Directive Leadership: 10 Telling Signs and How to Kick the Habit

directive leadershipWhen you’re responsible for a team of people, you need to be adept at more than a single style of leadership. The greatest leaders are the ones who can adapt their skills and be situational, offering whatever the team needs to get the job done. This could be a warm hug from a friend, a visionary to forge new paths, a different take on coaching – or even a kick in the backside. For a truly effective leader, you must calculate what’s the critical matter at hand, and figure out the best path to reach success. Research has shown that up to 30% of a company’s bottom line profitability is influenced by a the leadership style of the management team. You can’t ignore it anymore. For anyone just starting out, you can learn the 6 habits of highly effective leaders in this course.

One of the most common leadership styles is directive. A directive leader is focused on being instructional, telling their staff what they are expected to achieve, and how to go about the business of their daily tasks. In an organization where you’re leading a team of employees in jobs that are not specialized, or when you need to give a higher level of guidance this leadership style works very well. This form of leadership is one of the most common forms in large businesses today, as you expect certain levels of standards and demand that your team meet these, as you lead with total authority. The military is a very good example of directive leadership, where commands are expected to be followed instantly and without question.

The problem with directive leadership is that it doesn’t always work well in business. Under this style of management you can hinder employees from reaching their full potential, and you stifle their own creativity and decision making processes. Directive leadership is generally used to get an immediate compliance from your employees, which is very effective in a crisis or if you cannot deviate from a task at hand. The close control you have over your employees can be very effective, while you use discipline and threats to keep your staff in line. The downsides are that there is little chance for learning and development in this leadership approach, and highly skilled employees will become frustrated and resent the micromanaging.

If you’re displaying any of the below signs, take it as a sign that you’re following a directive approach, and adjust your leadership style according to the situation. There’s nothing worse than driving your team further away from you, instead of all working to reach the same goals.

Let’s look at the 10 signs that you’re a directive leader:

1. You enjoy charging forward at full steam.

You determine the goals your team will achieve and the steps that they will follow in order to reach the planned result. Once you’ve established what everyone is working towards you rarely allow your decisions to be questioned once the team is making progress.

2. You rely on a proven track record.

Everything that you are working towards is following a proven set of results that has worked before, or is exactly to written protocol. No creativity is employed, tasks are just set out to be achieved.

3. You believe normal people aren’t particularly motivated.

You think that the entire responsibility of a project rests on your shoulders, because everyone in your team is not self-motivated enough to get any work done without you breathing down their neck.

4. You believe people need direction.

Essentially you micromanage everything that your team is working on, and that there is strict supervision and follow up once your subordinates are assigned a task.

5. You have a strict need for accountability, routines and being predictable.

Your days are very structured, and at any point you know who is working on every task, where they are up to, and when it will be completed. You value the organization, and being able to gauge and measure current performance levels.

6. You believe that a strict set of controls gives a project the best momentum.

The backbone of your management philosophy is that the more “in control” you are, the higher you can drive productivity and the final results of a project.

7. You love stability.

Your favorite environment is when there are only a few variables you need to cater to, like risk and market volatility. You prefer conditions to be stable, so you are comfortable yourself.

8. You take charge from the start.

There’s no hesitation in stepping up to establish your authority, you’re delegating tasks and making people accountable right from the offset.

9. You have no concern with flexibility.

Directive leaders aren’t concerned with innovation and adaptability. Your key goal is to assign the tasks to your team to meet specific goals.

10. You love hierarchy.

Following the chain of command comes naturally to you, and helps support the goals your team is working towards. A rigid hierarchy lets you effectively distribute tasks, which would be impossible otherwise.

Being a directive leader is great in a crisis, but over the long haul can prove ineffective as your go-to management technique. Empowering your staff to think for themselves and take action is far more sustainable, and it is also good for you because it frees you up from monitoring the day to day nitty-gritty directive leaders concern themselves with. You can learn a little bit more about how to be a successful leader in this course. The traditional approach of leading by telling others exactly what to do creates a team that are effectively puppets, making sure you get exactly what you ask for but they cannot perform independent of your close supervision.

So what do you do?

When you’re ready to make the change, it can be done. You’re shifting your approach from telling your staff what to do, to empowering them to decide and act on their own. Here’s how to get started:

Kick the Directive Approach Once and for All: 8 Tips

1. First you need to calculate how much of your own time is spent being heavily involved in your team’s day-to-day tasks. You’ll be surprised at how high it is, when you take into account to-do lists, meetings, and notes you’ve taken over the last month. What percentage of your time are you spending micromanaging?

2. Decide on a new percentage to be directly involved in your teams work, as well as a timeline that you will follow to get there. You can learn a little more about how to effectively delegate in this course before you go to the next step.

3. Review all of the tasks you’ve been doing, and assess what needs to be delegated. This involves empowering staff to have actual authority, on specific tasks as well as making their own decisions in certain areas.

4. Talk candidly with your staff and ask them what tasks they would like to handle on their own. You’ll quickly find out where you’ve been too involved, and where they need more authority to “get on” with their daily jobs.

5. After speaking with each team member, consider if they could actually do a good job if they had full responsibility of the tasks just discussed.

6. Revise your delegation list based on this assessment, and decide the additional work they now have full responsibility for. Remember that everyone has the potential to lead their own responsibilities, which you can learn about in detail in this course.

7. When you’re at this point you just need to give it a go. Try with a few items on your delegation list to start with, and ask your staff to keep you informed of their progress, as well as being open for any help they need along the way. Set a timeline that they should give you the next update on, and trust your team to get on with the job.

8. You should gently monitor tasks that have been just delegated, but be careful of slipping back into old habits. Talk with your team and find out how they feel about the process, and make sure there is two way feedback. This helps you work out any snags in the process, and keeps everyone happy.

Depending on how directive your previous leadership style has been, there may be slight hesitation in your team about accepting additional responsibility. This is because they’re too accustomed to simply taking orders, and replies like “No, you’re not that controlling” or “What should I do?” coming up again and again. If you believe you have a case like this all you need to do is put it back on your staff, and tell them to figure it out for themselves, and come back to you if they need advice on their recommendation. Resist all the opportunities to be pulled back into a directive behavior, otherwise you’ll never change.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. When things get stressful, or you hit a difficult patch in the business it’s very common to fall back on your traditional management techniques. This is fine, so long as you take notice and force yourself out of the pattern. Your leadership style has been years in the making, and nothing you can do will allow you to change it all in an instant. Your team may also feel discomfort with the changes, so try to maintain steady progress and keep checking in with your team along the way. If you’re trying to become a leader, learn what it takes to run a project in this recent post and prove that you can manage the responsibility that comes with management.

By mastering your leadership style both your team and the businesses profits will thank you.