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The Path-Goal Theory and Leadership Styles

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  • 0:07 Goal Achievement
  • 1:44 Achievement-Oriented
  • 2:27 Directive Leadership
  • 3:17 Participative Leadership
  • 3:55 Supportive Leadership
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Path-Goal is a type of leadership theory that focuses on establishing a clear path to goal achievement. Leadership styles that are associated with this theory include: achievement-oriented, directive, participative and supportive leadership.

The Path to Goal Achievement

Robert J. House, founder of Path-Goal theory, believes that a leader's behavior is contingent to employee satisfaction, employee motivation and employee performance. Path-Goal theory states that a good leader provides clear direction, sets high goals, gets involved in goal achievement and supports his employees. The employees, as a result, will be a more satisfied and productive team. It also states that employees will accept a leader's direction if the employee believes that there will be an immediate or future benefit that results from work.

Robert J. House founded Path-Goal theory.
Robert J House

Let's apply Path-Goal theory to a football team. The team is made up of many different people, including coaches, players and supporting members. Each contributes to a different function of the team. Each team member must know the plays, be encouraged to do their part to win games, feel the coach's commitment and have the support of others in order to perform at their best.

Path-Goal Leadership Styles

There are several different directions a running back can take to get from the 50-yard line to the end zone. Depending on the circumstance, he may run directly to the end zone, serpentine from one sideline to the other or charge into a group of opposing players. Path-Goal leadership styles work in similar ways. Just as there are different paths to the end zones, there are different paths to leading a team. There are various leadership styles associated with Path-Goal theory:

  • Achievement-oriented leadership
  • Directive leadership
  • Participative leadership
  • Supportive leadership

Achievement-Oriented Leadership

In achievement-oriented leadership challenging goals are set, high performance is expected and management has a high level of confidence in the employee's ability to achieve the goals. This style of leadership is well suited for quarterbacks to use on other team members. The coordinator or coach gives the quarterback a set of goals and plays. The main goal is to win games, but there are smaller, equally important goals for the execution of plays during a game. The coordinator provides the quarterback with the playbook and sets the expectation for performance - all with a high level of confidence that the quarterback can direct the team to execute the right plays at the right time and win games.

Directive Leadership

The quarterback uses a different leadership style with different players. A quarterback gives directives by assigning specific plays to the team and to individuals. Directive leadership involves giving specific advice or directives, clarifying expectations and assigning tasks to individuals or a group.

During a huddle, the quarterback gives players the directives (or plays) and manages from the field. An individual player, like a wide receiver, may be directed to be in a certain area of the field to receive the ball. He may also be directed where to run with the ball. A group of linebackers may be directed to tackle certain players on the opposing team. Regardless of the position, each player must carry out the play according to the quarterback's expectations.

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