Goal Theory of Leadership


The Path-Goal theory is created by identifying a leader’s style or actions that best fits the employee and work environment in order to achieve goals. The theory is used to predict what tasks people will put their energies into given some infinite number of options. The goal is to increase follower’s motivation, empowerment, and satisfaction so that they become productive members of the organization. (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2014, p. 546)

Leadership is a group of things that are connected in complicated ways involving the leader, the follower, and the situation. ‘Study have shown that researchers have focused on the personality, physical traits, or behaviors of the leader. Others have study the relationship between leaders and followers. While the rest gave attention to the situation and how leaders would act.’ (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2014, p. 4)
“Leaders and their followers are supposed to raise one another to higher levels of standards and inspiration.”(“Path-Goal Theory Discovering the Best Leadership Style,” n.d.)mindtools.com) this kind of leader
‘ Is a model of integrity and fairness.
‘ Sets clear goals.
‘ Has high expectations.
‘ Encourages others.
‘ Provides support and recognition.
‘ Stirs the emotions of people.
‘ Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.
‘ Inspires people to reach for the improbable.
The path-goal theory suggests that successful leaders are those who increase follower’s motivation by charting out and clarifying the paths to high performance. According to House and Dressler ‘leader’s actions should strengthen follower’s beliefs that if they put forth a certain level of effort, they will be more likely to accomplish a task and if they accomplish the task, they will be more likely to achieve some valued outcome.’ (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2014, p. 546)

In order for employees to achieve this goal, leaders need to help support and motivate them. This can be done in three ways: helping them identify and achieve their goals, clearing away obstacles, thereby improving performance, and offering appropriate rewards along the way.
There are four different types of leader behaviors in the path-goal theory. ‘Depending on the followers and the situation, these different leader behaviors can increase followers acceptance of the leader, enhance their level of satisfaction, and raise their expectation that effort will result in effective performance, which in turn will lead to valued rewards.'(Hughes, 2014, p 546)
Directive Leadership ‘ Telling the followers what they are expected to do, how to do it, when it is to be done, and how their work fits in with the work of others. This style works best when tasks or projects are unstructured, or when tasks are complex and team members are inexperienced.
Supportive Leadership ‘ Having courteous and friendly interaction, expressing genuine concern for the follower’s wellbeing and individual needs. Remaining open and approachable to followers. This leadership style is best when tasks are repetitive or stressful.
Participative Leadership ‘ Leaders tend to share work problems with followers, solicit their suggestions, concerns, and recommendations; and weigh these inputs in the decision making process. This approach works best when your team members are experienced, when the task is complex and challenging, and when your team members want to give you their input.
Achievement- oriented Leadership ‘ Leaders are seen as both demanding and supporting. Exhibiting a high degree of ongoing confidence that subordinates can put forth the necessary effort, will achieve the desired results and will assume even more responsibility in the future. This style works best when team members are unmotivated or unchallenged in their work.

However, whether leadership behavior can do so effectively, it is also dependent on the situational factors. ‘Path-goal theory contains two groups of follower variables. The first relates to the followers perception of their own abilities reflective to the task to be accomplished, and the second relates to the followers satisfaction. Followers will actively support a leader as long as they view the leader actions as a means for increasing their own levels of satisfaction. However, there is only so much a leader can do to increase followers satisfaction levels because satisfaction also depends on the characteristics of the followers themselves.’ (Hughes, 2014, p547)
‘People who believe they are masters of their own ship are said to have an ‘internal locus of control”followers who believed outcomes were a result of their own decisions were much more satisfied with leaders wo exhibit participative behaviors, than they were with leaders who were directive’on the other hand, people who believe they are pawns of fate are said to have ‘external locus of control”conversely, external locus of control followers were more satisfied with directive leader behaviors than they were with participative leader behaviors.’ (Hughes, 2014, p548)
To emphasize, during my research I came across two articles. One of the articles a student states that he wants to be a physical fitness instructor and the program assigned him a mentor in that field. The program is a total of sixteen weeks. In those weeks the mentor job is to guide the mentee in being able to arrange and implement a variety of class plans. The most important part is to support the mentee emotionally. ‘Stepping in front of a class of 50 plus students to lead an aerobics class is a stressful situation!’ Being able to lead takes a lot of confidence. The student also said, that his mentor did an excellent job, and she gave him a lot of inspiration.
Before every class the mentor will give her mentee a ten minute prep talk. With saying like ‘I am credible, I am confident, and I can do this’. After each class the mentor would inform him of what he did good or bad and provide feedback on how it can be completed better for next time. (Example of Path-Goal Theory | Leadership, 2013)
On the contrary, the second article speaks about Veronica; she a senior, she likes to be challenged and was often willing to take on tasks that required extra effort and thought. She was a creative individual who often embraced the chance to show off her skills and knowledge. For her internship, she was excited about the opportunity to learn more about academic advising with EKU and hoped that it would enable her to help the advisors when it was time for her peers on campus to register for classes. In the beginning the internship started off great. Veronica’s mentor was the most knowledgeable professional academic advisor at EKU. Veronica acknowledged this and was excited to be able to learn from one of the best. (Schomaker, n.d.)
Once Ann felt comfortable that Veronica was familiar with the policies in the handbook and course catalogues, she had Veronica sit in the front office so that she could be familiar with the general office traffic, the office organization, and the typical questions asked by students. Veronica found sitting in the front office beneficial because she interacted with students regularly, could answer student’s questions, and assisted with general office duties; however, this quickly became routine, and Veronica grew restless. A month into her internship Veronica and her mentor became very distant. Her mentor was never available to provide guidance. She was always on an appointment, schedule for a surgery or on her personal leave. Because of this Veronica was left in the front office alone to figure out ways to keep herself occupied. Growing uncomfortable in her situation her enthusiasm for the internship faded. (Schomaker, n.d.)
Veronica struggled to find motivation to go into the office; she often called in with excuses to avoid staring at walls and counting the ceiling tiles. Feelings as if she gained all of her knowledge, she walked away to focus back on her studies. (Schomaker, n.d.)
With this in mind we see how leadership plays out using the path goal theory. Veronica need support from her mentor. She knows that she needs the help, but feeling uncomfortable she was afraid to ask for the guidance she needed. Whereas the student in physical fitness had a supportive, participative, and achievement type mentor. He was guided, given examples, and even prep talk to boost his motivation. These mentors goal was to diminish and/or remove obstacles when possible so that the mentee can grow boosting their confidence, bring about a greater job gratification which includes accepting their leaders.

Example of Path-Goal Theory | Leadership [PENNSTATE PSYCH 485 blog]. (2013). Retrieved from http://sites.psu.edu/leadership/2013/10/04/example-of-path-goal-theory/
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2015). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience.
Path-Goal Theory Discovering the Best Leadership Style. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/path-goal-theory.php
Schomaker, K. (n.d.). The Lonely Intern: A Teaching Case Study. Retrieved from http://cnu.edu/leadershipreview/pdf/v1%20i2%20schomaker.pdf
Transformational Leadership Becoming an Inspirational Leader. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/transformational-leadership.php

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