Path-Goal Theory

Topics: Leadership, Management, Organizational studies and human resource management Pages: 12 (3386 words) Published: August 9, 2010

Leadership is the key issue in the development and advancement of groups, organizations, society and nations. The study of leadership plays a vital role in the behavioral and management sciences. It has also received a lot of attention, as well as is intensively explored even up to this day. This paper will be covering leadership proposed by Robert House which describes four styles of leadership, namely: (1) supportive leadership, (2) directive leadership, (3) participative leadership, and (4) achievement oriented leadership. This paper will be portraying the situations wherein each style would be appropriate, with the specific reference to the characteristics of the follower group and the nature of the task. Upon concluding this paper, the researcher will also be discussing the extent of the usefulness of path goal theory of leadership when utilized to determine which leadership style is to be used.


It is said that leadership is the most well-known and important subjects under study in the behavioral and management studies (Baruch 1998). The study of leadership actually constitutes of various kind of researches. In addition, it has been the highlight of many papers in the academic and professional journals (Cited from Baruch 1998). Baruch (1998) adds that the theoretical framework of leadership has been developed throughout the century, beginning with the “trait theory” through theories focusing on the way leaders use and exploit power, then through theories exploring behavioral approaches, then finally those looking at contingencies, then finally those theories considering situational aspects. These theories have been quite considerably explored; as a result, various studies have been published, many of which are relevant too for the practitioners of the field.

Leadership: A Theoretical Framework

Many academics in the field of leadership have been trying to define leadership and its effects, as well as how to achieve effective leadership. As early as the 600 B.C., the Chinese Tao Te King defined leadership stating that “Most leaders are despised, some leaders are feared, few leaders are praised and the rare leader is never noticed” (Cited in Andriessen and Drenth 1984). In addition, the phenomenon of leadership has been illustrated in many historical manuscripts such as Bible, Iliad and Odyssey which provides dramatic illustrations of leadership and characterizes leaders in several situations.

Many works on leadership have written since. These works have explored what leadership is and how it can be defined (Cited from DeMeuse 1986, Bass 1990). Close examination if some works on leadership reveals a severe difficulty in finding agreement among them which emerges in part from the difficulty in defining “leadership”. There are actually various frameworks in literature that are more or less similar, some of which are to some extent overlapping and hence one can identify many types of definitions on leadership , not necessarily similar.

It seems that various definitions on leadership, leadership is correlated with the relationship between one people and other people or a group. Cattell (1953) defined a leader as someone who generates group scintilla that is different from that which would have been if that person has not been presented. On a different note, Kotter (1988) defines leadership as the process of motivating or encouraging people or groups in a certain direction without coercion. Quite more comprehensively, Stogdill (1974, 18) gives the following definition of a leader.

“The leader is characterized by a strong drive for responsibility and task completion, vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals, venturesomeness and originality in problem solving, drive to exercise initiative in social situation, self-confidence and a sense of personal identity, willingness to accept consequences of decision and action, readiness to absorb...

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