Leadership - Goal-path Theory

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Nowadays, one of the most respectful theories of leadership is the goal-path theory. Developed by Robert House, the goal-path theory is a model of contingency that extracts the key elements of the investigation performed by the Ohio University about the initial structure, consideration and motivational theory of the expectations (House, 1971). The theory , that has as predecessors the work s of Evans in 1970, House in 1971, House and Dessler in 1974 and House and Mitchell in 1974, and that emerged as an alternative to the behavioral model of leadership, It is based on how leaders motivate their followers to perform better and became more satisfied with their work (Evans, 1974). It tries to clarify how the conduct of the leader influences on the satisfaction and performance of the subordinates, similar to the expectation theory of Victor Vroom (Van Eerde, & Thierry, 1996). Also explaining how the behavior of the leader affects the satisfaction and performance and stating that the perceived value of a reward produce certain behaviors, well known also as the expectation and the preference for those results is called by Vroom as valence (Vroom, 1964).

The essence of the path-goal theory is that the leader's role is not to assist followers in attaining their goals or to provide direction or support to ensure that their goals are compatible with the overall objectives of the group or the organization (House, 1996). The path- goal term is derived from the belief that effective leaders clarify and clear the road to help their followers to move from where they are to a level in which they achieve their work goals and make the journey more enjoyable by reducing the obstacles and dangers. According to this theory, the behavior of a leader is acceptable to subordinates to the extent that it is seen by them as immediate satisfaction or as a means of future satisfaction’s source. The behavior of a leader is motivational in the level that leader makes the subordinate to require satisfaction for an effective performance, the leader provide instruction, guidance, support and rewards that are required for effective performance (Ashour, & Johns, 1983). To prove these statements, House identified four leadership behaviors. The managerial leader allows subordinates know what is expected of them, schedules the work to be performed and gives specific guidelines how to accomplish tasks. This is parallel to the dimension of Ohio State on initiating structure. A friendly leader shows support and concern for the needs of their subordinates; this essentially stands for the dimension of the consideration of the University of Ohio. The leader that participates consults with subordinates and uses their suggestions before make a decision. . The achievement-oriented leader sets challenging goals and expects subordinates to perform at their highest level. In contrast to the Fiedler standpoint of the behavior of the leader, House assumed that leaders are flexible (Schuler, 1976).The theory of goal-path then means that the same leader can display any or all of these behaviors depending on the situation. The theory proposes two kinds of situational or contingency variables that affect and level the relationship between leadership behavior and outcome, those in the environment that are beyond the control of the subordinate, as in task structure, the formal system of authority and group work and those that are part of the subordinate personal characteristics as in locus of control, experience and perceived capacity (Schriesheim, & Schriesheim, 1980). Environmental factors determine the type of leader behavior required as a complement if the results of the subordinate will be maximized, while the personal characteristics determine how the environment and the behavior of the leader will be interpreted. Thus, the theory proposes that the behavior of leader will not be effective if it becomes redundant with the sources of the environment structure or inconsistent with the characteristics of the subordinates.

Many concepts derived from the theory of path-goal, since the ones that states that directive leadership leads to greater satisfaction when the tasks are ambiguous or when tension are highly structured and well designed, the same it might be perceived as redundant to employees. high experience; to the ones that states that directive leadership leads to higher employee satisfaction only where there is a substantial conflict in the workgroup, also stating that the subordinates with internal locus of control, those who believe that control their own destiny, will be more satisfied with a participation style than the ones with external locus of control, that will be more satisfied with a managerial style. The research used to validate these concepts is generally encouraging. The evidence supports the logic underlying the theory. That is, the performance and the satisfaction of the employee are probably positively influenced when the leader compensates for missing skills from the employee or the work environment. However, the leader who dedicates time explaining the tasks when they are already clear or when the employee has the ability and experience to handle them without interference, may prove ineffective because the worker will see this type of management as redundant or even as an insulting behavior.

The path-goal model differs from the situational model of Hersey and Blanchard in 1969, in which the leader must adapt to their level of development of the subordinates, or from contingency theory, that seeks to match the style of leader with specific situational variables. In the model path-goal the leader’s style relates to the characteristics of the subordinate and the type of work environment. House and Mitchell argue that a leader can display any or all the styles according to the type of situation (House, 1996).Those more effective leaders, as we mentioned before, will be the ones that can adapt their style to the specific situations.

A derivative research performed by Wofford and Liska in 1993, compiling more than 120 experiments, found that the results of the different studies varied notably if a different instrument of measurement is used , even when valuing the same dimensions (Wofford, & Liska, 1994). They also found that the characteristics of the job influenced highly on the conduct and style of leadership and on the performance of the subalterns. When situational changes occur, leaders are expected to change their conduct with respect to the follower (Ivancevich, 1997). The leader must present ability to identify which behavior is the most effective based on the situation that comes their way, and may arise from the type of follower they face (Ivancevich, 1997). Therefore they identified that the key factors in this theory are the behavior and situational factors, and that the correspondence established between both factors will result in effective leadership emphasizing again, that the primary role of the leader is to motivate their followers clarify the ways that help them achieve their objectives or goals (Hogg, 2012).

In terms of supporting conduct, it will have more positive effects when the employee is in need of emotional or philological support when facing a task. The research is based by dividing groups of subalterns in conditions of poor clarity, interesting, but without structure; and conditions of high prediction or routines. For the first case, the researchers will find positive effects in motivation and performance only if the leader shows a directive conduct and the contrary effect will be the result of the leader showing a supporting conduct or consideration. In terms of the empirical support of the theory, it is proved that the supporting conduct is generally linked to positive attitudes of the subordinates under difficult tasks, for the directive conduct the results are always less consistent. Kerr and Jermier extended the line of research, to the extent of the substitute for the leadership, where they focused their investigation on the conditions under the leadership is unnecessary due to the capacity of the subaltern, the clarity of the organizational system and procedures (Kerr, & Jermier, 1978). However some researchers have revived the hypothesis derived from path-goal theory and has found minimal empirical support (Podsakoff, & Organ, 1986).

In conclusion, a manager centered and focused on his subordinates will not only offer great salaries and promotions but he will also offer support, encouragement, security and respect. This type of manager will be also sensible to the differences in between his teams and he will adapt the rewards to each subordinate. The subalterns of a manager oriented with the path-goal theory will know exactly what level of productivity or performance they need to reach to obtain bonus, raises, or promotions (Vecchio, , Justin, & Pearce, 2008). For the path-goal model is important to define the objectives first, in order to establish a future flow of great performance for the long and short term. It is important to mention that this definition will depend of the internal faith of the leader, based on his capacities and competences (Stinson, & Johnson, 1975).

Coincidentally with the other situational theories, the leader must be aware of the reasons why leadership continuously changes, for which he should be prepared to, develop a wide variety of responses to efficiently allow each situation that he will experience (Schriesheim, Chester, & Mary Ann Von Glinow, 1977). The future prospects of the path-goal theory point in the direction of further research leading to strengthen refine and expand their premises incorporating some additional moderating variables and shed their behavioral bias.

However it is possible that the assigned rewards not meet the expectations of subordinates and that the resources are not entirely adequate and sufficient for the goal, it can be affirmed given the increasingly strong tendency to achieve higher levels of productivity with resources scarce (Fulk,& Wendler, 1982). Thus we have from how leaders motivate their followers, leadership can be positive if it is associated with rewards or negative if the motivation is based on punishment, not to mention the tendency or propensity to prioritize, this classification at all simplistic answers to behavioral character is assumed to understand motivation as a stimulus that determines behavior (Ivancevich, Matteson, Freedman, & Phillips, 1990).There is a great necessity to have with a leadership theory that take in consideration context variables in order to know which actions the leader shall take and which ones he should not (Triandis, 1993). Although this model indicates logically a play form of leadership, it is not entirely effective for all organizations or for all types of people who are involved in carrying out the work. That is why efforts have been made to find valid classifications for leadership styles, understanding the style as a set of behaviors that leader exhibit and the particular way they are perceived by their subordinates, that is in fact the leadership in the practice.

The theoretical effort to attribute classifications in path theory is a resource for the leader to choose or modify their particular style to influence in other way, leading to different behaviors, however, analysis has realized that leaders do not maintain permanent and one-line fashion style, in fact it changes according to the circumstances, raising a claim for more research (Greene, 1974).


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