Example of Path-Goal Theory

One of the theories discussed in class that I have related to is the path-goal theory. From our lesson commentary, path-goal theories assume that effective leaders will provide valued rewards for the follower and they will help the subordinate to find the best method of reaching their goal. A prominent example path-goal leadership in my life is when I was apart of the fitness instructor group at Penn State. The program assigns mentors to upcoming instructors. There are 16 weeks for the students to learn and grow under the mentor. During this time, there are 5 weekly lessons, 3 weekly physical training sessions and 2 weekly assigned classes for the subordinate to instruct. The role the mentor plays is so crucial for the mentee.

         The mentor guides the mentee along the lessons,   they evaluate their classes and sign off their training sessions. Near the end of the 16 weeks mentees are invited to an audition and a group interview.  The mentor’s responsibility is to strengthen their mentee’s ability to structure and perform a variety of class plans. A major part of this role is to support the mentee emotionally. Stepping in front of a class of 50 plus students to lead an aerobics class is a stressful situation! It is important to lead a large group with confidence. My mentor was a tremendous influence on my development. She always talked to me 10 minutes before each class, she gave me a saying to repeat, “I am credible, I am confident and I can do this”.

          Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy in 2012 created several outlines for the leader-subordinate relationship. One outline was that a leader’s actions should strengthen the follower’s beliefs that if they exert a certain level of effort, then they will accomplish a task and if they accomplish a task then they will achieve a valued outcome. My favorite memory of my mentor was before I was going to teach my first kickboxing class. I was so nervous for the class because it required a tough personality, I am known to have a soft personality and like being viewed that way! My mentor sat me down and gave me examples of all the times that I had made a good class plan and executed it well. This was really helpful to have someone tell me that they believed in my potential. She even set up a plan of attack, that each week I would teach five more minutes than the last (she led the remainder of the class). This was a path created my mentor that helped me reach my goal.            

I believe in this theory because of my success in the fitness instructor program. If it was not for the path that was led by my mentor I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that I had. I am so thankful for these leaders in my life. In turn, I feel that I am a stronger subordinate and a stronger leader. I really enjoyed learning about this theory in our class. 

Northouse, P.G. (2013).  Leadership: Theory and Practice.  Los Angeles: Sage Publications


  1. The path-goal theory is about how leaders motivate subordinates to accomplish designated goals (Northouse, 2013). Your example proves that for the leader, the challenge was to use a leadership style that best met your motivational needs (Northouse, 2013). Your mentor was a supportive leader, as evidenced by your ability to be a successful fitness instructor. Supportive leaders are friendly and approachable leaders that attend to the well-being and needs of their subordinates (PSU WC L6, p. 14). She could also have been an achievement-oriented leader, in which she could challenge subordinates to perform work at the highest level possible (Redmond, 2013).

    Northouse, P.G. (2013).  Leadership:  Theory and Practice (6th edition).  Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. 


    I think it is important that the leader be able to empower their subordinate so that they feel that they can be successful. This may be described as the ‘supportive’ approach where a leader is able to tell, listen, or direct a subordinate in the way that that individual needs. However, I think it is more likely that the leader is emotionally intelligent and able to intimately relate to the subordinate so that they can enhance their strengths and sort of hide their weaknesses. I believe being emotionally intelligent is essentially ‘putting the right people in the right places’ by using the leader’s ability to assess their people. Though this does require more of a developed relationship between the subordinate and supervisor.

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