Directive Leadership Style: Definition & Concept

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  • 0:00 Directive Leadership Style
  • 0:38 The Path-Goal Theory
  • 1:50 Successful Use of…
  • 2:34 Unsuccessful Use of…
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Different populations of workers call for different management styles. In this lesson, we will discuss the directive leadership style and learn when it is most effective.

Directive Leadership Style

The directive leadership style is one of four leadership behaviors characterized by setting clear objectives and rules for your subordinates and ensuring that your expectations and directions are clearly defined and understood. Identified by the path-goal theory of leadership, directive leadership may be advisable when subordinates are unskilled or inexperienced at a complex task. It may backfire, however, if imposed upon highly skilled and experienced employees who are extremely competent to perform the task.

The Path-Goal Theory

You must have a general understanding of path-goal theory to get a good understanding of directive leadership. Martin G. Evans first developed the theory in 1970, with Robert J. House updating the theory in 1996. Basically, the path-goal theory holds that a manager should set employees' work goals and establishes the path by which they can achieve the goal.

The path-goal theory describes several managerial tasks. These include clarification of tasks, clarification of the employee's role and responsibilities, clarification of the criteria for success, providing guidance and coaching, removing obstacles that can prevent task completion, and providing psychological support and awards when appropriate.

Importantly, the theory also proposes that a manager should use different leadership styles depending upon the circumstances. Leadership styles available to you include support, participative, achievement-orientated, and of course, directive. Directive leadership is just one tool in the box that a manager can use.

Successful Use of Directive Leadership

Let's say that you are a manager on an assembly line at a manufacturing plant, and production orders have outpaced current labor capacity. You have decided to add a temporary weekend shift to keep up with demand and man the line with temporary employees. Unfortunately, the temps available don't have much production experience and none with your facility. You give each employee very specific instructions on how to perform his task on the line and have regular employees demonstrate the tasks as well. You also set clear and expressed production goals so that employees can gauge their progress and success. You have demonstrated the successful use of directive leadership.

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