An Example of Path-Goal Leadership

In 1971, Robert J. House, Ph.D., of the Wharton School of Management, developed an organizational management theory referred to as path-goal leadership. This method of guiding employees stresses that the leader is responsible for clearing a "path" for his subordinates so they are able to achieve their goals. The inspiration behind House's theory was the belief that following a defined path is likely to result in a specific outcome.

Leaders Providing Clarification

A leader following the path-goal style will provide clarification at the outset of projects and at any time necessary in order to keep her followers on the road to particular goals. An example of this type of manager is one who provides a clear outline of what the business needs to achieve and illustrates exactly to subordinates what they must do to help reach this objective. These goals and the manner in which the employees work to secure them should be intrinsically satisfying to each worker.

Goal Setting Leadership

A path-goal manager aims to challenge his subordinates with high-level goals in order to garner the highest level of performance from them. He encourages his workers by an insistence in the belief that they can handle all he expects of them and that the outcome will be positive and beneficial for all. A path-goal theory example of this type of leader is one who sets sales goals higher every three months and leads his employees in ways to achieve this target.

A Leader as Participant

The exemplary manager following the path-goal theory works directly with her employees to ensure that what needs to be done is accomplished. This leader involves her workers as participants in the overall process by requesting their ideas and suggestions in order to increase the satisfaction of subordinates as well as their effectiveness. This method of relating to employees naturally increases their job satisfaction and makes it more likely for goals to be reached.

A Leader as Supporter

A path-goal manager is continually supportive of his workers. He believes in their individual skills and is dedicated to helping one and all to succeed. A path-goal theory example of this type of leader is the individual who stays in contact with employees each step of the path. Moreover, he is concerned not only with performance but also with the emotional well-being of his workers. He is connected with the employee as person and not just as a worker. This aspect of path-goal leadership helps create a friendlier work environment that is beneficial to everyone.

Example of path-goal leaders can be found at all levels of management. Steve Jobs is often cited as an example, as is Colonel Stout in the film, "A Bridge Too Far." In 2019, Erik Fritsvold, PhD at the University of San Diego, cited path-goal leadership as a great model for community policing.