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Supportive Leadership Style: Definition & Explanation

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Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

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

Supportive leadership is a leadership style in which a leader tries to support employees by helping them in stressful situations. Learn the definition of supportive leadership and explore some path-goal theory concepts and examples. Updated: 09/14/2021

What Is Supportive Leadership?

Supportive leadership is one of the leadership styles found in path-goal theory. A supportive leader attempts to reduce employee stress and frustration in the workplace. This method is effective when your work tasks are dangerous, tedious, and stressful but is not really effective if your work tasks are intrinsically motivating because you don't need to be motivated to do the work.

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  • 0:01 What Is Supportive Leadership?
  • 0:22 Supporting Concepts
  • 1:23 Example
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Supporting Concepts

In order to fully understand supportive leadership, you need to place it within the larger context of path-goal theory developed in large part by Robert House. According to the theory, a manager establishes the goal for his employees and sets forth the path for achieving that goal. Tasks for a manager include clarification of tasks, clarification of the employee's roles 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. The theory proposes that you should use certain leadership styles in different situations. Leadership styles available to you include directive, participative, achievement-oriented, and of course, supportive. So as you can see, supportive leadership is just one tool in a toolbox of leadership approaches that you use in any given situation, depending on the nature of the task and the nature of the employees. Let's look at some examples to illustrate the point.

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