Directive versus Supportive Leadership

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Effective leaders are able to get their team members to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. According to Baldwin, Bommer, and Rubin (2008), leaders must be able to take their followers towards a direction they may not have pursued without the influence of the leader (pg. 236). However, the ways in which these goals are achieved vary from leader to leader.  Leadership styles are often adopted based on what individuals in management positions believe is needed for team members to achieve their goals. Individuals in transformational leadership positions must be able to determine what will motivate their employees as this is what they will need to provide in order to reach the company’s goals. Directive and supportive leadership styles are very different from each other. The style which a leader may use reflects what these leaders believe about their employee's inherent qualities.

Leaders who choose a more directive leadership style believe that their employees need to be told what to do and are working more towards earning a paycheck rather than the benefit of completing good work. Directive leaders can be considered micro-managers as they tell their employees what to do, when to do it, how to do it and where to complete their work. These leaders are very structured and may be unwilling to be flexible to meet their employee’s needs. 

They are focused on achieving deadlines rather than how their employee is feeling about the work. Directive leaders are also more likely to control their employees by supervising every aspect of their employee’s duties. A directive leader is happy when the tasks are completed by their deadlines. The flaws with this type of leadership are that the leader may be too focused on policies and procedures rather than on what their employees need. These leaders will not have a secure relationship with their employees as they do not take the time to build morale or a relationship with them.

Leaders who choose a more supportive role believe that their employees are motivated by more than just a paycheck. These leaders believe that their employees want to achieve high quality work. They also believe that an employee is able to achieve this high quality work on their own with encouragement rather than direct supervision. A supportive leader engages in two way communication with their employee rather than just telling them what to do. They are unlikely to micromanage an employee's tasks rather they will act as a facilitator only providing assistance when the employee needs it. A supportive leader provides consistent praise and encouragement in order to motivate their employees. These types of leaders are also more concerned with how their employees are doing rather than just focusing on tasks. These leaders understand that employees who are stressed out may not be functional in the workplace. Supportive leaders want to be able to build a positive and encouraging relationship with their employees which they believe will lead to high quality work and minimal stress in the workplace setting. The flaws of this type of leadership are that a supportive leader may be too lax with their employees. These employees may not be getting work done as they will not have to face repercussions for not completing their work.

Versatility is also important to good leadership. According to Howell and Costley (2001), effective leaders do not solely choose one style over the other (pg. 41). The leader who is able to blend the two styles can be more successful. A leader needs to be able to be directive when needed or supportive when it is needed in alternative situations. This is due to the fact that not all employees are alike. Some employees may require more of a directive approach especially when they are having difficulty achieving a task by its required deadline, while other employees may become stressed when working with a leader who is micromanaging them. These employees may need a leader who is more supportive. By being able to switch from these styles an effective leader can work with all type of employees in various situations. 


Baldwin, T. T., Bommer, W. H., & Rubin, R. S. (2008). Developing management skills: What great managers know and do. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Howell, J. P., & Costley, D. L. (2001). Understanding behaviors for effective leadership. Prentice-Hall.