Thoughts on directive leadership

When it comes to leadership, I’m a person who thinks that it is preferable to be inclusive and encourage collaboration with the team. Many people want to feel included in decision making and feel that they have choices regarding their work. This is particularly relevant when it comes to younger generations. To my disbelief, I find that the majority of younger people expect managers to give them orders that they will follow without question. Can it be that younger people simply can’t see any benefit in collaboration or that the upper management disregards the benefits of collaboration?

“Directive leaders disregard the benefits of collaboration because they believe their experience and knowledge is more valuable to the project. They do not seek out to empower others. Employee growth and insight is secondary to the tasks which must be completed.”

The following figure explains why directive leadership works best with low-skilled workers.

It is true that many teams thrive with a directive leader at the helm, especially in the military and law enforcement. It s also true that highly skilled workers and a highly motivated persons, struggle to work with a directive leader.

“There is no desire for self-motivation because the tasks are based on the direction and supervision of the leader. Even if the directive leader appoints someone to take their place, the team often responds negatively because they are not used to any form of delegation.”

Ok, so what is directive leadership exactly?

“This report needs to be done by Friday or we are doomed!”

Directive leadership happens when directive leaders create fake urgency (i.e., deadlines that don’t really matter). Urgent situations are used to the manager’s advantage. Team members usually understand that the situation is serious and obey orders without question.

The truth about this form of directive leadership is that it is project-centric. It exists to spare the project from any harm. If safety or regulatory compliance are necessary, then there is no room for creativity. And it’s hard for me not to think of a culture where both employees and leaders are fulfilled and fully engaged. Without fake urgencies that is. I am told that unrealistic expectations can ruin you. Can they?

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