Directive leadership is one of the most common styles of leadership that is used today. The directive leader will initiate a project, give responsibilities to their direct reports to complete the project, and apply specific standards to the quality of work being completed. These leaders set deadlines, define tasks, and exercise firm rules and boundaries.
A directive leader tends to focus on their own experiences and opinions above others. They set the direction of the vision and the mission. That means their direct reports are not required to offer suggestions or provide feedback to the leader. Their work performance is solely judged by how well they are performing their assigned tasks.
Directive leaders must know how to complete a project. They must have confidence in their ability to communicate this information to others without appearing to be arrogant. They must also be able to recognize when someone is resisting their control to reduce delays or reductions in productivity.
List of the Advantages of the Directive Leadership Style
1. It provides structure to unstructured tasks.
Directive leaders are most effective when their experience and knowledge can be used to implement specific structures for others. When a team is inexperienced with the duties a project requires, this leadership style can step it. The leader will implement specific tasks or duties that must be followed to the letter. In this way, the experience of the leader can be transferred to each worker, allowing a positive outcome to be achieved.
2. It emphasizes safety and security.
Rules and regulations are the primary emphasis of the directive leadership style. Workers are being asked to perform tasks a certain way for specific reasons. It is often used in the military, law enforcement, and construction organizations because there is no room for error. Certain rules must be followed a specific way and the directive leader is able to communicate this fact effectively.
3. It creates clarity within role expectations.
Workers who have a directive leader are not left questioning what their assignment will be. There is always clarity provided for a worker’s role in every project. The directive leader will offer clear expectations to follow. Enforcement of these expectations is often done through rewards and consequences, which can lower the stress levels for workers who try to avoid creative job functions. This clarity often leaders to improved performance levels for a team as well.
4. It is very easy to learn.
A directive leadership style is quite simplistic. You take the approach of telling someone to do something or expect a consequence to happen. Leaders don’t need to be trained in a specific way to use this leadership style. There is no need to recognize emotional states or attempt different motivational techniques. Your priority is to tell people what to do, how they should do it, and when the job needs to be done.
5. It reduces issues with de-motivated workers.
Some teams can become discouraged because of past leadership voids. Workers can become unmotivated for a variety of reasons, some personal and some professional. When there is a directive leader at the helm, it ensures that workers will complete their tasks. If someone needs a job, realizing that they could lose it if they refuse to complete an assignment becomes a motivating factor.
List of the Disadvantages of the Directive Leadership Style
1. It restricts the initiative of certain workers.
The directive leadership style really struggles to cope with creative job functions. These leaders need there to be one clear way to get a job done. Then the leader closely supervises the worker to ensure the work is up to needed quality standards. This level of control naturally limits the initiative of workers who are responsible for creative positions. That means this leadership style is ineffective when a creative project must be completed.
2. It avoids the use of collaboration.
Directive leaders disregard the benefits of collaboration because they believe their experience and knowledge is more valuable to the project. They do not seek out to empower others. Employee growth and insight is secondary to the tasks which must be completed. It is a one-way street where specifics are communicated about a job that must be done. Then the leader assigns responsibility to specific tasks and holds individuals accountable for not meeting expectations.
3. It reduces overall morale for most teams.
There are some teams which thrive with a directive leader at the helm. In the military and law enforcement, morale actually lowers when other leadership styles are used. In the corporate world, however, the need for directive leaders is decreasing. These leaders expect compliance with published workplace rules. They expect orders to be followed without question. For many people this creates a lack of ownership for the work they are asked to complete, which increases their personal dissatisfaction.
4. It increases the work burden for the supervisor.
Leaders who use the directive style are forced to take full responsibility for the performance of their team. Even if others make decisions, the leader is responsible for the outcomes. That means this leadership style requires extra work when compared to other leadership styles because no delegation is permitted. That leads to higher stress levels for the supervisor, which can even lead to health problems if coping skills are unavailable.
5. It requires the leader’s skills to be higher than the worker’s skills.
Highly skilled workers, or highly motivated workers, struggle to work with a directive leader because they feel like their knowledge is superior to the leader’s knowledge. A leader who finds themselves in this position may not make the best possible decision because their experience is lacking, yet they do not seek input from more experienced teams. Certain people even have negative emotional responses to situations like this, which may cause the best workers to leave the organization.
6. It is highly dependent upon the leader.
Directive leadership is most effective when the leader is present in the environment. If the leader is not present, productivity levels will often plummet. There is no desire for self-motivation because the tasks are based on the direction and supervision of the leader. Even if the directive leader appoints someone to take their place, the team often responds negatively because they are not used to any form of delegation.
The advantages and disadvantages of the directive leadership style show us that in specific situations, it can be very useful. If safety or regulatory compliance are necessary, then there is no room for creativity. This leadership style can also be problematic for teams or projects where individuality is a top priority. By recognizing when and where this leadership style can be used, all leaders can implement it effectively.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.