Directing in Management – Meaning, Characteristics, Elements, and Principles

Directing in Management – Meaning, Characteristics, Elements, and Principles

5 mins read39K Views Comment
Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager
Updated on Nov 28, 2023 17:17 IST

What is directing in management? How does it differ from the other functions of management? Can an organisation survive without the directing function? Explore the answers to these questions in this blog and know how directing can be a complex managerial function in any organisation.


An organisation implements various management functions, such as planning, controlling, staffing, directing, etc., to thrive. Unlike other functions, directing in management involves instructions, guidance and supervision for tasks. 

Table of Content

  1. Directing definition in management
  2. 5 characteristics of directing in management
  3. 4 elements of directing in management
  4. 8 Principles of directing in management

Directing Definition in Management

Directing is a necessary function in management for guiding staff to prepare for their assigned tasks so that they can complete them and help achieve the goals as planned. 

The direction process in management involves the manager guiding, instructing, and looking over the performance of employees who are tasked with achieving goals. Through such a process, the employees don’t face bottlenecks while achieving goals. 

See how management experts define what is directing in management. 

“Direction is telling people what to do and seeing that they do it to the best of their ability. It includes making assignments, corresponding procedures, seeing that mistakes are corrected, providing on-the-job instructions and of course, issuing orders.”

  • Ernest Dale

“Direction is the impersonal aspect of managing by which subordinates are led to understand and contribute effectively and efficiently to the attainment of enterprise objectives.”

  • Koontz and O’Donnell

5 Characteristics of Directing in Management

Directing, as a core management function, is continuous, dynamic, delegatory, pervasive, and action-driven, across all levels of management

Directing is Action-Driven

All other functions like planning and controlling provide conditions to employees. These conditions describe how the goals are going to be achieved, and what is the reward or penalty for completing or not completing them. Direction concretises these conditions through actions. 

Explore the Significance of 5 Key Leadership Styles
Explore the Significance of 5 Key Leadership Styles
Are you a decisive autocrat or a collaborative democrat? Explore the nuances and learn why mastering these approaches can empower your leadership journey.
Scientific Management Theory – Principles and Limitations
Scientific Management Theory – Principles and Limitations
Scientific management theory, introduced by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the late 19th century, revolutionised work efficiency. It focuses on scientific analysis to enhance productivity, efficiency, and organisational workflow. By more
Autocratic Leadership: Definition, Features, Pros, Cons, and Examples
Autocratic Leadership: Definition, Features, Pros, Cons, and Examples
Explore the dynamics of autocratic leadership, where absolute power rests in the hands of one leader. Discover how this leadership approach influences workplace culture, employee morale, and organizational performance.

Directing is Pervasive

Direction is needed at every managerial level, meaning, it exists in every manager-subordinate relationship. The manager at middle level has to provide guidance to those at lower management, and at the same time, take guidance from the manager above at top level management. 

Directing Flows from Top to Bottom

As directions flows from top to bottom, the manager is required to offer guidance to subordinates. Instructions, guidance, etc., are provided from above and not the other way around. 

Directing is Continuous

Directing cannot stop as long as the organisation exists. This is another factor that contributes to the characteristics of management

Directing Looks into the Human Factor

Other management functions either presuppose the goals will be met when prescribed steps are taken (planning) or take action based on whether goals are met or not (controlling). 

As this function is action-driven, it takes unforeseen variables into account that may affect the overall goals. If in case variables arise, the manager’s directing function is required for guiding the subordinates. You can say that this is the only function that gives more importance to building interpersonal relationships in a team. 

4 Elements of Directing in Management

The major elements of directing in management are motivation, supervision, leadership, and communication. 

  • Motivation is necessary at all times as employees have the pressure to fulfil tasks. It can be offered through many ways – incentives, recognition, etc. 
  • Supervision helps employees stay on track with their tasks. When the subordinate faces work challenges, the manager is responsible for helping overcome them.
  • Communication is one of the most important elements of direction that develops mutual cooperation. Without clear communication, information and tasks can be misinterpreted.
  • Leadership nurtures trust among employees and persuades subordinates to accomplish tasks and grow professionally in their respective roles

By covering the above elements, the direction process in management fulfils these steps. 

  • Providing Instructions – To direct subordinates, the manager must document instructions so that there is no miscommunication. 
  • Counselling and Guidance – Employees must be provided with the right guidance and training to carry out tasks efficiently. 
Leadership Theories – Evolution and Criticisms
Leadership Theories – Evolution and Criticisms
Leadership theories are frameworks that look into the best practices of what makes a good leader. But such frameworks are not new. They have been existing 19th century. Learn more
Discover Behavioural Theory of Leadership and Know if it is Still Relevant Today
Discover Behavioural Theory of Leadership and Know if it is Still Relevant Today
The Behavioural Leadership Theory emphasises adaptable leadership styles, crucial for addressing team conflicts, managing remote work transitions, enhancing diversity initiatives, and promoting employee well-being. Learn how it has evolved more
Learn About Situational Leadership Theory
Learn About Situational Leadership Theory
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. The Situational Leadership Theory explains this flexibility based on the complex needs of team members and leaders. This is an enduring approach more

8 Principles of Directing in Management

As directing is a complex function, there are a few principles to consider. 

  • Full Individual Contribution – All directing methods must be able to bring the maximum productivity among subordinates
  • Harmony of Objectives – Direction should ensure that organisational goals are complementary to the personal goals of the employees
  • Unity of Command – Often quoted in the 14 Principles of Management, unity of command states that a subordinate should have one superior only when it comes to receiving instructions
  • Appropriate Direction Technique – Direction methods should be reiterated or modified based on the capabilities and skills of employees
  • Managerial Communication – Communication should be clear at all levels of management
  • Use of Informal Organisation/Groups – Managers should be aware that informal groups are created in an organisation and should use them for the advantage of the organisation
  • Good Leadership – Direction should be under good leadership of an emotionally intelligent manager
  • Following Up – Only providing instructions and providing guidance will not do. Managers have to follow up on the progress as well.
Know the Key Parameters of the Difference Between Formal and Informal Organisation
Know the Key Parameters of the Difference Between Formal and Informal Organisation
Find out what is an organisation to understand the difference between formal and informal organisation
Difference Between Group and Team – Top 5 Ways to Compare
Difference Between Group and Team – Top 5 Ways to Compare
Groups and teams are different in a variety of ways. Find the difference between groups and teams today through goals, types, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.
Top 10 Effective Leadership Skills that Help Every Business Grow
Top 10 Effective Leadership Skills that Help Every Business Grow
Know which are the most crucial leadership skills today. Find out how you can apply those skills with additional tips as experts and senior leaders suggest.

Parting Thoughts

This was all about directing in management. Hopefully you got a better understanding of its characteristics, elements, and principles. Take up some management courses to apply this function even better in your managerial career.


What is the importance of directing?

Directing is one of the core management functions that looks into everything that contributes positively to achieve the business goals.

What is the scope of directing?

It is an all encompassing function where instructing, controlling, and overseeing the tasks of subordinated constitute the scope.

What sets directing apart from planning and controlling in management?

Directing involves guiding and overseeing tasks, while planning sets goals and controlling ensures they're achieved. Directing focuses on guiding people in achieving those goals.

How does effective directing influence employee motivation and productivity?

Effective directing boosts motivation by offering guidance. It leads to increased productivity as employees understand their tasks and goals clearly. But it is also important for a manager to know this function is not used to be misconstrued as one to order forceful directives through a reward-punishment framework, and masking it as for the greater good of the organisation.    

How can managers adjust directing styles to suit different team dynamics or situations?

Managers adapt directing styles by understanding team dynamics, employing varied communication methods, and tailoring guidance to suit individual and team needs. 

About the Author
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio