Achievement-oriented Leadership

Four predominate styles describe the way most leaders interact with their team members – directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented. In my last three posts, I briefly discussed the first three and made a case for participative leadership as the best of those three and the danger of using either directive or supportive leadership for any sustained length of time.

Achievement-oriented leadership, however, is head of the class when it comes to sustaining the productivity of teams long term. This leadership style, unlike the others, engages the passion and drive of the individual team members and motivates them from inner levels. Work become more than a paycheck and hours ticking past on the clock. Achievement-oriented leadership builds within team members individual and collective goals to accomplish. The goals are more than numbers of widgets produced or profits made, but are personal achievements, career oriented. The goals are established in personal, team, and corporate vision and mission statements. Each individual and the team creates objectives to meet their goals and action plans that will give concrete steps to move them toward success.

Achievement-oriented leaders celebrate successes with their team and analyze why action steps fall short. They work to get back on track to ensure objectives are met by the deadlines set. Leaders work together with the team and individual members to produce a mindset toward achievement. Failure is not a part of their vocabulary. Setbacks are only there to improve processes and point out better ways to bring them to success and goal achievement. Even with successful outcomes, achievement-oriented leaders look for ways to improve performance and set the next bar higher. Not because they compete with someone else, but because they learned the secret of competing with themselves.

Achievement-oriented leaders always learn. They always take risk. They never gamble. (There is a difference.) They always teach and mentor others. They understand that failure to adapt and change means death and destruction on a competitive battlefield. Either products are always changing or consumers are changing, so businesses must adapt or die.Achievement -oriented leaders put the right people on the bus and go to great lengths to keep them there. They never change the deal with their employees (except to make it sweeter). They share success. They set stretch goals and achieve them. It is fascinating to watch those leaders work with their teams. They are unstoppable!

When change happens…management matters!®


  1. “When people are placed in positions sligtly above what they expect, they are apt to excel”

    This statement is indicative of what kind of leader, and what qualities that the leadership style exhibits?

  2. Hi. I am doing a workshop for nursing leaders. It is based on a certification course that discusses the path goal theory. I am looking for a tool to give the participants to determine which of the four leadership styles may be their natural style. I have not found anythign that includes the achievement-oriented style. Does anyone have a tool I can use?

    Thank you.

    • Linda,
      Thanks for the question. I’m not sure there is such a tool for the Path-Goal Theory in particular. Like many of the leadership models, it assumes you should use different leadership styles based on two criteria: how your team members respond (ezxperience, knowledge of the tasks, motivation level, etc.); and characteristics of the environment (complexity of the project, structure, strength of our authority over team members, how good is your team). An experienced, motivated, skilled team whose memebers understand the tasks, roles, and responsibilities can easily use achievement-oriented leadership from the leader. A new, unorganized team on a new project with little knowledge of each other or the leader will probably fail if the leader jumps into achievement-oriented mode at the beginning. Path-Goal Theory is much more about how a leader sizes up his team and environment then uses the flexibility of his or her own leadership skills than leaning heavily on a single style.

      An experienced leader will pull the right style out of her bag of tools based on an assessment of the factors above. Directive leadership may be perfect in a situation where personal safety is involved, even though it cuts across the grain of the individuals personal traits. Think of an airline pilot in command as he runs through pre-flight checklists or an OR Nurse getting set up for surgery.

      Hope that helps.

    • I agree completely! That’s one of the reasons I think I see so few real leaders around today, too many people are willing to compromise on those three things.
      Thanks for your comments.

  3. I was in the Army for 12 yrs., during that time I recieved extensive training in the Food Service field. I did some extra training in Culinary Arts. I would like to either start my own Party Planning/ Catering business or open a fine dining establishment.

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