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The path-goal theory of leadership is a contingency theory of leadership developed by Robert house in 1971.

The path-goal theory of leadership was created to explain how leaders can help followers in achieving their goals by choosing certain behaviors that are most appropriate based on followers' needs and the situation in which followers are working.

It believes that the chosen leadership styles adopted by a leader should depend on the behavior, need, and context of the organization.

In other words, the path-goal theory believes that leaders should used select the the most suitable leadership style according to subordinate characteristics and environmental factors. 

According to the path-goal theory, the subordinate characteristics that leaders should consider when deciding on the leadership style to be adopted are the perceived ability of the subordinates, experience of the subordinates, and locus of control.

Locus of control is the degree individuals believe they have control over their lives. A person with an external locus of control thinks that most of what happens to him are caused by forces outside of his control, whereas a person with an internal locus of control thinks that most of what happens to him are caused by his actions. People who have an external locus of control always think that theirluck and chance are to blame for everything that occurs to them.

According to the path-goal theory, the environmental factors that leaders should consider when deciding on the leadership style to be adopted are task structure, formal authority system, and primary work group.

The theory also believes that the leadership style used by a  manager should be the one that maximizes both performance and job satisfaction. 

The path-goal argues that leaders can increase subordinate satisfaction and performance by clarifying the paths to goals and by increasing the number and kinds of incentive available for goal attainment.

The basic idea of the path-goal theory is that leaders define goals, clarifies path, remove obstacles and provide support to subordinates.

According to the path-goal theory, leaders should clarify how followers may accomplish organizational goals, address any issues that stand in their way, and then come up with more creative rewards to encourage followers to reach their goal.

Leadership style/Behaviours in Path-goal theory of Leadership

The path-goal theory of leadership identified four leadership styles or behaviours, namely; directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented leadership style. These styles are based on situational circumstances and environmental factors of the organization.

1. Directive leadership: In this style of leadership, managers tell staff members what is expected of them, provide clear instructions for carrying out duties, schedule work, establish performance benchmarks, and ensure that everyone abides by the laws and regulations.

Directive leaders communicate job expectations to subordinates, provide the required guidance for task performance-oriented behavior, and establish deadline for the completion of task

A directive leader often establishes clear performance standards and explains the rules and regulations to their team members.

When followers favor authoritarian leadership or when they lack experience and need constant supervision and guidance in order to do their jobs well, directive leadership is a great choice.

Additionally, when subordinates have an external locus of control such that they always blame external factors for their failures, directive leadership should be applied.

2. Supportive leadership: This entails being approachable and nice to staff members, demonstrating concern for them and their well-being, treating them equally, and fostering a friendly environment.

Supportive leadership resembles the considerate leadership behavior identified by the Ohio studies of leadership. 

Supportive leaders are highly considerate and genuinely care about their followers' welfare.

A supportive leader tries to create a warm and friendly environment by being friendly and approachable.  

Supportive leadership often results in employee satisfaction with the job and with leaders.

When a supportive leadership style is used successfully, it may also improve performance by lowering employee job stress, boosting employee confidence, and fostering better relationships and trust between staff members and leaders.

In a situation where followers do not desire authoritarian leadership, then a supportive leadership style should be used.

3. Achievement-oriented leadership: An achievement-oriented leader sets challenging goals, has high expectations of employees, and displays confidence that employees will assume responsibility and  work tirelessly to complete tasks.

Achievement-oriented leaders encourage their subordinates to strive for excellence by giving them challenging yet achievable goals.

An achievement-oriented leader always expects followers to perform at the highest level possible and uses goals to reward them for doing so.

Achievement-oriented leadership is mostly used when followers have a lot of experience so that they can work independently without the leader's close supervision or when followers have an internal locus of control.

4. Participative leadership: This involves asking for advice and feedback from the followers before making decisions

Participative leaders involve followers in decision-making. Participative leaders operate a collaborative style of leadership as they hold consultations with subordinates and solicit their opinions before making decisions.

Engaging in participative leadership help followers understand which goals are important and clarify the path to accomplishing the goal. 

Furthermore, participative leadership increases followers' commitment to achieving the group's goal since the followers are involve in the setting of the goal.

To sum up, the subordinate characteristics that path-goal theory believes leadership behaviour should be depend are perceived ability of the subordinates, locus of control, and experience of the subordinates.

Additionally, The Path-goal Leadership contends that a manager's leadership style should depend on three environmental factors, namely; the task structure, the primary work group, and the formal authority framework.

Lastly, the path goal leadership also gave four leadership behaviours(or, if you like, leadership styles), which are directive leadership, supportive leadership, and participative leadership.

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