The Path-Goal Theory
The Path-Goal Theory was developed by Robert House in 1971. It is based on the expectancy theory of motivation. Like our situational models, the Path-Goal theory attempts to leadership effectiveness in different situations. The main functions of a leader are to clarify and set goals by providing guidance, support, and rewards.
The term path-goal is derived from the belief that effective leaders clarify the path to help their followers get from where they are to achieve their work goal and make the journey along the path easier by reducing road-blocks. Path-Goal Theory states that effective leaders influence employees’ satisfaction and performance by making their need satisfaction contingent on effective job performance.
The leader has to facilitate overall learning by helping followers better understand how their actions are linked to organizational rewards. Employees make an optimum contribution to the organizational goals where they perceive that their personal satisfaction is dependent on their effective performance. He should provide guidance and support to remove difficulties in achieving the goals.
Leader Behavior or Styles in Path-Goal Theory
Path-Goal Theory identifies four types of leader behavior or styles to motivate and satisfy employees.
The leader clarifies performance goals, the means to reach those goals, and the standard against which performance will be judged. It is the same as task-oriented and initiating structure behavior. The leader focuses on planning, organizing, and coordinating the activities of subordinates. The leader tells subordinates what is expected of them and provides specific guidance, schedules, rules, regulations, and standards.
These behaviors provide psychological support for subordinates. The leader is friendly and approachable, makes the work more pleasant, treats employees equally, and shows concern for the status, needs, and well-being of employees. This style is similar to the consideration in Ohio State Studies.
Participative leaders actively consult with employees, ask for their suggestions, and take these ideas into serious consideration before making a decision. The participative technique is one of the most important to make feel employees matter in the working process.
Achievement Oriented Behavior
The leader sets challenging goals, expect employees to perform at the highest level, continuously seeks improvement in employees’ performance, and shows the highest degree of confidence that employees will assure responsibility and accomplish challenging goals.
The main aim of this theory is to build the leader’s effectiveness. This can be shown in the following diagram:
Path-Goal Theory proposes two classes of situational variables, personal characteristics of group members and environmental conditions. An effective leader is one who understands the characteristics of subordinates and environmental situations and who matches his behavior accordingly. The theory subscribes to the notion that a leader can enhance his behavioral patterns as demanded by the needs of the situation. The behavior of a leader is dependent on the nature of the situation and the characteristics of people.
Path-Goal Theory is more elaborate than Fielder’s Contingency Theory because it takes into account both the personality characteristics of subordinates as well as situational variables. It not only suggests that what type of leader may be effective in a given situation but also explains why the leader is effective.