Web Analytics

What is the Path-Goal Theory?

The Path-Goal model is a theory based on explaining a leader’s style or behavior that is best suited to the employee and workplace to achieve a common goal. The path-goal theory can best be referred to as a set of processes in which leaders choose specific behaviors that are good for the employees’ needs and their working environment so that they may work together to achieve their daily targets.

Path-Goal Leadership Theory

Origin of the Path-Goal Theory

The Path-Goal theory came about because of the works of Martin G. Evans (1970). It is best described as a series of thought processes through which superiors choose some sets of behaviors that are best for their employee’s needs and working environment.

The theory posits that leaders will have to take part in several kinds of leadership behavior depending on the forces and the demands of a particular incidence. It is the leader’s responsibility to help employees in achieving goals and to provide the guide and support needed to make sure that their personal goals are related to the organizations.

In this theory, it is assumed that a leader supports his employees and help bridge their shortcomings. The task-oriented components of the Path-Goal Theory correspond with situational leadership. In this Path-Goal Theory of Leadership, productive leaders offer their employees clear steps for them to follow in order to achieve their goals.

Also, these kinds of support help reduce the chances of failure and pitfalls. The Path-Goal Theory provides routes for leaders to motivate and support their employees in achieving all their objectives with rewards and adequate compensation.

Kind of Leadership Styles in the Path-Goal Theory

The ideal leadership style depends on the situation of things in the workplace and the kind of employees.  The selected leadership style is only suitable when it is accepted by the employees and inspires and satisfies them to pursue more. It is the leader’s responsibility to train, teach, and remunerate his employees in the right way. The Path-Goal Theory identifies four leadership styles:

1. Directive Leadership

In this style of leadership, the leader understands precisely what needs to be done, how tasks must be carried out, and how to meet the deadlines. All these imply that he provides the framework for his employees on how to go about all the activities successfully. Therefore, this management style is more suited for very inexperienced employees who need guidance and to be checked on regularly.

For example, as a tech company, if you want your employees to take care of building a website for a client, you can delegate tasks accordingly. You will direct the programmer to write the codes, the product designer to take care of the UI/UX, and a content writer to draft converting copy for the new site.

2. Supportive Leadership

In this kind of leadership style, the leader pays a sizeable chunk of attention to what the employees need to function well in their job roles. His attitude is defined by friendliness and empathy. It means he respectably addresses his staff and supports them where it is required in order to make goal achievement easy for them. This kind of management style is beneficial in situations in which the employee has a (personal) challenge, does not believe in himself strongly, or has low morale.

An example of this is delegating projects to employees and helping them achieve it directly. E.g., telling them to write an about us page for a new website and listing all the topics you want to be covered by them. Through this, you have done a part of the job, and you are monitoring them again to do a good job.

3. Achievement-Oriented Leadership

In this leadership style, the leader sets ambitious goals. He expects the highest form of achievement from his employees and believes in their capability to get him that. He coerces them to show excellent work achievements and consistent improvement and has full confidence in their ability to deliver beyond his expectations. Employees who love working solo and have fantastic problem-solving skills will thrive in this kind of management style.

An example of this is when you set actionable goals for your employees. Imagine telling them to increase sales to a hundred percent within the first quarter of a new year, now that is challenging and it will spur them individually to do more with your backing.

4. Participative leadership

In this leadership style, the leader thinks it is very crucial to collaborate with his employees and take their ideas on board during the decision making period. Also, this implies that he is open to discussions and suggestions on how organizational goals can be achieved. The leader will adopt this leadership style, especially when employees are deeply involved and have amazing expertise and skillsets.

An example of this is when the firm has a project that entails a high level of participation in its execution. Everyone needs to be present and contribute their quota to the success of the project. Mr. A may be identifying faults, while Mr. B is putting measures in place to fix it. It is a collaborative effort and one of the hallmarks of participative leadership in the Path-Goal Theory.

How to Use the Path-Goal Theory Effectively?

If you have a good grasp of what your employees needs, then you can flow with any style the situation demands.

Usually, an achievement-oriented leadership style is effective when staff does not have enough to do and get bored at the workplace. It is a way to keep them more engaged and productive for the purpose of everyone involved. However, Directive leadership allows the employees to function well when tasked with unclear job descriptions and specifications.

Also, participative leadership is ideal in situations where the staff is making the wrong decisions. The leader can take corrective measures and guide them towards the right path.  In the same vein, supportive leadership is beneficial when the team is relatively young and inexperienced in the workplace. This will make them more confident and suitable for future projects.


Path-Goal theory posits that leaders are dynamic and that they can adjust their style as situations demand. The theory suggests two eventual possibilities, like environment and employee traits that regulate the leader behavior-outcome relationship.

Furthermore, the environment is beyond the control of the follower-task relationship, authority system, and workgroup. Environmental factors decide the kind of leadership style that is needed if the employee potentials are to be maximized.

Also, the follower’s features are the mode of control, experience, and perceived capability. However, the personal capability of employees influences how the leadership style will be. Productive leaders highlight the path to help their employees achieve goals and make the job easier by eliminating challenged that may face on the road.

Consequently, research has shown that employee performance and satisfaction will improve positively if the leader remunerates well for any issues detected in either the employee’s work or work environment.

See also  What Happens When You Don’t Use An Employee Handbook Software?

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.