Directive Leadership Style: What It is and More

Directive leadership style is one of the four outlined by Martin G. Evan in his path-goal theory of leadership. It is one of the many styles that leaders use to manage a team of people. Specific settings, situations, or organizations call for directive leadership as an effective technique to meet goals and keep organizations alive.

What is a directive leadership style?

Directive leadership can be characterized by providing clear expectations and specific directions and rules for team members. The leader in this type of practice makes sure that they make their directives and expectations clear enough for everybody to follow.

In simpler terms, leaders who practice this style make decisions for everyone under them and expect their members to follow their instructions. These leaders should be good at giving directions, setting clear expectations, and establishing guidelines and standards.

While this may be similar to autocratic leadership, which is more absolute, directive leaders can make adjustments regarding how they reward their members and how much instruction and autonomy they give as needed.

Benefits of directive leadership

Below are some of the advantages of adapting to this leadership style.


Directive leaders provide structure to teams and organizations. This is especially useful for groups that seem to lack a sense of unity and direction.


Having a clear path and a single go-to person at the team’s head fosters a sense of security and stability within an organization. Members feel confident that they are doing the right thing because they do not receive conflicting instructions from several persons but from one consistent leader.

Clarity and simplicity

Directive leadership style is clearer and simpler to follow since the direction comes from only one person who decides.


Directive leaders often check on their team members to ensure that everyone complies with the rules and follows directions. This way, people get to be more accountable with their tasks since they know that they will be regularly monitored.

When does directive leadership work, and when does it not?

As with all other leadership styles, it is essential to carefully evaluate whether directive leadership is effective in a specific setting. There are several instances where directive leadership is applicable, and there are other situations where it may do more harm than good.

When it works

Below are the instances where directive leadership can help a team out:

  • When faced with a complicated task where the team members are unskilled or unfamiliar with the activities involved.
  • When the followers expect a high level of clarity, direction, organization, and supervision from their leaders. The stability provided by directive leadership style increases performance, reduces stress from confusion, and promotes job satisfaction
  • Helpful in uniformly managing large groups that compose of a wide variety of people with different backgrounds and experience, such as in the police force, manufacturing lines, and the military.
  • Situations of uncertainty where team members need more security, stability, and safety from a strong leader.
  • If you are managing a team of young professionals who are new to the job and need more supervision.
  • When you notice that your team is lacking motivation and needs a little bit of push.

When it does not work

  • Creative settings where team members need more freedom to practice their own initiative in order to become productive.
  • Teams that need more horizontal collaboration with one another in the group or with other teams. Members need to be self-empowered enough to reach out to other teams or members without seeking approval from the leader.
  • Situations where multi-way communication between leaders and members are vital for organizational growth and development.

How to become a directive leader

You don’t find directive leaders in all industries. Similarly, you don’t have to practice a directive leadership style all the time. However, should you find that you need to, here’s how;

Take control

The first step in being a directive leader is to take charge. If you notice that your team is lagging behind, take hold of the reins and steer them back into the right path. It takes a good amount of control to give directions and for everyone to follow suit.

Be firm and authoritative

Authority and a stern hand are absolutely essential in directive leadership. This means that you have to mean what you say and decide things with utmost conviction. Any hesitation or lack of authority on your part as a leader will weaken your team’s resolve in you and make them doubt you as well. 

Establish protocol

This style of leadership does not thrive well on creativity. What keeps it going is its clear-cut set of rules and protocols that everyone follows to accomplish their goals and experience success. This protocol must be concise and applicable to everyone in the team. 

Guide with confidence

The main aim of directive leadership is to guide your team to follow guidelines, meet deadlines, and tick off tasks they are accountable for. This is made possible with consistent guidance, combined with confidence and conviction. You need to be confident in your ability to lead your team so that they feel secure under your steadfast guidance.

Set expectations and guidelines

Each team member is accountable for their own tasks. Therefore, it is essential to make expectations clear and set accessible guidelines that are realistic and achievable for your team members. Team members should also be accountable for the tasks assigned under them. Usually, there are rewards for members that perform and sanctions for members who do not.

Encourage uniformity

As previously mentioned, directive leadership is not for creative fields. Therefore, innovation is welcome. Everyone is expected to strictly adhere to guidelines and meet specific expectations, where there is no room to improvise or deviate from the original plans and policies.

Embrace the hierarchy

Not everyone is comfortable with having complete control and discouraging input from team members. However, it is vital to embrace the hierarchy and your position in directive leadership. A leader under this type of leadership should be not only confident and steadfast but also comfortable with being on top and being the only one giving direction.


Finally, to become a true leader, whatever management style you may need to adopt, it is important to never stop learning. There are tons of leadership courses available online, like The Science of Leadership from Skill Success. 

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