Directive Leadership – Definition, Elements, and Advantages


Directive Leadership – Sometimes, leaders may employ different strategies or styles of managing their team to support or train them to reach a certain goal. They tend to adopt one or more ways to lead the team towards achieving the desired outcome. These ways or strategies are called Styles of Leadership. 

Path-Goal Theory

The Path-Goal Theory of leader effectiveness or Path-Goal Model, Path-Goal Theory, is a leadership theory proposed and developed by Robert House in 1971. The theory states that “a leader’s behavior is contingent to the satisfaction, motivation, and performance of his or her subordinates.” The theory was revised in 1996 and presented a similar usage as in the original one, that is, “the leader engages in behaviors that complement subordinate’s abilities and compensate for deficiencies.” In this theory, Robert House proposed four different leadership styles, namely- directive path-goal clarifying, participative, supportive and achievement-oriented.

  1. Directive behavior refers to the style of conducting the managing task where the leader gives explicit orders to his or her subordinates, directs their actions, assesses their work, and rewards them when appropriate.

  2. Supportive behavior refers to a situation when the leader shows concern for his or her employee’s needs, preferences, and mental health. They show regard for their psychological well-being.

  3. Achievement-oriented behavior refers to a situation where the leader sets certain goals for his/her subordinates, expects them to achieve them in the most efficient ways possible and puts faith, and shows confidence in their abilities.

  4. Participative behavior refers to a situation where the leader involves his or her subordinates in the decision-making process, asks for their opinions and ideas, and is open to their suggestions, all for the betterment of the organization. 

  5. The Path-Goal Theory of Leader Effectiveness allows the leaders to abandon or adopt a specific leadership behavior as they please and the situation demands

  6. This article closely examines the Directive style of Leadership, its advantages and disadvantages, elements and directive decision making, and other necessary details.

What is Directive Leadership?

The directive style is one of the four leadership behaviors. The leader presents his or her team with clear objectives, rules, and codes and makes sure his instructions and directions are clearly promulgated among the subordinates. The directive leadership behavior has often been seen as negative for the leader takes full charge of a project or a situation at hand, directs his or her subordinates to not act out of line, and the fact that it does not encourage interactions. The “directives” are put forth by the leader and the team is expected to comply with them. Vision, structure, and strategy are all pre-decided by the leader. 

Elements of the Directive style of Leadership

While implementing the directive style of leadership at the workplace, the leader must consider some factors hugely elemental in doing so with a higher success rate and greater work satisfaction. These elements are:


The leader is supposed to establish clear communication with the team and clearly define to them what is expected from them as they hold a certain position. The sort of work culture and values the organization endorses need to be made clear to them. The directive leader will clearly lay out the objectives and goals they will be aiming to achieve. Necessary information regarding deadlines, evaluation criteria, handling subtasks, all of this is required to be properly communicated across. 


Directive leadership means issuing directives for others to follow. This is a one-way street where the leader will lay down the rules, and the team members follow them. The rules have to be elaborate and firmly enforced. Boundaries need to be set. These rules and boundaries are elements in implementing directive leadership because only then the employees will feel bound to perform well. Setting the rules also means that you can hold the person accountable if his/her actions are run counter to them. 


The underlying principle of the directive style of leadership is that the leader will be the captain of the ship, directing and anchoring his/her subordinates in the right direction. To lead a team while bearing brilliant results, the leader needs to be highly experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled. The leader must be confident enough to believe in his/her experience and skills so that the managing task can be done smoothly. Successful completion of tasks needs good directions for which the leader is directly responsible. 

Advantages of Directive Leadership


‘Simplistic’ would be one word to characterize the directive style of leadership. One assigns a task and expects them to complete it with certain consequences. One need not be taught how to employ this method. It is fuss-free, and does not demand one to consider the emotional and motivational states of the subordinates. Your priority is to get the work done within a time limit with appreciable outcomes. 


Leaders who adopt directive style naturally become boon. Their knowledge and experience provide structure to an unstructured task. These factors become even more important when they work with unskilled or inexperienced teams. When the rest of the team is unknown to the dynamics and how-about of a project, implementing a directive style of leadership works tremendously well as the leader defines the rules and plans, and the team only needs to follow them in order to accomplish the goal. 


When working under a directive leader, each and every member of the team is left with no room to question regarding the duties. Rules apply to all of them, duties ascribed to every individual are to be fulfilled no matter what, and everyone has a clarity of their roles. The leader will set certain expectations while the workers meet them. The set-up promises an improvement in the overall performance of the team and congratulatory consequences. 


The main characteristic of adopting the directive leadership style is the following of rules and regulations. The work is assigned to a certain team member for reasons that might escape the team members but are very crucial and specific to the leader. Handing a particular work to a person who is more capable of doing it is a smart move that guarantees both safety and efficiency.  Leadership behavior is largely prevalent in military and law enforcement organizations where you cannot risk any mistake. Hence the strategy works, and no compromise to safety or security is made. 


A leader assigns work and expects its completion in a given time frame from a worker. Now, in the directive style of leadership, there are two factors that compel the worker to complete the task, first, the leader seldom offers rewards and other such things, and second, because of the fear of losing the job if failed to achieve a goal. These two factors take care of the demotivation the workers feel at times. 

Disadvantages of Directive Leadership


In directive leadership, the leader decides how and when the job needs to be done. He closely supervises the work and makes sure that the work is meeting the expectations and the quality standard. He controls every move, and this can bother workers who are otherwise needed to put creative inputs into the work. One can get smothered by so much control and the ‘fishbowl’ atmosphere to a level that they could not harness their creative potential and thus, the leadership styles ruin the balance needed for creative job functions. 


The one directing is the one who carries the whole job on his or her shoulders. They feel that their knowledge and their experience is primary and superior and that there is no need for collaboration. Directive leadership binds the leader to lead the task through and through. Leaders do not seek inputs or insights from the team members, and that makes them feel secondary. The whole process is one-way. A person assigns you a task, and you respond to that person. Your accountability is only for failures. 


In organizations like military or law enforcement, it is seen that directive leadership works wonders, and the team seems to collapse in the absence of it. However, in the corporate sector, the directive style of leadership may stem serious problems that affect the work culture of the organization. Workers seem to squirm under the pressure of following the directives, meeting the deadline and expectations, and keeping the morale up. The leader plays no part in a moralizing or motivating the team, and sometimes, it can be very tough for a worker to give their best in such a tight environment, and eventually, their morale dies to work anymore, and some even go on quitting the job.


The directive leadership behavior is equally demanding and exhausting for the leader as it is for the subordinates. They are required to take full responsibility for the task, direct everyone and successfully accomplish the task. The leader is held accountable for the outcomes, good or bad. He/She would be answerable for any failure even if they did give their best. Managing a team can be very exhausting, and the pressure can be enormous for one person to handle. Overworking may affect their physical as well as mental well-being. 


Directive style of leadership requires the leader to be more skilled, knowledgeable, and more experienced than the rest of the teammates. It will only work out when the dynamic is such, or the whole task may turn out to be nothing but one big blunder accredited to interpersonal miscommunication and faltered role expectations. Managing and directing a team of newbies who are far less experienced and technically unskilled is easier and convenient than leading a team of a skilled and experienced ones. Naturally so because the former will not talk back and follow whatever instructions are provided to them, whereas the latter may point out the drawbacks in the vision and plans proposed by the leader. 

How to be an effective directive leader?

The directive leadership behavior works fabulously well when the team members are unskilled and inexperienced. They require to be directed and pose no questions or objections when instructed by a directive leader. On the other hand, a team of members who are skilled and considerably experienced is seen to be little to zero compliant and more likely to raise objections against the directive style of leadership. They find it annoying and intrusive. Therefore, it is important that you mull over what style of leadership will suit the best for your team. If you find that the directive style will suit your team well, then here are some of the tips so you can emerge as an effective directive leader:


As a directive leader, you need to be competent and experienced to lead a team towards excellent outcomes and success. But even the leader’s engagement is primary. The work will not progress if he is unknown to his or her team. Knowing his or her team members, their potentials, strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations helps the leader allocate the most potential team member who can pull off the task brilliantly. 


Handing a pamphlet to the team members with a list of duties and rules they need to fulfill and comply with is not sufficient enough. As a directive leader, you need to communicate with your team on a timely basis, take up their queries and clear any confusion they might have about their roles, job functions, and what exactly is expected of them. It is important that you clarify doubts and misconceptions to ensure a better work environment and improved performance.


Precision on the leader’s part becomes immensely crucial while exhibiting directive leadership behavior. Do not hesitate to give orders but be precise and explicit about it. Your orders should clear the air for the workers, not fog it over. Secondly, be decisive and resolute. Directive leadership is a decision-driven domain. Do not be indecisive or make unclear, short-sighted, or delayed decisions. Stalling decisions negatively impacts the equation you share with your team as it might lead to a lack of enthusiasm, stagnation, and seed distrust among the members. 


For leaders who resort to the directive style of leadership, it is hardly possible not to confuse managing with micro-managing. You are supposed to direct them, not monitor them. Micromanaging every aspect of the job can be very frustrating and demoralizing for the workers as they might feel that they are undervalued and incompetent. And for a leader, micromanaging is synonymous with inviting stress and not being able to fulfill other duties given to you being in a certain position.


As a supervisor, you have earned the respect and faith of your team members. If they find you contradicting your own principles and statements frequently, they might lose the respect and faith they have put in you. Be particular about the rules you lay down. If you lay strict rules against the action and someone violates it, do not leave the offense be. As soon as you let the team members bend or countermand the rules and regulations, you lose authority and, simultaneously, respect.

When to adopt the Directive style of Leadership?

A smart leader always knows that one leadership behavior can never help in accomplishing a task with desired results. One needs to have the knowledge and the presence of mind as to how and when one needs to abandon or adopt a leadership style so that the ship does not sink. Directive style of leadership is often described in negative connotations and is becoming less and less popular in the corporate sector as the leaders set to ask for employees’ suggestions and insights, seek feedback, and encourage collaboration. Nonetheless, the directive style cannot be absolutely ruled out, for, at one point, the team needs someone to direct them and lead them ahead. So the question remains what those circumstances when a leader should resort to a directive style of leadership are. Here are some of those instances:


A team of unskilled and inexperienced members tends to look up to a leader who will direct them to tackle a complex task. So, when working with a team of newbies, you need to adopt the directive leadership behavior. Initially, you can assert clear directives and define rules and regulations for them to understand the work culture and how to go about a task. As time passes and they get comfortable with the work and the environment and have an idea of all the working, you can let them take up small chunks of work and work autonomously. Implementing a directive style of leadership aims at developing skills and work ethics with the help of a superior in this instance.


When encountered with an urgent situation that needs urgent attention, one cannot really rely on the board or the committee to look into it and prescribe a way out. Such crucial times are the instances where directive leadership behavior shines out. The leader taking the whole situation in her/his hand can be a little abrupt, and the people around find be dumbfounded by it, but it would be what the situation demands. They push you to take charge and be more directive and assertive than usual. Your behavior compels others to follow your instructions because people always prefer to follow than lead. However, a good leader understands that not every urgency is real or a crisis. Fake emergencies create a feeling of distrust and disregard in the workers for the leader. 


In organizations that operate in the domain of health and safety, there has to be an order, and you need everyone to follow a certain set of rules without any exception. Directing the actions of others by issuing certain directives is one way to establish an order. You can also implement a directive leadership style when you require your workers to respect the standards and deadlines. Coding rules help maintain the decorum of the workplace and ensure quality work. Sometimes, there is no other option than resorting being the one directing for the sake of work and everyone’s safety. You might face some backlash, but you can always negotiate and alter the rules, but they have to be there.


Involving everyone in the decision-making process is all well and good, but there are times when immediate action is required, and you have to make a decision all on your own. Asking for everybody’s point of view, listing and analyzing all the suggestion takes a long time. Time being an essence, you are expected to make a decision quickly. The decision you make might not be in the best interest of the organization but it will inactivity that comes with stalling a decision. Sometimes, a bad decision is better than no decision at all. 

Directive Decision-Making

A directive decision-maker will work out the pros and cons of the situation at hand. The decision has to stem from the principles of rationality, experience, knowledge, and little to no scope for ambiguity. As the directive leaders are supposed to do, a decision needs to born of intuition and not from suggestion outside of one’s person. The leader’s role is to identify the situation as the one that needs immediate attention and calls for directive decisions. Make sure you have access to all the crucial information so that you can paint a mental image of what might list as possible consequences of this particular decision. Ponder over alternative methods of tackling the situation and ask yourself if the decision is bound to be taken or it can be delayed till you get all the details of the issue.

Also read Coaching vs Mentoring: What’s the difference?

Directive Leadership – Definition, Elements, and Advantages

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