What is Path-Goal Leadership Theory tells?

One day, Socrates was standing in the way to Mount Olympus. One guy, who was searching the direction to reach Mt. Olympus, approached Socrates and asked him”How do I go to Mt. Olympus?”. Socrates told “Just be sure every step you take is going in that direction and you will get there!”.

Path-Goal Leadership Theory tells about four different leadership behavior and its effect on performance, satisfaction and motivation of the team. It was first developed by Robert House in 1971 and reformulated it in 1996[1].

This theory mainly developed on relation between formally appointed superiors and subordinates in a group/team and not about leadership of whole organization. This theory based on expectancy theory of motivation.

As per Path-Goal theory, leader’s behavior changes depending on situation, environment and follower characteristics. Environment factor is all that is outside follower’s control like task structure, authority, organizational structure. Follower characteristics is his locus of control(internal/external), skill, experience, ability,commitment.

Path-Goal theory stresses on change in leaders behavior to satisfy followers needs by setting clear path, removing hurdles and roadblocks, assisting , providing direction, support and offering rewards to achieve goals.

House and Mitchell(1974) defined following four kind of leader behavior:

Directive path-goal clarifying leader behavior: directed toward providing psychological structure for subordinates. Leaders set goals and clarify them the path (what,when,how to perform tasks) to reach the goal. This behavior is suitable when unstructured job, inexperienced subordinate, subordinates lack of job skills. Keyword:Guide

Supportive leader behavior: directed toward the satisfaction of subordinates needs and preferences. Leaders set the goal and give moral support by being open, approachable and friendly to the followers to perform the task. This is suitable when follower shows ;ack of confidence. Keyword:Show concern

Participative leader behavior: directed toward encouragement of subordinate influence on decision making and doing the tasks. Here leaders set the goal and ask for suggestions to select the best suited path decisions. This behavior is well suited when followers show lack of decision making. Keyword: Consult

Achievement-oriented leader behavior: directed toward encouraging performance excellence. Leaders set challenging goals and lay path for them to perform to the highest level. This behavior is suitable when followers lack of job challenge. Keyword: Encourage


1. House, R. (1997). Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly, 7 (3),323-352.
2. House, R. J., & Mitchell, R. R. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Journal of Contemporary Business, 3, 81-97.

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