In his subordinates by using particular leadership styles

In this lesson you will learn about supportive leadership style and some of its important concepts. You will have an opportunity to take a short quiz after the lesson to reinforce your knowledge.

What Is Supportive Leadership?

Supportive leadership is one of the leadership styles found in path-goal theory. A supportive leader attempts to reduce employee stress and frustration in the workplace. This method is effective when your work tasks are dangerous, tedious, and stressful but is not really effective if your work tasks are intrinsically motivating because you don’t need to be motivated to do the work.

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Supporting Concepts

In order to fully understand supportive leadership, you need to place it within the larger context of path-goal theory developed in large part by Robert House. According to the theory, a manager establishes the goal for his employees and sets forth the path for achieving that goal. Tasks for a manager include clarification of tasks, clarification of the employee’s roles and responsibilities, clarification of the criteria for success, providing guidance and coaching, removing obstacles that can prevent task completion and providing psychological support and awards when appropriate. The theory proposes that you should use certain leadership styles in different situations. Leadership styles available to you include directive, participative, achievement-oriented, and of course, supportive. So as you can see, supportive leadership is just one tool in a toolbox of leadership approaches that you use in any given situation, depending on the nature of the task and the nature of the employees.

Let’s look at some examples to illustrate the point.


Let’s say you are a manager at a coal-mining site in West Virginia. Your employees are miners that go thousands of feet down mine shafts and are exposed to the possibility of lethal gases, shaft cave-ins, and serious death or injury from equipment. The work is dirty, dangerous, strenuous, and stressful.

You see your job as providing support to your employees, to ease as much stress and frustration about their jobs as possible. You do this, clearly making sure that their working conditions are as comfortable as possible, that safety protocols are in place, that any employee injured receives immediate medical attention, and by promptly addressing all concerns that are brought to your attention. Your goal is to make your subordinates’ working conditions as nice as can be, given the conditions and nature of the work, to ease the psychological stress incurred.

You are demonstrating supportive leadership, which is appropriate and effective in this situation.Now, let’s turn to a different example. This time, you are a supervisor of pharmaceutical research scientist who is working on the company’s latest anti-depressant. Supportive leadership in this context will almost certainly be ineffective. Your employee probably is intrinsically motivated to do her job and has a high degree of job satisfaction because of the intellectually challenging nature of the work and achievement the position can provide her. In fact, attempting to use a supportive approach may offend the employee and be considered a nuisance to her work.

Another leadership method is needed to manage this type of employee.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Supportive leadership is one of several methods of leadership that is utilized in the path-goal theory.

Under the path-goal theory, a manager should attempt to support his subordinates by using particular leadership styles depending upon the nature of the work and employee. Supportive leadership is attempting to ease employee stress and frustration that is often found in work that is dangerous, tedious, and stressful.


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