Management is a broad and controversial topic that regularly gives rise to new theories regarding effective and ineffective management styles. The essence of leadership styles is vital for the effective work of companies and the efficient management of subordinates. In management nowadays, several styles are distinguished, each of which is effective in its way. The methods and styles of management used by the same person might vary, depending on what tasks the leader sets for themselves and the team. This research paper aims to describe directive and supportive management styles from path-goal theory, analyze their benefits and downfalls, as well as provide examples for each method.
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Leadership Styles Description
Scientists and researchers consider the directive leadership style one of the most commonly used methods nowadays. A person who uses this management style must launch a plan, delegate responsibilities, and attach specific standards to the quality of the work being done (Northouse, 2018). These leaders also set deadlines, clearly define tasks, and exercise firm rules and boundaries. Directive leaders focus primarily on their expertise and opinions. That means that their subordinates are not required to provide suggestions or feedback; such leaders do not show their interest or concern to team members. Consequently, the directive management style is mainly about making orders, not contact.
Moreover, a team’s work performance is judged solely by how well they do their assigned tasks. It is important to mention that directive leadership style is appropriate for particular circumstances only. For instance, Northouse (2018) emphasizes that “Directive style of leadership is best in situations in which followers are dogmatic and authoritarian, the task demands are ambiguous, the organizational rules are unclear” (p.45).
Directive leadership is also considered the most effective when immediate and reliable results are needed in a crisis (Northouse, 2018). Thus, directive leaders’ management could be effectively applied among subordinates with traditional views on a corporate hierarchy with complex tasks and demands.
Supportive leadership style presumes that a manager not only assigns tasks and collects outcomes, but also assists employees in completion. Supportive leaders are doing much more than laying down rules and regulations: they listen to their workers’ problems and help them deal with stressful events. It is one of the aspects that distinguishes a typical manager from a supportive leader as it would be impossible for a regular executive to demonstrate a high degree of empathy towards their staff.
Supportive leaders also often teach their staff how to manage any arising challenges during work, so they do not have to rely on their supervisors all the time. For example, Jex and Britt (2014) highlight that “Supportive leadership represents behaviors that are aimed at showing concern and caring for subordinates” (p. 279). Henceforth, the supportive leadership style is based on empathy and workers’ ability to make decisions during the working process. In addition, Northon (2018) suggests that “For tasks that are structured, unsatisfying or frustrating, path-goal theory suggests that leaders should use a supportive style” (p. 59). Consequently, this leadership style might be useful to implement in police departments or other stressful workplaces.
Advantages and Disadvantages in Directive and Supportive Leadership
The primary benefit of the directive style is that it provides a clear structure for complex and ambiguous tasks, as rules and regulations are the highlights of this leadership style. A directive leader will successfully impose specific duties for each team member, so no one is confused about what to do. Furthermore, as stated by Łukowski (2017), directive leadership techniques increase the likelihood of proper implementation of innovative ideas. Consequently, this statement suggests that because of clear rules within the framework of this leadership technique, even tasks that are new to a team can be successfully performed.
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On the contrary, supportive leadership gives more freedom to team members during the implementation of innovations. Another advantage of this leadership style is that a person does not need certain training because such a method is simple and can be used by nearly everyone. There is no need to recognize emotional states or try different techniques of motivation. In contrast, supportive leadership requires a high emotional intelligence level, excellent communication skills, and basic psychology knowledge.
Among the main benefits of supportive leadership is subordinated’ positive reaction towards a leader’s empathy and understanding of them. If the leader is fully committed, however, her teammates will be engaged as well. One of the most common reasons why people leave their jobs is because they feel undervalued, and a manager who uses a supportive leadership style is dedicated to making their subordinates feel respected and important. It is not the case in directive leadership, as the person who uses this approach is mainly focused on assigning tasks and supervising their implementation.
Furthermore, when workers are put under pressure, a supportive leadership approach can minimize their team’s stress level by motivating them, which, unfortunately, does not happen in directive leadership technique. Supportive leaders tend to work constructively with mistakes as well as assist workers to continually improve their expertise in a particular field. Consequently, such an approach positively results in work effectiveness and performance rate.
One of the downsides of directive leadership is that such a leader needs to possess more significant expertise and experience in his field than their workers because, in other ways, subordinates may not listen to a person whose skills are not better. Additionally, such an approach increases leaders’ workload and stress level, as they bear full responsibility for their team’s performance. Such high responsibility results in the lack of subordinates’ self-motivation as the activities are based on the leader’s guidance and supervision. Remarkably, as supportive leadership presumes minimal supervision, team members are able to effectively work in such an environment as long as they are sufficiently motivated to their job.
Famous Leaders and Leadership Styles
As directive leadership style suggests, such an approach must include the characteristics mentioned above. A notable example of a person who relied upon this leadership approach is Adolf Hitler. First of all, the Führer is known for his strictness in the implementation of rules; people who did not obey his orders were murdered or punished. Consequently, he treated his subordinates solely based on the performance of their tasks, they could not propose any suggestions regarding their duties.
Moreover, the leader of the Nazi party issued his directives, which included detailed instruction and strategic plans. It is worth highlighting that it was Hitler who imposed the orders and his subordinates were not able to perform many tasks without his consent. Therefore, the leader of the Nazi party demonstrated the critical elements of the directive leadership approach.
It has been mentioned above that a supportive leader encourages teamwork, motivates workers for higher work performance, is open to feedback, and provides space for task interpretation and independent work. Simon Sinek, the book author, and the motivational speaker uses this approach on a day-to-day basis. He believes that innovation is sparked during teamwork, so he often gathered his team to brainstorm product ideas. In addition, in his book “Leaders Eat Last,” the man suggests that leadership is not mainly about the management or executing; it is about empowering other people to achieve heights (Sinek, 2014).
He elaborates on this matter, mentioning that every person has a desire to be important, and in order to motivate an employee to try his best, a leader should pay attention to him. Mr. Sinek also underlines that he uses the above-mentioned approaches in his work. Thus, he can be considered a supportive leader.
As far as I am concerned, the supportive leadership approach needs to be used among a majority of managers nowadays. First of all, in the 21st century, there is an epidemic of anxiety, stress, and social isolation. Due to heavy workload, and intense lifestyle, the likelihood of getting mental health disorders is higher than it has ever been. Thus, in order to make work environments safer and more comfortable, employees need a caring leader, who is capable of empathy and seeing them as individuals and not machines that perform tasks.
Moreover, in the era of innovations and inclusion, when everyone can contribute to public opinion, it is worth it for leaders from all over the world to consider giving subordinates more power. Nowadays, humans are more educated than ever, and consequently, the opinions and insights they will provide will be thoughtful and valuable.
Jex, S. M., & Britt, T. W. (2014). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Łukowski, W. (2017). The impact of leadership styles on innovation management. Marketing of Scientific and Research Organizations, 24(2), 105-136.
Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. New York, NY: Penguin.
Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.