Robert House on Leadership

Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

In this lesson, you'll learn about Robert House's path-goal theory of leadership and focus on its key components. You'll also have an opportunity to reinforce your knowledge with a short quiz after the lesson.

Robert House

Robert House is the Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor of Organizational Studies at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as of 2013. He holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University and an MBA from the University of Detroit. He is largely responsible for the development of the path-goal theory of leadership.

Definition of Path-Goal Theory

Path-goal theory argues that the role of a manager is to set the goals for employees to accomplish and provide a path by which the goals can be accomplished. It is one of several contingency theories of leadership that proposes that utilization of particular leadership styles should be contingent on the nature of the employees and the circumstances of the environment.

Key Concepts of Theory

According to path-goal theory, a manager must recognize the needs of his employees, reward employees for achievement of goals, help employees find the most effective path to goal achievement, and clear obstacles on the path for achievement of goals. The manner in which a manager will implement these tasks depends on the nature of the environment and the employee managed.

House proposes four general leadership styles that a manager can choose from in managing employees. Use of each is contingent upon the characteristics of the environment and employee:

Directive leadership is often used in situations where the work tasks are complex and employees are unskilled or inexperienced. It involves giving clear rules and directions and setting clear goals and expectations. For example, this leadership style may be useful when managing temporary employees with little or no experience with the task and organization.

Supportive leadership is used when a work task is boring, stressful or dangerous. The goal of a supportive leader is to reduce employee stress and frustration as much as possible to try to improve job satisfaction. For example, supportive leadership may be perfect for managing uranium miners.

Participative leadership may be used when the work environment is unstructured and employees have the ability and desire to control their work environment. For example, participatory leadership style may be useful for managing a group of researchers.

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