What is Path-Goal Theory
The path-goal leadership theory was originally developed by Robert House. It traces its roots to the expectancy motivation theory. Path-goal theory is based on the principle that the subordinate’s impression of expectancies between his or her performance and effort is affected greatly by the behavior of the leader. Leaders help members of the group in getting rewards by perfectly making clear the paths to be taken to reach the goals and removing any impediments to performance. This happens by providing support, information, and other means which are needed by group members to complete the job. House’s path-goal leadership theory, the effectiveness of a leader depends on a number of environmental and subordinate factors and particular styles of leadership.
Path-Goal Leadership Theory – Leadership Styles
Different leadership styles:
• Directive Style – With the directive style of leadership, the leader makes guidelines available, allows group members know what is expected from them, sets standards of performance for them, and influences behaviors when the standards of performance are not reached. He or she makes careful use of disciplinary measures and rewards. The path-goal leadership theory asserts that this leadership style is the same as task-oriented leadership.
• Supportive Style – Leaders are friendly with subordinates and shows a personal concern for subordinates’ welfare, well-being, and needs. The supportive style is the same as the people-oriented style of leadership.
• Participative Style – Leaders believe in sharing information with group members and in decision-making as a group. Subordinates are consulted when there are crucial work-related decisions, job goals, and paths to take in order to reach goals.
• Achievement-Oriented Style – According to the path-goal leadership theory, with this style, the leader sets goals that are challenging and inspires subordinates to reach their best performance levels. The leader believes that subordinates are mature and responsible enough to reach goals even if they are highly challenging. This style is the same as goal-setting theory.
According to the path-goal leadership theory, the four styles of leadership are not mutually exclusive. Leaders are able to making use of more than one type of style that is suited for a certain situation.
Path-Goal Leadership Theory — Contingencies
House’s path-goal leadership theory asserts that each of the styles may be effective in certain situations but may not be in others. The theory further asserts that the connection between a leader’s style and his or her effectiveness depends on a number of variables.
• Employee Characteristics – According to the path-goal leadership theory, employee characteristics include employee’s experience, anxiety, needs, perceived ability, locus of control, satisfaction, and willingness to leave the organization. As an example, in a situation where group members are of high inability, making use of the supportive style will definitely preferable than using the directive approach.
• Work Environment Characteristics – Factors included, as per the path-goal leadership theory, are team dynamics and task structure which are outside the followers’ control. An example is that for a subordinate performing a routine and simple task a directive style is not as effective as a supportive style. The same way that the participative style will be better suited for tasks that are non-routine. When the cohesiveness within a team is rather low, it is best to make use of the supportive leadership style.
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Dr. Paul L. Gerhardt, PhD
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