Path goal theory

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Path goal theory
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Path-goal theory of leadership effectiveness, as developed by Robert House, determines what a leader has to do to achieve a high level of productivity and morale in a given situation. In general, a leader tries to clarify the path to a goal for a group member so that he receives personal payoffs. At the same moment, this group member's job satisfaction and performance increase. Similar to the expectancy theory of motivating people on which it is based, path-goal theory is multifaced and has a few versions (A. J. DuBrin 2015, p. 152).

Path-goal theory of leadership takes into consideration the effectiveness of alternative leader behaviors in different situations. The idea that there are no uniformly effective management behaviors and that situational factors determine optimal leadership behavior, path-goal theory is terminated in a class of leadership theories termed "situational theories of leadership". Simply stated, some of management theories as such as path-goal theory emerged from a realization that characteristics of the situational context in which leaders, find themselves must play a crucial determining role in how a leader will behave to optimize important employee outcomes such as satisfaction, motivation, and work performance.As one of several situational leadership theories, path-goal theory has found a prominent and enduring place among management theories within the field of management. Almost half a century has passed since Robert House in 1971, yet the theory continues to a foundation of chapters on leadership and in most organizational behavior textbooks. As such, the inclusion of the theory in an encyclopedia is clearly warranted (E.K.Hessler 2013, p. 580).

Features of path-goal theory

Key features of path-goal theory (P. G. Northouse 2012, p. 145):

  • Path-goal theory attempts to integrate the motivation principles of expectation theory into a theory of management. This makes path-goal theory special because no other approach to leadership deals directly with motivation like this. Path-goal theory forces us to keep asking questions like this about subordinate motivation: How can I motivate subordinates to feel that they can work? How can I help them feel that if they successfully do their work, they will get a reward? What can I do to improve the payoffs that subordinates expect from their job? Path-goal theory is designed to keep these kind of questions, that answers issues of motivation, at the forefront of the leader's mind.
  • Perhaps its greatest feature is that path-goal theory offers a model that in certain ways is very practical. The representation of the model shows us the important ways managers help subordinates. It shouts out for leaders to clarify the paths to the goals and help them to remove the obstacles to the goals. To sum up, the theory resembles leaders that the overarching purpose of leadership is to guide and teach subordinates as they move along the path to achieving common goals .


Author: Szymon Olejniczak