Empowering and Directive Leadership Styles: When Unsatisfied Followers are Better than Satisfied Followers

The dynamic workplace of today requires employees to take on less-formalized tasks. As a result, traditional views of leadership that center on task proficiency may no longer be effective.

Proactive behaviors, or those involving taking charge, voicing issues, and initiating change, may have newfound value in organizations. Therefore, this study examined how empowering and directive leadership styles influence employee task and proactive behaviors.

Martin, Liao & Campbell (2013) recruited a sample of 95 business leaders to examine the effectiveness of empowering and directive leadership styles. Satisfaction aside, directive and empowering leadership styles increased task proficiency, while only empowering leadership was effective in increasing proactive behaviors. However, varying levels of follower satisfaction with their leader impacted their task proficiency and proactive behaviors.

THE ROLE OF JOB SATISFACTION

Interestingly, the authors found that empowered followers who were unsatisfied with their leader were more proactive and more task-proficient than satisfied followers. More satisfied workers responded with proactive behaviors when their leader used a directive leadership style. Therefore, empowering leadership can be used to obtain positive results when employees are feeling unsatisfied.

Overall, the results of this study are important because they show that leaders can encourage their workers to be proactive. Additionally, this study shows that both empowering and directive leadership styles are important and effective. Lastly, this study shows that, when followers have different attitudes toward their leader, they will not react equally to the same intervention.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR LEADERS

When coaching leaders, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  1. Leadership interventions can have positive impacts on workgroup performance.
  2. Daily logs, customized training, and biweekly sessions can be effective leader coaching techniques.
  3. Directive behaviors should remain a crucial part of a leader’s routine.
  4. Empowering leadership is more difficult to teach, and the benefits may not always outweigh the costs.
  5. Taking into account situational factors, such as follower attitudes, can be crucial when designing a leadership intervention program.

 

Martin, S. L., Liao, H., & Campbell, E. M. (2013). Directive versus Empowering Leadership: A Field Experiment Comparing Impacts on Task Proficiency and Proactivity. Academy of Management Journal, 56(5), 1372-1395. doi:10.5465/amj.2011.0113