Working with teenagers requires discipline and patience to keep them from losing track of their attention. Lack of motivation is a vital factor that plays a significant role when trying to persuade teenage students to do something. The path-goal approach would be proper to use if applied sufficiently in the right moments. In other words, the principle of Path-Goal is about how leaders inspire followers to achieve designated goals (Northouse, 2016). In comparison to the situational approach, which implies that the leader must respond to the development of the followers, the path-goal theory highlights the connection between the leader’s style and the followers’ attributes and the organizational environment (Northouse, 2016). In an educational setting, one can become an effective teacher if they know their students’ obstacles and know when to interfere with guidance and motivation purposes. When I was a teacher in a local Muslim Community Center on the weekends, I had about five to six students all between the ages of 10-12 in my classroom. While I experimented on maintaining their attention and having them complete appointed assignments, I believe I oriented back and forth between directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented behaviors.
Every Saturday, my first two hours would be spent having them one by one come to me to read a page of the Qur’an while I corrected their mispronunciations, and then I would teach them the rules of how to read the verses in the Qur’an correctly. Since I would assign homework about practicing how to read the verses with the rules I taught in class, those moments would be when directive leadership would take place. Directive leadership behavior requires me to remind my students of what is requested from them, how they will accomplish their assignments, and the timetable for completing each task or homework (PSU WC L.6, 2020). While directing them, I have to bear in mind that they are teenagers and can easily defy the rules I set. So directive behavior is the only the leadership behavior that will lay down the expected framework. In short, as a directive leader, one must demonstrate a clear set of rules and regulations for successful performance (Northouse, 2016).
Once the classroom’s structure has formed, I can demonstrate supportive and participative behaviors. Supportive leadership behavior comprises being friendly and accessible as a leader and acknowledging followers’ well-being and human needs (Northouse, 2016). The opportunity to apply supportive behavior is during the first two hours of my teaching time, which is the Qur’an recitation class. Assigning memorization of verses throughout the week can be difficult when there are social and academic demands expected of my middle school students. To make the task of memorization easier, I would try to talk about the meaning of the verses assigned to give a head start and make the process more meaningful for my students. At the end of the year, when it was time for me to leave the teaching position, my students explicitly stated that learning the meanings of verses helped them enjoy the process and memorize verses faster. During the last two hours, I spent discussing and debating topics my students chose throughout the week before each class. We would discuss Islam topics that included Prophet stories or have reflection moments about questions my students might have encountered about religion in their social environments. By inviting them to select topics freely, I demonstrated participative leadership because I incorporated their recommendations into how our classes’ planning will progress (Northouse, 2016). Leaders can display participative leadership by encouraging subordinates to engage in the decision-making process (Northouse, 2016).
Supportive behavior also consists of treating followers as peers and acknowledging their roles (Northouse, 2016). While answering my students’ questions, I would often give examples of similar situations from my childhood when growing up in Florida. Comparing my childhood helped me build a stronger bond with my students because they knew I experienced most of the things they were going through when I was their age. Teaching my students tactics I used at their age to memorize Quranic verses encouraged them a lot.
At the beginning of the semester, I would announce the plan of competitions held at the end of each month. Again, the act of announcing plans ahead of time would go back to the portrayal of directive leadership behavior. For example, if a student answered correctly the most questions I would ask during the competition, they would get a prize. Since I was aware that teenagers could be picky with prizes, I would let them choose ahead of time what they wanted to win. By doing this, I demonstrated achievement-oriented leadership because I ended up challenging my students to perform the best they could to win what they wanted. Northouse (2016) states that achievement-oriented leaders display a high amount of confidence that followers can set and achieve demanding tasks. I was aware of my student’s capabilities, so I would encourage them to push their limits. Throughout the month, I would occasionally remind students about the competition, which would ignite their motivation towards learning more during class time.
All in all, it is apparent from my experience that different situations require the application of different types of leadership behaviors. First, when assigned tasks need to be structured in a classroom for students to understand what is expected, directive leadership behavior is used. Next, depending on the situation, an effective teacher will transition between supportive and participative behavior. Supportive behavior is to keep tasks worth challenging and nurturing students when they need help achieving set tasks. Participative leadership behavior encourages students to be involved feel part of decision making regarding classroom decisions. Lastly, achievement-oriented behavior is necessary when motivating and challenging students to complete tasks with the best performance. As a teacher, I need to make sure to choose leadership behaviors that fit my students’ needs during a variety of differentiating situations requiring direction, guidance, and coaching, all in the hopes of making sure they successfully meet set expectations of the classroom.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2020). PSYCH 485 Lesson 6: Contingency and Path-Goal Theories. Retrieved https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2075467/modules/items/30110451