Path-Goal Theory

PATH GOAL THEORY OF LEADERSHIP Leadership is the key issue in the development and advancement of groups, organizations, society and nations. The study of leadership plays a vital role in the behavioral and management sciences. It has also received a lot of attention, as well as is intensively explored even up to this day. This paper will be covering leadership proposed by Robert House which describes four styles of leadership, namely: (1) supportive leadership, (2) directive leadership, (3) participative leadership, and (4) achievement oriented leadership.

This paper will be portraying the situations wherein each style would be appropriate, with the specific reference to the characteristics of the follower group and the nature of the task. Upon concluding this paper, the researcher will also be discussing the extent of the usefulness of path goal theory of leadership when utilized to determine which leadership style is to be used. Introduction It is said that leadership is the most well-known and important subjects under study in the behavioral and management studies (Baruch 1998).

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The study of leadership actually constitutes of various kind of researches. In addition, it has been the highlight of many papers in the academic and professional journals (Cited from Baruch 1998). Baruch (1998) adds that the theoretical framework of leadership has been developed throughout the century, beginning with the “trait theory” through theories focusing on the way leaders use and exploit power, then through theories exploring behavioral approaches, then finally those looking at contingencies, then finally those theories considering situational aspects.

These theories have been quite considerably explored; as a result, various studies have been published, many of which are relevant too for the practitioners of the field. Leadership: A Theoretical Framework Many academics in the field of leadership have been trying to define leadership and its effects, as well as how to achieve effective leadership. As early as the 600 B. C. the Chinese Tao Te King defined leadership stating that “Most leaders are despised, some leaders are feared, few leaders are praised and the rare leader is never noticed” (Cited in Andriessen and Drenth 1984). In addition, the phenomenon of leadership has been illustrated in many historical manuscripts such as Bible, Iliad and Odyssey which provides dramatic illustrations of leadership and characterizes leaders in several situations. Many works on leadership have written since.

These works have explored what leadership is and how it can be defined (Cited from DeMeuse 1986, Bass 1990). Close examination if some works on leadership reveals a severe difficulty in finding agreement among them which emerges in part from the difficulty in defining “leadership”. There are actually various frameworks in literature that are more or less similar, some of which are to some extent overlapping and hence one can identify many types of definitions on leadership , not necessarily similar.

It seems that various definitions on leadership, leadership is correlated with the relationship between one people and other people or a group. Cattell (1953) defined a leader as someone who generates group scintilla that is different from that which would have been if that person has not been presented. On a different note, Kotter (1988) defines leadership as the process of motivating or encouraging people or groups in a certain direction without coercion. Quite more comprehensively, Stogdill (1974, 18) gives the following definition of a leader. The leader is characterized by a strong drive for responsibility and task completion, vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals, venturesomeness and originality in problem solving, drive to exercise initiative in social situation, self-confidence and a sense of personal identity, willingness to accept consequences of decision and action, readiness to absorb interpersonal stress, willingness to tolerate frustration and delay, ability to influence other person’s behavior, and capacity to structure social interaction systems to purpose at hand.

This long and comprehensive definition provided by Stogdill take account of many skills and traits that characterize leaders; however, does not identify the relevance of the role of the goal direction and exerting influences on the group and its members. Hershey and Blanchard (1972) give a more functional definition of leadership. They state that: “Leadership is a process of interpersonal influence from a person unto other(s) in the direction of a goal, where the other(s) subsequently act of own will in the direction sought for by the leader. ”

Upon close examination of the definitions stated above as well as other definitions by various authors, the researcher has realized that there Is no agreement in the literature for defining the term “leadership”. Authors too such as Bryman (1986), Kotter (1988) and Yuki (1994) have noticed this as well. Bryman (1986) notes that there seems to be a mismatch in various definitions of leadership wherein some of this mismatched is associated to the element “having a goal or a target” which appears to be a part of some of the definitions but lacking in others.

In addition, Bryman (1986) has also distinguished the study of leadership in organizations and the study of leadership per se. Furthermore, Yuki (1994), upon close examination on the various definition of the term “leader” concluded that there is also a mismatched among the scholars who try to define the term. According to Yuki (1994), the common denominator of this mismatch is “A person who influences group members” which seems to be a definition that is too broad and lacks focus.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that although there have been various definitions of leadership that are quite not similar; there is a common and universal understanding of its nature. The Path-Goal Theory of Leadership The path-goal theory which has been formulated by Robert House is based on the tenets of the theory of expectancy that implies that subordinates will be motivated if they are capable of performing their work, if they believe that the payoffs for doing their work is worthwhile and if they believe that their efforts will result in a certain outcomes (Eberhard 2004).

In the path goal theory of leadership, leaders facilitate their members define their goals and clarify their work as well as remove hindrances or obstacles and provide support. Eberhard (2004) notes that subordinate characteristics have an association or desire for structure, desire for control and task ability. In addition, task ability is associated to task design, the authority system and the primary work group involved.

Robert House’s path goal theory of leadership is theoretical and pragmatic as it works as the leader’s task is to facilitate subordinates achieve their goals by directing, guiding and coaching them along the journey of reaching their goals. Basing on the tasks and the characteristics of the leader’s subordinates, the path goal theory implies which style is most appropriate for leaders, whether be it supportive, directive, participative or achievement-oriented leadership. The strength of the path goal theory is that it associates leadership style with task and subordinate characteristics founded in the principles of the theory of expectancy.

As mentioned earlier, the path goal theory is very practical or pragmatic. However, some critics of the path goal theory suggest that the theory itself is very broad and complex. Accordingly, the path goal theory is very difficult to utilize. Up to this day, research finding provide only a very limited underpinning as to explain sufficiently the relationship between leadership styles and motivation. It primarily implies a one-way impact from leader to follower which could develop dependency.

Nevertheless, the path goal theory of leadership hypothesizes that the most successful leaders are those who maximizes subordinate motivation through charting out and clarifying the paths that will lead to high performance. According to Robert House’s path goal theory of effective leaders have the following characteristics: • Encourage their subordinates to attain group as well as organizational goals; • Ensure that they have control over the outcomes of the desires of their followers; • Increase their followers’ beliefs that they will be able to achieve their work goals and perform at their highest potential; and Take into account the characteristics of their subordinates and the kind of work they do. Northouse (1997) notes that the path goal theory illustrates the associations among leadership styles, follower characteristics, in addition to how follower satisfaction and performance are influenced by the leader’s behavior. The path goal theory states that a successful leader will provide subordinates with rewards for their efforts and the paths required to follow to be rewarded and will facilitate followers in removing reward hindrances (House 1971).

The theory implies that leader behavior highlights the beliefs of the subordinates that there exists a relationship between exerted effort and task completion, this direct relationship naturally leads to the achievement of desired rewards and will further lead to the job satisfaction of employees (Hughes, Ginnette, and Curphy 1998). Hence, the behavior of the leader is satisfying to the subordinate when the attractiveness of the goal and the confidence of the follower in achieving the goal rise simultaneously (Northouse 1997).

According to the path goal theory of leadership, there are four types of leadership behaviors: directive, supportive, participative and achievement-oriented. Leaders must choose a style of leadership that will be best to their subordinates. The situation and situational characteristics will determine which leadership style will be adopted in order to achieve the desired goals. According to Hughes et al. (1998), directive leaders set clear performance standards and behavior regulations to complete tasks and yield desired goals; supportive leadership engages in respectful behavior owards their followers, being sensitive of the needs of their subordinates and establishing good relationships with each member if the group; participative leaders consult with their subordinates to gain their contributions regarding goal decision making; and finally, achievement-oriented leaders challenge subordinates to attain their full potential during task completion through the setting of high standards and goals, at the same time demonstrating the confidence in the abilities of their followers to achieve these goals.

Moreover, included in the theory of path goal are three situational variables which have an impact on the adoption of leadership styles. They include: (1) environmental variables, i. e. internal and external characteristics of the environment of the organization; (2) task variables, i. e. role clarity, the presence of methods for work and externally imposed controls concerning the task; and (3) individual differences, i. e. intelligence, role expectations and personality (Hughes et al. 1998). The path goal theory of leadership proposes that leaders use different situations with the same subordinate.

We will now examine each of the styles of leadership in the path goal theory of leadership. Supportive Leadership Supportive leadership is wherein leaders give consideration to the needs of their subordinates through displaying concern for their subordinates’ welfare and at the same time creating a friendly climate in the work unit. Figure 1 shows an outline for the supportive leadership wherein it illustrates that the supportive leadership seems to be appropriate for the situation wherein the follower lacks the self-confidence.

Also, it is said that this type of leadership is good for tasks that are stressful, boring, tedious and dangerous as it will be able to give significance to the subordinates by showing the leader’s concern for them. Directive Leadership In directive leadership, leaders let their subordinates know what they are expected to do. The leader gives very specific guidance wherein he or she asks his or her subordinates to follow the rules, regulations and procedures strictly, at the same time schedules and coordinates the work of his subordinates. Figure 2 shows an illustration for an appropriate situation for this type of leadership style.

The most appropriate situation for the directive leadership style is when the task is unstructured and complex. At the same time, subordinates are also inexperienced in their jobs and there is little formulation of the rules and regulations within the organization. Thus, as the name implies, the role of the leader is to direct his subordinates. Basically, he lets his subordinates know what is to be expected from them how and when to do their tasks, how it fits with the other tasks, in addition to letting them know the organization’s schedules, norms, procedures and regulation as well.

This in turn will clarify the subordinates’ path towards reward. As a result, there will be more effect from the subordinates, at the same time, improving the satisfaction and the job performance of the subordinates. However, it must be noted that when the task is structures or the subordinates are highly competent, direct leader will have no or little impact. Furthermore, subordinates may perceive close supervision and direction to be an unnecessary annoyance of leader control which will lead to a decline in satisfaction by the subordinates.

Participative Leadership Participative leadership happens when leaders consult their subordinates and takes into account their opinions and suggestions. Figure 3 shows an illustration as to when this type of leadership is most appropriate. In situations when task is unstructured and rewards provided by the organization seems to be wrong (apparent as there is little satisfaction and motivation from the subordinates), then the participative leadership will be most suitable.

This is because the needs of the subordinates must be clarified as well as change the rewards offered in order to achieve job satisfaction and performance. This can be achieve through allowing the subordinates to voice out their needs and be involved in the decision making process of the organization. The fact that the leader was not able to identify what his subordinates want, the leader cannot go on trying to guess what it is that they want and what motivates them to have better job performance.

The participative leadership will be able to let the leader know the wants of his subordinates through letting them participate in the decision making process and allowing them to suggest their concerns and suggestions to the management. Through this, the management and the leader will be able to take the corrective measures which will lead to the satisfaction and the better performance of his subordinates. Achievement-oriented Leadership Finally, we have come to the last part of the leadership styles, the achievement-oriented leadership wherein leaders give his or her subordinates challenging goals.

The leader seeks performance improvement from his followers and emphasizes excellence in their performance. In addition, the leader shows his or her subordinates the confidence that they will be able to achieve high standards. Shown in figure 4 is the appropriate situation for the achievement-oriented leadership wherein subordinates are not challenged by their works. In addition, this type of leadership style works well for jobs that are unstructured, such that they are complex and non-repetitive.

For this type of situation, the role of the leader is to set challenging goals for his subordinates. The leader must seek continuous improvement from them; at the same time expect the highest performance from them. The leader is confident in the efforts of his members and their achievement and lets his members assume more responsibility for their work. As a result, his subordinates will be highly challenged in achieving their tasks which will lead to job satisfaction and better performance from his followers. However, it must be oted that this type of leadership will not work on the task is simple and repetitive. Conclusion This paper has discussed the path goal theory of leadership. The theory is based on three proportions: (1) leader behavior is acceptable and satisfying or as instrumental to future satisfaction; (2) leader behavior is motivational to the point that it makes satisfaction of subordinate needs subject on future performance and (3) it complements the environment of subordinates by providing the coaching, guidance, support and rewards necessary for effective performance. House and Baetz 1979). Florino (2001) notes that to achieve the aforementioned expectations, the theory hypothesizes four kinds of leadership styles. The first style is supportive leadership which characterizes a leader who is friendly and approachable, someone who reveals concern for the status and well-being of his subordinates. The second leadership style is directive leadership which characterizes the leader who lets his subordinates follow rules and regulations strictly.

The third is participative leadership wherein the leader consults his subordinates before making a specific decision, solicits their suggestions and takes their advice seriously in the decision making process. Finally, the achievement-oriented leadership is characterized by leaders who sets challenging goals for his subordinates and expects them to perfoem at highest levels and continually highlights excellence. The path goal theory of leadership formulated by Robert House is indeed practical in a sense that it respond to specific situations.

However, the theory is limited to a rational decision model that provides an overly complicated and seemingly unrealistic description of human behavior (Merritt 2003). It is noted by Merritt (2003) that it is assumed that role vagueness causes an individual to have an unrealistically low expectation and that the leader behavior resulting in greater clarity will involuntarily raise expectancies. On the other hand, clarification of the subordinate’s role sometimes makes it apparent that successful task performance and the chievement of task goals are more difficult that the subordinate initially believed. Furthermore, leader behavior is perceived in terms of broad kinds that do not recount easily to the intervening variables. Merritt (2003) notes that it is a lot easier to make associations between leader behavior and subordinate motivation by utilizing more or less specific behavior such as clarifying role expectations, identifying accomplishments, giving contingent rewards or incentives, modeling appropriate behavior for subordinates to emulate and communicating high expectations about subordinate performance.

Also, the path goal theory concentrates on the motivational functions of leaders in dyadic relationships with individual subordinates; however, it does not clearly consider other ways a leader can affect group performance, like obtaining the necessary resources, organizing the work more effectively, maximizing cooperation among subordinates and enhancing external coordination and adaptation. To conclude, the path goal theory of leadership is indeed very practical; however, the theory itself is very broad and complex; hence.

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