Path Goal Theory of Leadership

What if you could turn a “bad” boss into a “good” boss? For many leaders, the goal they have is to define their behaviors and leadership style so that it can benefit their team in the best way. This removes the distraction of being a “bad” boss because the best traits are sought to be emphasized. The Path Goal Theory of Leadership defines this process for leaders so that employee empowerment, production, and satisfaction can all be increased.

The Path Goal Theory Is Based on Expectancy Theory

The idea behind this theory of leadership is that people will act a certain way based on the perception that a certain outcome will result because of it. The Path Goal theory was first introduced in 1970 and the best way to think about it is to think about natural consequences. For every decision that is made, a positive or negative result will be achieved. If you walk outside in the snow without shoes on, your feet will get cold, wet, and potentially frostbit. If you wear boots, your feet will stay drier and warmer.

That’s what is going on with the leader who practices this theory, but the focus is on the temperature of their team’s reactions to them. These leaders are basing their decisions off of their observations. The employee and the environment each of specific characteristics that must be analyzed. The leader will then take those observations to select a leadership style that will best meet the needs of the environment and the employees.

The Focus Is On Motivation

The Path Goal theory looks to motivate people as a positive consequence of the actions and decisions that a leader chooses to make. Motivation can occur in any leadership style, which is why the focus is on meeting employee needs and environmental needs first. Being particpative, supportive, or even directive has its place on this leadership theory best practices list. The job of the leader is to use their leadership to clearly define the path a team must take.

Showing people the path isn’t where the job ends for the leader. For true success to be achieved, support from the leader must also be available at any given moment. Support might be given in the way of providing skill development, removing roadblocks, or in clearly defining goals that need to be met. If the right structure is put into place, employees will be motivated. If the wrong structure is put into place, employees will lose motivation.

How Can a Leader Remove Obstacles?

This is where analyzing an environment becomes a key attribute for the modern leader. Designing tasks for a team that take into account the environment’s needs or providing more structure to tasks that are ambiguous in nature will lend to the support that a team may need.

The Path Goal Leadership Theory is not one of the easiest for a leader to implement, but it can provide a number of key benefits when it is successfully used. By motivating people on an individual, more work can get done and that’s a good thing.

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