Theories of Leadership: Path Goal Leadership Theory

The Path Goal Leadership Theory is developed by Robert House, and basically states that leaders will adjust and adapt to behaviors that will play to the strengths of their subordinates and compensates their weaknesses.

Under this theory, the leader or the manager is assumed to be flexible in their style; changing according to the competencies of their followers in order to achieve the organizational goals.


Robert House states that they are four styles of leadership that managers and leaders can adapt to:

  • Directive: leader states what to do and how to do it.
  • Achievement-oriented: leader sets challenging goals for team and expects them to perform to their best to achieve it.
  • Participative: the leader consults the team for suggestions about the work to be done and proceeds to ask them to fulfill it.
  • Supportive: the leader watches out for the needs of the team and supports them while the team fulfills the tasks.

Each of these styles have their strengths and leaders should adapt and change according to the needs of the organization.

Reality and the Path Goal Leadership Theory

The big assumption of the path goal leadership theory is that leaders are flexible in their styles. While that is ideal for leadership, reality is that most leaders have a certain preferred style.

Some leaders are more people-oriented in their approach while others are more task-oriented. Often, it is more a result of their personalities than as the choice based on circumstance.

If a leader can perfectly balance the four styles and use them when appropriate, the leader would be an outstanding one.

Hence, the theory while being helpful in providing an ideal product of leadership development, may do little in helping leaders become better.

You can use this theory and reflect upon the styles that are more natural to you and think about how you can develop those styles that are not so natural to you.

For me, I am a natural encourager, so the supportive leadership style is easy for me. However, I find the directive leadership style the toughest as I do not enjoy delving into details; I rather trust my team to know what to do and how to do it.

The point here is that no one can use all 4 styles with equal ease. However, if you can develop them, you can become a balanced leader who is ready for all seasons!

The Contingency Theories of Leadership

» Fiedler’s contingency theory
Fred Fiedler was one of the foremost proponents of contingency leadership. He stated that the effectiveness of types of leadership styles was determined on three factors.

» Situational Leadership theory
Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard developed the situational model of leadership relates four different leadership styles to the follower’s confidence and ability to carry it out.

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