Path- Goal Theory of Leadership Torey Shannon and There are many theories that are considered relevant when it comes to interpersonal relationships and the roles of leaders in behavioral science. According to Robert House, the relevance of these theories to the overall success of the organization is skewed. Robert House is an American Psychologist who graduated from Ohio State University with a Ph. D. in Management. He formulated The Path-Goal Theory of Leader Effectiveness (House, 1971). This theory was formulated on the precepts of two previous theories, the Expectancy Theory of Motivation by Victor Vroom and the work of Martin G.
Evans. Victor Vroom originated the first work place oriented theory on motivation in 1964. It stated that: employees tend to rationally evaluate the types of on the job/work behaviors and then select the best behaviors they believe will result in the most valued work related rewards and outcomes (Vroom, 1959). This theory, I believe, states the notion that employees will use their behaviors, values, and work ethic to put in more effort to complete a task with a reward or some desired outcome. These rewards can be a promotion, rise in pay or compensation, or personal satisfaction.
In short, the results have to be attractive to the subordinate. Micheal Evans’ research suggests that the relationship with structure and employee satisfaction and motivation is contingent on the level that the subordinates need some type of clarification on the behaviors necessary of them to perform effectively. It further states: there is a unique relationship in the leader initiating structure and the expectancies of subordinate employees (Evans 1970). When the two are intertwined and a hypothesis is conceived, Robert Houses’ theory of Path-Goal of Leadership Effectiveness is made relevant.
This paper will give the origin of the theory, define the theory, and describe and give example of the four types of leadership behavior styles and the types of professions that could use them. The path-goal of leadership effectiveness was created to rectify prior research and anomalies resulting from empirical investigations of the effects of leader/task orientation and leader/person orientation/relationship on worker satisfaction and performance (House 1971). THE THEORY Before the theory is explained, it is necessary to define the words leadership and motivation, and goal.
According to Peter G. Northhouse, leadership is the process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (Northhouse 207). Motivation is considered to be the process that initiates, guided, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. A goal is a desired result. These three principles are essential to understanding the Path Goal of Leadership effectiveness. The Path-Goal Theory of Leadership was conceived to describe the way leaders motivate and support their followers in achieving the goals, personal and organizational, by making a path clear and easy to follow.
The theory is consistent in noting that the leaders’ job is to assist followers in attaining goals and the demands of a particular environment (House and Mitchell (1974). The Path-goal of leadership effectiveness is a leadership concept in which the subordinates accept the leader’s behavior in so much as they view it as resulting in immediate or future benefit. Therefore, a leader’s main function is to ‘clear a path’ to the realization of the subordinates’ goals; he or she must choose the behavior patterns that are most applicable in helping the subordinates get what they want.
In the original version of the theory, it was asserted that the motivational function of the leader consists of personal payoffs to subordinates for work-goal attainment and making the path to these payoffs easier to travel by clarifying the way, reducing roadblocks and pitfalls, and increasing the opportunities for reward en route. In order to this, leaders can take a strong or limited approach in this. In clarifying the path, the leader may give vague hints. In the moving of apparent stumbling blocks, they may scour the path of work and help the subordinate move the big obstructions.
In increasing the satisfaction, they may give occasional encouragement or increase the reward. The essential notion and underlying thought of the path-goal theory is that individuals in positions of leadership, will be effective to the extent that they will compliment the environment in which their subordinates labor. These types of behaviors are to act as clarifying behaviors and also directed towards satisfying subordinate needs. Unlike the previous theories that link the spark of motivation to the individual, the Path-Goal theory asserts that if the leaders’ behavior is acceptable to ubordinates, it is a source of motivation when need satisfaction is contingent on performance, and the leader facilitates, coaches, and rewards positive outcome. This being noted is assumed that leaders are flexible and that they are able to change their styles of leadership depending on three contingency variables: environment, the follower characteristics, and the nature of the task to be completed. House and Mitchell (1974) list and describe the four styles of leadership that are dependent upon the situational need: directive leadership, supportive leadership, participative leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership.
I have suggested types of careers that are subject to the type of leader. In the directive leadership, the leaders’ behavior is behavior that is structured around providing a combination of psychological structure and when it is necessary to let the followers know what exactly is expected of them and how to perform what is to be accomplished. This behavior is known to provide specific schedules for specific tasks, giving specific guidance, and clarifying policies, rules, and procedures. Directive leaders are leaders that take instructions from others and expects follower to follow those instructions.
Military officers and personnel would fit this profile of leadership. The need for direction and an extrinsic locus of control are the reasons that this form of leadership can be used. The lower ranked personnel would have the need to be molded into what they are supposed to be for the moment, which requires instructions, as do all enlisted in the military because generally commands trickle down stream and everyone answers to someone. It is thought that the subordinate will gain some sort of motivation and feel gratified at completed the order that has been given.
Obedience to the commanding officers is also a confirmation of the effectiveness of the position in which the officer holds, giving him gratification as well. Moreover, the leader dwells on strict scheduling and company standards in responding to tasks that are indefinite to the subordinate, in this case, lower ranking soldier. In supportive leadership the leader has a friendly, approachable attitude. This leader shows concern for the followers’ psychological well being. Supportive leader behavior is behavior that is geared towards the satisfaction of the subordinate’s preferences.
Supportive leader behavior was asserted to be a source of self confidence and social satisfaction and a mode of stress reduction in the work environment. This mode of behavioral leadership was asserted to increase performance and production of the followers by a goal-directed effort (House, 1971). This includes behavior that increases the workers self esteem and makes the tasks more interesting. An athletic coach that coaches young, first-year athletes will fit this mode of leadership behavior.
The characteristics of the subordinates would be lacking of self-confidence. The leader must be approachable and his/her attitude must be open to even the simplest of questions or concerns of the subordinate. The impact of the type of leadership would be that it will increase the subordinates’ confidence in achieving work outcome. In this particular case, confidence to play in the game achieves personal victory. This certain type of leadership is centered on clarifying followers’ needs, alleviating frustrations and making the reward simple to achieve.
Participative leadership involves leaders encouraging their subordinates and/or workers to ask questions and make suggestions before make they make decisions concerning unit operations. This style of leadership is appropriate when the follower is using improper procedures or is making poor decisions. The decision making is based on consultation with the group and the information is discussed amongst the whole, no matter what the position. This type of involvement and interpersonal relationship with leader and follower, gives the whole a more complete view of the goals of the organization and its relationship to their particular group goals.
After taking notice of the opinions of those involved the leader then weighs those thoughts and forms a decision for the greater good of all. The typical career of one that would use this type of leadership would be that of a committee head. For example, a committee head or CEO would be the leader in the sense that they are the figure head of the group and would be responsible for making suggestions of what is best for the whole. However, they would still rely on the opinions of those that also sit on the committee. This type of leadership can promote a since of unity and shared responsibility.
The followers would have influence on the goals that are set for them and would probably have a high level of achievement by choosing goals that are of high value to their personal preferences. A positive note would also be that the leader and the followers would also share in the achievement or failure of a task or project. In achievement-oriented leadership, the leader sets considerably challenging goals for the subordinates. This type of leadership encourages performance excellence, seeking improvement, and showing confidence that the followers will attain high standards of production by performance.
The achievement-oriented leader was asserted to cause subordinates to strive for higher standards of performance and to have more confidence in their ability to meet challenging goals. Self improvement is a key factor here because the follower is expected to complete a task of higher importance on the next project and to continue to grow in skill. Usually, the environment in which is best suited for this behavior is a sector that desires to grow or expand. This style of behavior calls for an aggressive leader aiming high for the organization.
It is the spirit of advancement that would drive the leader for further achievements and they too seek continuous improvement. The leader in this mind set is thought to be a perfectionist of sorts because it is desired to achieve the highest level of performance. They have confidence in the worker/subordinate because they have faith in the organizations effort in achieving the challenging goal. The career that would most likely use this approach would be a pastor. A pastor is responsible for setting the goals of all parishioners to achieve a most high goal, satisfying God.
The leader/ minister would encourage members to set their actions on the goal of the church, making it to heaven. He has faith in the fact that organization (church) has rules and regulations that are challenging (the Holy Bible). He sets the goals high knowing that his goals are the same as the rest of the body of the church, that is to perform highly on a daily bases and the kingdom of God will grow. The pastor of any church has a challenging job and challenges members on areas of improvement that may not be known to them because of their lack of a whole view.
Those who need this type of leadership require direction and have a desire to excel and to grow. Houses’ 1971 article on Path-goal Theory stated that a subordinates motivation and work performance are dependent on the leadership style chosen by the leaders that lead them. Interpreting the meaning of the theory can be difficult. In fact, it was difficult to gain an understanding of this theory. This is because the environments of work are ever changing and the diversity that exist in the job place and organization makes it hard to operate in just one style.
The manager or leader in the realm of business or organizational leadership should be able to adapt to a number of situations and types of personality. The path-goal of leadership has a yet useful theoretical framework. That is that it is useful in understanding how various leadership behaviors affect the satisfaction of subordinates and their work performance. Another key strength of the theory is that it integrates motivation. Lastly, the theory gives a practical model in which gives emphasis and highlights ways in which leaders can help subordinates achieve goals. Evans, M. G. (1970).
The effect of supervisory behavior on the path-goal relationship. Organizational behavior and Human Performance, 5, 277-298. House, R. J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quaterly, 16, 321-339. House, R. J. and Mitchell, T. R. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Contemporary Business, 3,Fall, 81-98. Northhouse, P. G. (2007). Leadership: Theory and Practice. 4th edition. pcm. Thousand Oaks, California. Sage Publications, Inc. Vroom, V. H. (1959). Some personality determinants of the effects of participation. Journal of Abnomal and Social Pychology, 59, 322-327.