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Does a directive style of management still have a role in the workplace?


Consider some of the crucial components of a directive style of management: Directive managers approach the management of their team with a belief that they need to direct peoples’ actions to get things done. They believe in giving commands, in strictly controlling behaviours, and in keeping people firmly in line. They might delegate work without granting a speck of autonomy, and may consider short-term, achievable goals at the expense of longer-term projects. Overall, they are likely to be defined as micromanagers and control freaks, lacking trust in their reports and alienating many of those they manage.


As a list of management traits, directive managers don’t sound overly appealing. They are heavily involved in every aspect of work – not necessarily because of their own skill in the area, but because of their lack of faith in their team to get things done. As a result, they will likely drive down employee engagement rapidly, with reports unlikely to feel respected or valued as contributors to the team’s output.


Is there, then, any room at all for directive management?


One potential application is as an emergency solution for a team that has been handed a short-term, high-pressure task that requires things be done IMMEDIATELY. In such situations, the priorities of the business may need to temporarily supplant the feelings of individual employees, and a directive management approach can help make sure things get done to a particular standard and to a particular deadline. Such an approach needs a directive manager who is themselves an expert in the task at hand, and who can also be clear to reports that this situation is extraordinary and temporary.


Directive management may also be appropriate, again in the short-term, for teams tasked with project-matter they are entirely unfamiliar with. Think, for example, of a technical team tasked with handling a different work area due to organisational changes, with team members who possess little or no skill in the new area of work. Here, as before, a directive management style can help avoid a degree of uncertainty and help subordinates to rapidly get up-to-speed on their new assignment.


Are there other situations where directive management is appropriate?
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