Becoming an effective leader isn’t always easy. Managers and supervisors don’t become exceptional leaders just because they gain the ability to direct a team. These professionals need to find the right way of motivating, engaging, and supporting their employees.
To improve employee performance and business outcomes, leaders need to consider a range of leadership styles, and how they might influence their teams. The path-goal theory of leadership can be a valuable tool for choosing the right leadership strategy.
The path-goal theory or “path-goal model” of leadership suggests that the traits and behaviors of leaders in a team environment directly affect business outcomes. According to the path goal leadership theory, the actions of a leader automatically affect the satisfaction, motivation, and performance of each team member.
Companies following the path goal theory for leadership measure the success of managers and supervisors by their ability to promote the contentment and accomplishments of their subordinates.
The concept was originally introduced by Robert J. House, and is based on the “expectancy theory” of motivation, in which experts believe an individual will act in a certain way because they expect their behavior to promote a certain outcome.
Although the path goal model isn’t embraced by every business, it can deliver significant advantages to some companies when used correctly. The main benefits of considering the path goal theory of leadership when choosing a business operational style include:
The Path goal model assumes that leaders in business environments complement their employees, compensate for their shortcomings, and work hard to help them achieve their goals. According to this theory, leaders give their staff members a clear path they can follow to achieve their goals while minimizing any potential obstacles or pitfalls.
Path goal theory works by using different types of leadership behavior to motivate, engage, and influence employees while improving the overall company culture.
Notably, the path goal theory of leadership identifies four types of key leadership behavior to be aware of. These include:
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to achieving business goals with path goal theory. However, there are some steps companies can follow if they want to utilize these leadership styles themselves. The way you apply the path goal model of leadership will depend on the types of leadership behaviors you’re going to be focusing on. For instance:
For the achievement-focused style of leadership to be successful, leaders need to show confidence in the ability of their team to overcome challenges and obstacles. Although these leaders set high expectations for their employees, they also don’t push them beyond their limits. These leaders need to consistently motivate and inspire their team members to deliver their best work. This leadership style will usually work well with employees who don’t need a high level of support, and feel comfortable working independently. It also works well when team members already have a significant level of confidence in their own abilities.
Because the directive path goal leadership model is task oriented, it requires extensive training and one-on-one coaching. Leaders should have a clear vision of how to break big goals down into small steps with regular milestones. They should also be willing to work consistently with team members to help them visualize how to reach their potential goals.
The directive strategy generally works best for employees who prefer their workplace to have a lot of structure. Team members who like to receive plenty of feedback and step-by-step instruction will benefit from a directive leadership style.
In this leadership style, leaders need to constantly work to show emotional intelligence and empathy towards their employees. They need to be committed to making sure employees are as satisfied, engaged, and happy as possible in their roles.
The supportive leadership strategy is typically most effective in situations where tasks and relationships are often quite challenging. Supportive leaders need to focus on creating warm and friendly environments for their team members, and maintaining a constant stream of communication.
Participative leadership strategies work best when employees have an opportunity to participate in the setting of goals and reaching specific targets. It requires constant communication between employees and leaders, so teams can make decisions as a group.
Employees need to be constantly encouraged to provide regular feedback to their leaders, so changes can be made to processes when necessary.
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