Leadership is a vital and pivotal role in any organisation, regardless of size. It can be in the form of a single person in a small sole-trader like business, or in the complex structure of a multinational corporation. Leadership is essential for organisations to achieve their goals, and to manage their employees in the process. I will be looking into the theories of leadership and assessing how they affect the work performance of employees, in terms of motivation and efficiency. In particular, I will discuss the path-goal theory, and how it links into the different styles of management affecting employee work performance, as well as the benefits and criticisms of the model, and finishing with a conclusion as to what my stance is on the subject of leadership affecting work performance and to what extent performance is affected by leadership and theories such as this.
From preliminary reading and understanding of this area in the subject of organisational behaviour, my viewpoint can come to assume that leadership does have an effect on an employee's performance, and that the style and method of leadership does have a positive correlation on the mentioned relationship.
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The Path-Goal Theory
The performance of employees in an organisation is much dependant on the leadership they have. Leadership has to be effective and tailored to the particular situation to ensure that the optimum efficiency is achieved. The path-goal theory of leadership effectiveness, developed by Robert House in 1976, is a transactional leadership theory that explains how leadership should be carried out in a manner that brings out the best in the employees abilities and is dependent on the efficiency, motivation and satisfaction of the employees in an organisation. The theory outlines how leadership behaviour and the employee's abilities will lead to a particular path that will achieve the outcome, the goal (House, 1996). This goal would be a mutual goal of the worker and the organisation. Different leadership styles are needed, in terms of leadership behaviour, depending on the demands and circumstance of the particular state of affairs (House, 1971).
Looking at the theory in more detail, this situational leadership theory explains how an individual's attitudes and their behaviour are inÂfluenced by the link between their effort and performance, the goal paths, and the attractiveness of the rewards, which is the goal attractiveness, being it the leaders job for this direction (Strebel, 1994). Therefore, these individuals would be productive, and their desires fulfilled when they see a strong connection between their effort and performance and when this results in highly appreciated rewards.
House argues that the most successful leaders are those who assist their subordinates go down the path to receiving valued rewards (Indvik, 1986). The theory states that leader behaviour must be motivating and gratifying to the level that it clarifies the aims and the paths to the goals and as a result increases goal attainment, hence success, thus increasing the work performance of the employees (Evans, 1970).
From this, we can gain the basic idea behind the path-goal theory as being the following shown in Figure 1.1 (Northouse, 2007):
The path-goal theory is a very complex concept, as you look further into it. An array of factors and characteristics, such as leadership behaviour, subordinate characteristics and task characteristics are evident when looking at this concept of path-goal theory (Northouse, 2007). Even though there are potentially many different leadership styles, this theory approach has broken down these styles into four distinct leadership styles (House & Mitchell, 1974).
Directive Leadership: this style is where the leader would tell the workers what to do and what is expected and provide detailed guidance, standards of work, and schedules of work to assist performance
Supportive Leadership: in this style, the leader treats its subordinates as an equal member of the organisation, and would go out of their way to ensure the well being, personal needs and status of the employees are maintained pleasantly. In addition to this, there would be interpersonal relationships developed as a result of this leadership style.
Participative Leadership: this is a more democratic leadership style, whereby the subordinates are involved in the decision-making process of the organisation. The leader would consult the employees and take into account their opinions when making decision on how the group will tackle the task.
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Achievement-orientated Leadership: leaders set high targets and challenging goals for the subordinate to achieve, and therefore expects them to perform at their highest standard. However, achievement-orientated leaders show large amounts of confidence in their workers to achieve the goals set out.
In comparison to Fiedler's Contingency Theory (Fiedler, 1967), which advocates that leadership style is resistant to change, the path-goal theory is one where the same manager can execute the four different styles of leadership behaviour during different situations at different times. However, it must be taken into consideration that although path-goal model fails to explain how to identify the most appropriate leadership style, the theory does give a series of situational factors that need to be taken into account when making the decision on the style of leadership. From this, we can see, in Figure 1.2, the major components of the path-goal theory, putting everything discussed so far into a visual model (Northouse, 2007).
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Path-Goal Theory
The path goal theory has both strengths and weaknesses. One key positive of this model is the fact that it is the first attempt to provide an expanded framework which brings together the previous works of contingent and situational leadership as well as the expectancy theory (Jermier, 1996).
Furthermore, the path-goal theory is one where attempts have been made to incorporate motivation principles from the expectancy theory into the theory of leadership, and from my further reading, this seems to be a unique characteristic, as no other leadership theory has this relationship with the principles of motivation. In addition to all of this, the path-goal theory has a clear direction, and a path, so to speak. It definitive as to what the managers need to do with their subordinates and it defines very practical and clear roles for a leader. It ensures that questions are constantly being asked of improvements in work performance to reach the mutual objectives of all.
On the other hand, there are also many criticisms that are to be addressed. This model is regarded to be a very complex theory since it considers many parameters and therefore requires extensive analysis of those parameters to effectively choose the correct leadership style for the situation at hand. Additionally, another limitation has come about from the relationships detailed by the path-goal model. These have been the subjects of a number of empirical studies to test the validity of the theory (Schriesheim & Kerr, 1997; Schriesheim & Schriesheim, 1980; Schriesheim & Von Glinow, 1977; Stinson & Johnson, 1975; Wofford & Liska, 1993). In some of this research, it is apparent that leader direction is strongly related to the worker's satisfaction when tasks are ambiguous, however other pieces of research fail to agree on this.
Another factor to be noted as a criticism of this theory is element that not all aspects of the theory have been given the same amount of attention and detail in the creation of the model, as well as much of the research to date only involving partial aspects of the model (Faulk & Wendler, 1982), it is evident that a good level of detail has gone into the aspects of directive and supportive leadership, unlike the other two styles, participated and achievement-orientated, have fewer studies addressing them. It is therefore that the claims of this model will remain tentative due to the lack of a "full picture" in the research findings and not being able to have consistent corollaries of path-goal theory (Evans, 1996; Jermier, 1996; Schriesheim & Neider, 1996).
This extent research has tested the theory's predictions regarding the moderators of leadÂership effectiveness, and how to assess as to whether the situational variables interrelate with the leadership styles in the predicted approach. It can be verified that the model is successful in predicting how the situational variables and leadership styles come together to influence individual satisfaction. However, the model seems not be a good predictor of a group or even and individual performance.
The final criticism that can be made of the path-goal theory concerns an indirect outcome as a result of implementing such a theory. The model greatly relies on leaders to give full direction, coaching and guidance to their subordinates and it is the leaders who define the goals and assist them in their path to success and achieving these objectives. This therefore means that there is an enormous reliance on the leaders from the workforce, disregarding independence. As a result subordinates are dependent and reliant on the leaders and managers to get through the obstacles during the path to the goal, and hence, this theory fails to recognise and utilise the full abilities and skills of the subordinates, asking questions of the subordinates in the firm rather than the leaders, and originally mentioned in the original theory (Green, 1979).
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In some ways we can see that the major disadvantage in trying to authenticate the model empirically, is the fact that the model contains too many variables and simply tries to explain too much, making it very complex. Therefore, conducting an experiment examining the full path-goal theory of leadership will be difficult because of the numerous variables. Nonetheless, the studies that are available tend to support the model, even though they suggest that it understates the intricacy of the situation. Adding to this, the research mentioned recommend that other variables, such as structure and conflict, also need to be integrated into it.
The path-goal theory was developed for leaders to help and assist them in motivating subordinates to be productive, efficient and increase job satisfaction. Due to it being a theory that is based upon the task, the behaviour of the leader as well as the contributions of the subordinates, it can be classed as a contingency theory, one of which has been derived and created from the expectancy theory. An expectancy theory is one about the mental processes regarding choosing or making a choice. It explains the processes that an individual undergoes to make choices. On the other hand a contingency theory can be defined as the theory that explains how different management styles will be more effective in different situations.
Looking at the four different leadership styles, it gives the leader room for change and provides a more dynamic approach to this aspect of business. It is certain to say that leadership does affect and employee's work performance. As to what extent by which it is affected, that is something that is subject to a matter of individual opinion. Referring back to my stance, it can be believed that there is a strong positive relation between a good leader and subsequently increased work performance by the subordinates. Theories and models such as this, the path-goal model, provide a great guidance to leaders and manager as to how they can be effective themselves, in order for this to be passed down the hierarchy in the firm.
This model gives some structure an despite the fact that it does have many criticisms and drawbacks it is one that offers a large et of predictions and assumptions as to how leaders interact with their subordinates, and the idea of "steering" them down the right "path" in order to achieve this common goal and objective with a reward that motivates them, achieving goal attractiveness is a great one, and perfectly sums up this theory and its objectives. Being one of the first models to provide an expanded framework, which brings together the previous works of contingent and situational leadership, it is far more complex than what one would initially think. It proves that leadership is effective and useful, especially when tasks are unclear and/or the subordinates are autonomous, and choosing the right leadership style is essential in motivating employees and increasing their work performance. It is therefore that I believe that leadership does greatly affect and influence employee work performance, looking at it through the analysis of the path-goal theory of leader effectiveness.