Directive leadership

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Directive leadership
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Directive leadership is one of the leadership styles which involves letting subordinates know exactly what is expected of them and giving them specific directions. They are expected to follow rules and regulations (Mullins L. J., 2010). Directive leadership implies that leaders play the active role in problem solving and decision making and expect group members to be guided by their decisions (Bass B. M., Bass R., 2009; Bass B. M., Stogdill R. M., 1990).

Characteristic features and usage of directive leadership

According to The Bass Handbook of Leadership, there are two types of directive leadership:

  1. In one type leaders make the decision for the subordinates often without an explanation and without informing or consulting their decisions with them.
  2. In the second type, leaders play a more active role and try to influence subordinates to accept their decisions and actions by using reasonable arguments and logic.

Directive leaders may stress an expectation or a need, offer rewards but also threaten or put pressure on their subordinates to gain their approval. Leaders who use directive style do not ask their subordinates to get involved in making decisions. They may decide for themselves and others, announce their decisions and give orders with or without consulting colleagues (Bass B.M., Bass R., 2009). Directive leadership style can be used when the subordinate is not ready to work independently and need more guidance or has a task that he is uncertain of (Ahlstorm D., 2009). Using directive leadership may be indicated in cases of risk, crisis conditions or urgency (e.g. approaching deadline).

Advantages and disadvantages of directive leadership

Directive leadership provides clarity of roles in a project because of clear instructions, expectations, rules, and standards provided by a directive leader (Northouse P. G., 2010) and may be helpful in situations when a task is new for a team or employees are inexperienced (Griffin R. W., 2016). Even though directive leadership has its benefits, it can also have negative effects. Bass (The Bass Handbook of Leadership, 2009) mentions several studies that indicate that directive leadership results in lower acceptance of management decisions and subordinates being less committed and loyal.

Examples of the personal characteristic of directive leaders

There are several characteristics that are common among directive leaders, for example (Bass B. M., Bass R., 2009):

  • personality type: thinking types measured by Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are most directive
  • power: powerful leaders may be more directive
  • experience: older, more experienced leaders were found to be directive less likely than younger managers

Directive leaders

One of the most famous leaders that belong to a directive leaders group is Steve Jobs - co-founder and CEO of Apple. He was known for setting strict rules and making decisions mostly on his own. Steve Jobs did not agree to any objections from his colleagues and employees. Even though his leadership behaviors were often controversial, his success is mostly based on it.


Author: Karolina Kopecińska