The path-goal leadership theory was developed by Robert House an American psychologist in the year 1971. It offers a very clear prescription on how leaders can influence their followers towards the achievement of the goals set. It is a detailed outline of the effect of the conduct of leadership in improving productivity mainly through constant motivation and satisfaction among the followers. The three main pillars on which the theory is established include the need to make clear the path towards achievement of the goals already determined.
Secondly, obstacles hindering performance should be removed and finally, there is the need to offer incentives which facilitate the achievement of these goals. These three pillars have their extremes on the top and the bottom. That is a leader is at liberty to embrace a weak or strong application of approach (Evans, 1970, p280).
Clarification of the path gives a definite direction on which the followers are to follow at all times. It entails establishing parameters and the overriding principles which should inform the intricate decisions constantly made by the followers. Here the leader can opt to be absolutely clear in issuing directives or be vague.
Clearing obstacles entails acting in a manner which facilitates rather than hindering performance. Reward offering element can be implemented by the leadership in different ways or on the other hand leadership can opt to ignore and remain passive in the function of encouraging.
Robert explains that the above elements are implemented through the application of four major leadership styles. The leadership styles are directive leadership, supportive leadership, participative leadership and achievement oriented leadership (House, 1971, p325).
Directive leadership entails providing the rules to be followed by the followers as well as continued guidance in areas which present ambiguities. It is most applicable in areas where tasks are not structured and more importantly where the followers have limitations in experience.
Here, the leader takes the responsibility of directing the followers on the right path to follow in the execution of the different tasks assigned to them. The role resonates with the element of the theory which requires the leader to clarify the path for the followers. The style entails intensive interaction between the leader and the followers.
Participative leadership on the other hand is concerned with engaging followers in decision making processes. This enables them to not only own the tasks but also motivates them. Some of the actions in line with this leadership style entail engaging the subordinates in developing solutions to the problems ahead, consulting with the followers on the suitability of the tasks assigned to them as well as taking time to listen to the views, ideas and suggestions of the followers as opposed to dismissing them as irrelevant.
The leadership style resonates with the element of facilitating achievement of the organizational goals by the followers (House & Mitchell, 1974, p85).
Supportive leadership involves the promotion of good relations between the leader and the followers thus creating a healthy platform for support as well as being sensitive to their personal needs. Examples of actions in pursuant of the supportive leadership include: maintaining a friendly relationship with the followers, avoiding hurtful statements towards followers and doing things which please and not hurt the followers.
Finally, achievement oriented leadership entails taking steps towards measureable improvement of performance at work and also individually. It focuses on availing relevant incentives towards achieving set objectives. Examples of actions exercised by leaders towards this end include: setting of challenging but achievable goals to be achieved by the followers and consistently explaining expectations on each of the tasks being handled by the followers.
Blanchard’s situational leadership theory on the other hand stipulates that a leader should be able to adopt varying styles of leadership in relation to the prevailing circumstances. The model developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960’s enables the leader to accurately analyze the requirements of the prevailing circumstances in order to implement the correct leadership style. The theory became popular among managers due to ease of understanding and application in real life (Famous Models, 2010, par3).
The theory categorized styles of leadership using the intensity of support and direction offered by the leader to his followers. Consequently four major categories of leaders are defined. The first is directing leaders. These leaders clearly define the tasks assigned to their subordinates leaving little space for the follower to maneuver. They also ensure close supervision in addition to the fact that they make decisions with little regard to the views of the followers.
Coaching leaders on the other hand offer leadership in the definition of the roles and tasks to be undertaken by the followers but take time to include the input of the followers in terms of their suggestions and ideas. Despite the fact that the leader takes full responsibility for the decisions made, the process of developing decisions for the future is much more interactive compared to the directing leaders.
Supporting leaders are involved in making daily decisions such as allocation of tasks as well as different processes involved in executing their roles. The follower is fully responsible for the decisions taken though the input of the leader is important. As can be seen, the role of the leader is to support.
Finally delegating leaders are least involved in the decision making process. Much of the involvement of the leader is determined by the follower mainly through consultation. The follower has the greatest room to maneuver and make independent decisions. This style is applicable in cases where the followers are experts.
Similarities between the path-goal leadership and the situational theory are immense. First, both theories define several leadership styles which can b applied in different circumstances. The leaders have the choice to apply the principles in accordance with their evaluation of the abilities of the followers.
More importantly, the leadership styles under both the theories have very visible similarities. Directive leadership under the situational theory reflects the element of clarification as expressed in the path-goal theory where the leader is expected to fully clarify what the subordinate is to do and how to do it. It is similar in many ways as the directive leadership in the path-goal theory as it stresses on the leaders control over the follower.
Secondly, supporting leaders under the situational theory have close similarities to supporting leaders under the path-goal theory as both these leadership style focus on taking to consideration the welfare or views of the followers.
It is clear that the two theories share very close semblance in many suggestions but it is also clear that the path-goal theory is more comprehensive and applicable in management.
Evans, M. (1970). The effect of supervisory behavior on the path-goal relationship. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 5, 277-298
Famous Models, 2010. Situational Leadership. Retrieved 26 March 27, 2010 from,
House, R.J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16, 321-339
House, R. & Mitchell, T. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Contemporary Business, 3, Fall, 81-98