The “Path” to Leadership
How do you define a leader? There are various aspects and details involved when defining leadership and its outcome, in any different types of situations. One comes across many different types of leadership and learns to recognize their particular characteristics and form of execution. Path-goal theory of leadership, defined by Bob House in the 70´s, is “how a leader motivates followers to accomplish their goals” (PSU, WC, 2020, lesson 6). This theory “emphasizes the relationship between the leader’s style that best meet follower’s and the organizational setting” (Northouse, L. 6 pg.115, 2016). I personally have a great friend, who has become a mentor when it comes to my professional life. He is, in my opinion, a path-goal oriented leader and has adapted his motivation-based tactics according to my characteristics and situations. The theory is a concise way to generate success based on adaptability- which, goes in line with Charles Darwins statement that “the strongest species are not the strongest, but the most responsive to change”.
There are various ways to define a leader, based on the path-goal theory. According to Northouse, four key components of leadership are: “definition of goals, clarification of path, provides support and removing undesired obstacles” (Northouse, L. 6 pg.116, 2016). Also, four clear leadership behaviors that can aid in defining a leader are – directive leadership, supportive leadership, participative leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership. Directive leadership goes hand in hand with explaining and attaining specific goals based on set timelines. Supportive leadership is one where the leader is “friendly and approachable” to assist his followers when needed. Participative leadership is a definition that characterizes a leader who “invites followers to be a part of the decision-making process” (PSU, WC, 2020, lesson 6). And last, is the achievement-oriented leadership, in which a leader “defies its followers to perform at their best” (Northouse, L. 6 pg.115, 2016).
The four behaviors of a path-oriented leader discussed above are defined because, if a leader is able to understand them, they can become great tools for success. A leader must learn how to adapt based on his/her subordinates and the situation in which they are present in. This adaptability is displayed based on the subordinates “satisfaction and his/her perception of their own capabilities” and task characteristics, such as “the design of the task, authority system of organization and his/her primary work group” (PSU, WC, 2020, lesson 6). The subordinate`s characteristic’s research has been primarily in “need for affiliation, preferences for structure, desires for control and self-perceived level of capability” (Northouse, L. 6 pg.118, 2016). A subordinate who is very expressive, both verbally and action-driven, are easier to understand and adapt to their needs. A good leader can receive information and adapt accordingly. A great leader, in my opinion, not only must adapt to a subordinate’s characteristics, but most be able to clearly define them by intuition and knowledge. It is difficult to understand one’s own motivations and have clearly defined characteristics; as people change over time. It is essential to adapt one’s leadership based on the present characteristics being demonstrated, sometimes in a subtle manner, in the present situation.
My mentor, who is also my strategic partner in development projects, is a path-goal oriented leader because of many reasons. He has successfully gained my confidence and has truly made an effort to understand my motivations, opinions, and emotional tenure. He has motivated me in understanding that if I put a little more effort, my reward will be multiplied; which resembles Huges, Ginnett and Curphy opinion, which state that “a leaders actions should strengthen the followers beliefs that if they exert a certain level of effort, they will accomplish a task and if they can accomplish a task, then they will achieve a valued outcome” (PSU, WC, 2020, lesson 6). He has removed obstacles from my path, sometimes put in front of my path by my own inexperience. For example, I was applied for a construction permit, and it was turned down a few weeks after. I was about to angrily demand my “rightful” permit to what I know would be a great acquisition to the city, when he stopped me and explained that that would only put my project down for good. Instead, he advised me to hire a professional and focus in other aspects of the project. Two weeks later, I had my permit. He has adapted to my inexperience and preferences of what I expect in a leader, and executed them in a synergized, meticulous way. He has been an achievement-oriented leader by pushing my personally imposed limitations and making me realize my potential. Great projects have resulted due to his leadership and my hard work.
Path goal theory of leadership is learning to accomplish goals, with your subordinates, through the correct motivational needs based on the situation. A great leader can not only demonstrate different types of leadership behaviors, but also understand the underlying motivations and behaviors in others; and aid the subordinates based on their characteristics to excel and deliver. I have learned immensely about my capabilities based on this style of leadership being utilized by my mentor. Adaptability and motivation are key components for this style of leadership to be successful.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership Theory and Practice, Seventh Edition. Chapters 1 & 2. Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2016). Psych 485 Lesson 6: Contingency & Path-Goal Theories. Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2015147/modules/items/29089188