory rewards awarded for the achievement of specific goals and targets.
  • Directive leadership limits and curbs creativity, innovation, ingenuity and fosters goal achievement.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Directive Leadership

The leaders in organizations and companies practice different styles and forms of leadership. Each one of them has certain pros and cons, and so is the case with Directive Leadership. It is essential to research and gather enough information before bringing it into practice. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of directive leadership:-

Advantages of Directive Leadership:

Though common but not very popular in today’s generation, directive leadership could surprisingly give productive results. When leveraged appropriately, directive leadership could prove to be advantageous in the following ways:-

  • Effectiveness and Clarity in Communication- Preciseness, Unambiguity, and Effectiveness in communication are the cornerstones of directive leadership. All the necessary details and specific instructions regarding the tasks are delivered to the followers and ensured that they are apprehended accurately. The roles and responsibilities are appropriately specified to avoid confusion, and the subordinates are aware of the requirements and the incentives for completing the job.

  • Strong and Organised Structure- Adherence to consistent and distinct rules and regulations established by this leadership style allows a strong and organized structure that ensures the fulfillment of regulatory requirements. The followers are consistently assisted and directed towards the achievement of pre-defined goals, leading to the organization’s success. 

  • Leader’s Expertise and Experience- A directive leader’s expertise, experience, and knowledge provide the inexperienced workforce with the much-needed direction and guidance. The experience and expertise of the leader could be used to their maximum when every subordinate is being benefited from it, and the collective result indicates a positive outcome.

  • Quick Decision-making- One of the biggest advantages of directive leadership is the quick decision-making aspect. The decisiveness of a directive
    leader could even save a life during an emergency, where a quick decision is required. Collaborative decision-making is healthy, but sometimes it could lead to unnecessary delay. As it is said, making a decision is better than not making any decision, and hence, directive leadership could always lead to an outcome.

  • Provides a sense of security- The specification of clear and distinct rules leads to establishing a strong and organized framework that provides a sense of security to the followers. They are very well informed about the roles they are expected to do, leading to unambiguity. Hence, directive leadership is used in organizations such as the military, law enforcement, manufacturing assembly lines, etc., which demands no room for errors.

Disadvantages of Directive Leadership:

Directive leadership has some drawbacks too which a leader should always keep in mind. Some of them are:

  • Experienced Leader- Directive leadership demands a much more experienced leader than the subordinates to direct and supervise them. He/She should have the expertise, experience, and relevant skills to ensure the efficacious of the work. He/She should also possess the required characteristics of a directive leader such as punctuality, time management, strictness, a bit autocratic, etc. 

  • Lacks Creativity and Innovation- The directive leadership style yields the best results when the directive leader ensures the followers’ implementation of distinct rules and regulations and its adherence. This limits the involvement of employee feedback or review and hence lacks creativeness, innovativeness, ingeniousness. The style emphasizes more on the accomplishment of stated targets through regulating the followers and inhibiting their autonomy. The creative members might be undervalued due to this.

  • Inexistent Adaptability and Collaborativeness- The directive leadership lacks the adaptability to the situations, which is a major drawback. The adherence to stringent rules could lead to complete ignorance of the prevalent situations, which could become the reason for its gradual downturn. It also prevents collaboration with other organizations, limiting exposure to new ideas, strategies, and technologies. Employee’s personal growth is not contemplated, and complete attention is the achievement of desired aims.

  • Declined Employees’ Morale- Specified rules and regulations, on the one hand, leads to ambiguity and maintenance of discipline, but on the other hand, it declines the workers’ morale. Due to a major evolution in the work environment, people nowadays tend to avoid a leader who practices the ‘command and control approach. Most of the corporate world now considers it healthy and beneficial to include employees’ suggestions and reviews. As a result, curbed autonomy could eventually decline the morale of the employees of the organization.

  • Leads to Micromanagement- The continuous and close supervision of the work gradually leads to micromanagement. Nowadays, micromanagement usually denotes a negative connotation due to the lack of autonomy in work. When not leveraged appropriately, directive leadership could lead to autocratic management where the flow of communication is completely one-way. 

Applicability of Directive Leadership

Directive leadership is one of the most common leadership styles, yet it has become less popular and lost its entice. With the evolution of work environment and job performance, people have become less likely patient with a commanding and controlling leader who uses an “autocratic” leadership approach. Despite this, the directive leadership style is still prevalent in some organizations as it’s considered effective, productive, and functional. Directive leadership exhibits favorable and unfavorable outcomes in the following situations when:

  1. Situations when ‘effective’-
  • Demands are ambiguous and intrinsically satisfying.
  • Urgent problems in the workplace arise that need a quick solution
  • Followers need to have more rules, regulations, and discipline( like military organizations, schools, etc)
  • Unskilled and demotivated workforce.
  1. Situations when ‘not effective’-
  • Innovation, creativity, and adaptability are your concerns
  • In the corporate world where employee feedbacks and reviews are given much importance.
  • Highly skilled, proficient, and motivated workforce.
  • Honest and candid feedback, review, and criticism are valuable.

Characteristics of Directive Leader

Being a Directive Leader is not everyone’s cup of tea. It demands a certain set of skills and qualities to make a leader directive leader. Let’s take a look at the characteristics possessed by a directive leader-

  • Managing People- ‘Managing people is the hardest management.’ This is a frequently quoted phrase because managing people is one of the most challenging tasks as it requires leadership skills. Being a directive leader, it’s important to possess qualities and skills such as decisiveness, commanding, controlling, instructing, and holding others accountable for their responsibilities. 

  • Assertive- The directive leaders have the skills of being assertive, confident, bold, authoritative, and determined. They are very clear with their targets and, through these qualities, ensure that every worker is also clear with their roles and responsibilities. The quality of being assertive provides the followers with confidence and encouragement to effectively finish their tasks.

  • Disciplined- Being disciplined and punctual is one of the key characteristics of a directive leader. The leadership style ensures proper delegation of the tasks, its supervision, and providing required assistance and guidance when needed. Each task is clearly specified, the roles and responsibilities are predefined to avoid any confusion. Hence, directive leadership is all about maintaining discipline and adherence to the specified rules and regulations. 

  • Experience and Expertise- Being a directive leader, it’s essential to ensure that the experience, knowledge, and expertise of him/her surpasses their followers. It’s essential because it becomes their responsibility to direct, guide, and assist their subordinates as directive leaders. And thus, they need to have the required experience, expertise, and knowledge in the field. 

  • Ideals ‘Stringent Rules’- Rules and regulations are important in everyone’s life. A directive leader values the role that stringent rules play in an organization. Adhering to the specified and predefined rules avoids any vagueness or dubiety among the workers. They ensure the adherence to the rules by the followers to get productive results.

  • Values Structured Hierarchy- A directive leader values an organized and structured system of working. Such a hierarchy in an organization distinctly specifies the roles and expectations of the workers, which increases efficiency and effectiveness. A directive leader idealizes the autocratic model where he/she sets expectations, and their followers perform the specified jobs.  

How can I become a Directive Leader?

The discussion so far has concluded that there are various types of leadership styles, and a leader should always engage themselves in different types of leadership behavior depending on the nature and demands of a particular situation. Depending on the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situations, a leader should use a particular type of leadership to ensure the achievement of the organizational goals and the personal growth of the workers. 

Though unpopular, Directive Leadership is still prevalent in many organizations due to its high effectiveness and productivity. Hence, many leaders are still interested in becoming directive leaders. Following are some of the steps which could give an idea of how a person could leverage the benefits of directive leadership-

  • Assess the situations- As a leader, it is essential to assess and analyze the existing circumstances. Every situation brings with it a new challenge that requires a different method and strategy to overcome. It’s the responsibility of the leader to choose a specific leadership style keeping in mind the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situations. 

For example: If an organization has an empathetic and participative leader who believes in the employees’ active participation and considers the concerns of the employees. An urgent situation arises when the leader has to accomplish a specific target within a limited time. In that situation, it’s the leader’s responsibility to acquire the Directive Leadership style and get the work done by the employees. 

  • Take Obligation- After analyzing the prevailing situations, the next important step for the leader is to take charge of the situation. Even after assessing and analyzing the circumstance, if the leader doesn’t stand up to take the initiative, it’s pointless to initiate the 1st step. 

If the employees are demotivated and quite disoriented, the leader should be obligated to assist and guide the employees. They should specify everyone with their roles and tasks and have full confidence while giving instructions to the subordinates. 

  • Claim your Command- While making decisions, the leader must reflect qualities like authoritativeness, assurance, and boldness. The employees should be confident enough to trust the leader and his decisions. However challenging the situation becomes, the presence of mind of the leader could help the employees to direct their efforts in the right direction.
  • Trust the Assistance- A directive leader should always trust their employees’ guidance and assistance. If an unexpected situation arises, he/she should be assured enough that the employees would not get demotivated and perform their roles and tasks as specified. 

A directive leader must understand that the followers need clear instructions and guidance to accomplish a job. Supervising and closely monitoring the works of the employees along the way would help verify the overall progress.

  • Hold others Accountable- It becomes very significant for a directive leader to hold others accountable for their job and performance. As a leader, indeed, the maximum responsibility and accountability are on the leader itself. Still, in directive leadership, it is required that the leader, instead of being empathetic, holds others accountable. 

This is the sole feature that differentiates it. The leadership style involves adhering to the rules which are being specified to the employees. Hence, if not performed as per the expectations, the leader must hold them accountable for their execution. 

  • Idealise Control and Organised Structure- The most basic concept of  Directive Leadership is based on the cornerstones of control, command, supremacy, organized structure. A directive leader is expected to idealize these qualities to get the desired outcomes.

He/she should first adhere to the protocols of this leadership style and then expect his/her followers to do so. He/she should value the significance of setting clear roles and tasks of employees, predefined objectives that lead to establishing an organized structure. 

  • Inhibit Creativity and Innovation-   As a directive leader, one should always keep one focus intact and emphasize the achievement of predefined targets and organizational goals.  This would also ensure unambiguity among the workers regarding their tasks. 

Employees’ feedback, suggestions, and reviews indeed play a significant role in today’s management systems. Still, the purpose of Directive Leadership is the completion of tasks and to achieve goals rather than encouraging innovations and creativity. 

Final Word

Thus, from the above discussion, we can conclude that a good leader should never rely on a particular leadership style as every leadership style has its own merits and demerits. Instead, a leader should always act according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situations.  Hence, we can conclude the article with the popular quote-

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

~ Ronald Reagan.

Also read Leadership Strategies to Lead by Example

What is Directive Leadership? – Features, Advantages, More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top