What is the Supportive Leadership Style?
The supportive leadership style is one that delegates and assigns tasks to the team but also provides the team with the support, coaching, and skills needed to complete the tasks or projects. The team maintains autonomy, but the supportive leader will step in and work through issues and problems with the team as they arise.
The supportive leadership type was popularized by Robert House. House introduced the supportive leadership style in the 1970s as part of the Path-goal theory of leader effectiveness, which was inspired by the early work of Martin G. Evans. The Path–goal theory contends that leaders are generally flexible and they can change their style as needed.
A supportive leader is not a micro-manager. Instead, the leader continually assesses the situation to know when to step in to help and when to step back. The leader often makes work pleasant for teams by showing concern for their wellbeing and by being approachable.
Robert House introduced the Path-Goal theory in 1974.
A supportive leadership style requires a few characteristics from the Leader.
- Empathy – the ability to listen, understand and look at things from other people’s point of view
- Trust – the expectation that others will do what they say they will do and the ability to take appropriate and encouraging corrective action in the event they don’t
- Tolerance – accepting the honest mistakes of others and using the opportunities to coach and teach for continuous improvement
- Confidence – Having the self-confidence to allow others to step to the front while the leader takes a back seat
Advantages and Disadvantages of Supportive Leadership
Like the other leadership styles, the supportive leader has a number of common traits. The leader generally makes work pleasant for teams by showing support, empathy, and concern. This style can be quite effective in situations where tasks are physically or psychologically challenging.
How does this leadership style compare with your own style? How does it compare to your manager? Whether you are a supportive leader, another style, or a combination of styles below are some advantages and disadvantages to the supportive leadership style to consider:
- Often creates loyalty within teams and organizations
- Teams feel heard and feel valued
- Good for the long-term development of team members
- Provides support in stressful situations
- Teams may become dependent on the leader to progress tasks
- Responsibility lines can become blurred when a leader steps in to support
Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the leadership styles, but understanding the balance is key to being a successful leader. Still unsure about your own style? To learn more about your style as a leader or an aspiring leader, take our short quiz that will give you a sense of your own style. To start the 2-minute leadership style quiz, click here.
Famous Leaders with a Supportive Leadership Style
From sporting legends to world leaders, below are a few of the many leaders that have displayed a supportive leadership style.
- U.S. President George Washington
- Joe Paterno, Penn State University coach
- Cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni
- Mahatma Gandhi
RECAP: Supportive Leadership Style
Want to know more about other leadership styles? Select one of these links for more comprehensive information about each style: Situational Leadership | Servant Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Supportive Leadership | Transactional Leadership | Laissez-fair Leadership | Transformational Leadership | Charismatic Leadership | Autocratic Leadership