Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

Path-Goal Theory developed by Martin Evans and Robert House, related to contingency approach, is derived from expectancy theory of motivation. It extracts essence from the expectancy theory of motivation and the Ohio State leadership research on initiating structure and consideration. The leader is responsible for providing followers with the information, support, or other resources necessary to achieve their goals. The term ‘path-goal’ denotes that leader must illuminate the path to the goal and explain how to make the journey successfully to the followers.


Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

Path goal theory of leadership indicates that a leader is in charg e of clarifying the subordinates about the actions and behavior; which if followed, will lead to goal attainment. This theory suggests that the various styles which can be and are used by the same leader in different situations;
  • Directive Leadership

    A directive leader lets subordinates know what is expected of them, gives guidance and direction, and schedules work according to the expectation.
  • Supportive Leadership

    A supportive leader is friendly and approachable. He is concerned for subor¬dinate welfare, and treating members as equals.
  • Participative Leadership

    A participative leader always consults with subordinates, asks suggestions, and allows participation in decision making.
  • Achievement Oriented Leadership

    An Achievement oriented leader sets challenging goals and expects subordinates to perform at high levels. Encouraging subordinates and showing confidence in subordinates’ abilities is necessary for him.
Leaders can change their style or behavior for meeting the demand of situations. What style should a leader should select depends on complex analysis of the situation;
  • Directive leadership gives greater satisfaction for ambiguous or stressful tasks when they are highly structured and well laid out. However; it is likely to be perceived as redundant among employees with high ability or considerable experience.
  • For performing structured tasks; supportive leadership results in high performance and satisfaction form the employees.
  • Participating leadership could fail is the employees are not experienced and skilled. Also if the employees’ number is large it may slow down the decision making system and therefore the production and performance.
  • Achievement-oriented leadership may be used to encourage continued high performance but it could backfire if the targets are unclear and vague.
What style should the leader choose depends of two of the situational variables identified by the theory; Subordinates' personal characteristics and

Environmental characteristics of workplace.

  1. Subordinates' Personal Characteristics: Important personal characteristics include the subordinates’ perception of their own abilities and their locus of control.  If people think that they lack ability; directive leadership is the preferable method to lead them. If a person has locus of control then the participative leadership is preferable. Managers may not be able to change the personal characteristics or the personnel but can shape his approach of leading and managing by understanding them.
  2. Environmental characteristics of workplace: Task structure and work group are the two environmental factors. When structure is high, directive leadership is less effective than when structure is low. The nature of the work group also affects leadership behavior. The leader must provide support is the work group is not capable to support itself.
Using one of the styles contingent upon situational factors, the leader attempts to influence subordinates' perceptions, and to motivate them, which in turn leads to sub-ordinates' role clarity, goal expectancies, satisfaction and performance.
Research on this theory supported the hypothesis that higher the task structure of the subordinates' job, higher the relationship between supportive leaders' style and subordinates' satisfaction. With respect to the second hypothesis—higher the task structure of the subordinates' job, the lower the correlation between directive leadership style and subordinates satisfaction—received mixed support.

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