Case study of The Path Goal Theory and James Parker, CEO of Southwest Airlines

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Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, researchers and analysts alike have been struggling to define the most cost-effective methods to running a company. A large portion of the success of a company can be attributed to the leadership style of a given leader and how they apply a particular leadership style to motivate their employees. It is common knowledge, that an employee with a high level of motivation will produce a higher economic benefit to the profit of the company. The intent of this writing is to explore what the Path-Goal theory is, how it relates to leadership, and then apply the components to how James Parker, CEO of southwest airlines, appears to use them to facilitate daily operations within the company.

The Path-Goal theory was developed from studies conducted by Robert House (Robbins 493). House chose to deviate from Fiedler's traditional Contingency theories via focusing primarily on the leader's direct behavior for each new situation. This was a new perspective when contrasted to Fiedler's approach because House tried to integrate a larger focus on the manager's ability to provide the means "clearing a path" for the employee to perform to their maximum potential. This would indicate a strong validation to the workings of the Contingency theories, but more of the outcome is put into the hands of the manager leading the subordinates. Within the core assumptions of the Path-Goal Theory, there are references and dependencies to other theories regarding motivation and leadership styles. It is important to understand that the Path-Goal theory can be divided into three parts: Motivation, Leadership, and Situation (Robbins 395).

Motivation can be simply defined as "explaining why people do what they do" (Bridge 1). In order to produce any output, an individual must have some level of motivation and desire to succeed. This concept that the Path-Goal model relies on is the Expectancy Theory of Motivation. This theory states that an individual will be motivated by a combination of valence and expectancy (Wu 1). Once an individual's motivation has been established, various factors can be monopolized to achieve the best results by a perceptive leader.

Proficient managers will recognize the need to communicate their feelings and perceptions of a subordinate employee's performance. Frequent areas of concern when evaluating the effectiveness of an employee can be found within the concepts of the Expectancy Motivation Theory. Critical success factors for application of the Expectancy Motivation Theory include: the ability to motivate by setting performance based rewards systems in place, giving constructive guidance, setting good examples to lead the subordinates, and finally, they must be able to reduce or eliminate subordinate goal obstacles.

The next component of the Path-Goal Theory is the leadership style and the effectiveness with which it is applied. There are four main leader behaviors commonly associated with leadership-style theories: directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented. Directive leadership is being utilized when a leader designates precise expected behavior and desired outcomes that these behaviors should achieve. Supportive leadership requires a more charismatic leader and is when a supervisor makes an effort to establish more of a friendship type role with their subordinates. Participative leadership is in action when a leader has confidence in the judgment of the subordinate and tries to receive consultation from their expertise. Achievement-oriented leadership is practiced when the leader makes clear-cut goals and then sets forth the expectation that these goals will be successfully fulfilled.

The situational portion of the Path-Goal theory can be better defined by looking at the three components within itself. First you have the employee factors, followed by the environmental factors, and finally you have the specifics of the task....
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