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Path Goal Theory of Leadership: A Definitive Guide


September 25, 2022



Path Goal Theory of Leadership: A Definitive Guide

Applying the path goal theory of leadership to your corporate training initiative will help you produce effective and competent leaders that can guide your employees and your business to success. Here, you’ll discover the theory’s four main leadership styles and how they can be applied to your corporate training programs to the benefit of your business and your employees. 

What is the path goal theory of leadership?

The path goal theory of leadership states that a leader’s traits and behaviors can directly affect the satisfaction, motivation, and performance of their team members. In other words, how successful a leader is can be determined by their ability to promote the contentment, goals, and skills of their subordinates. Following this, leaders should be flexible enough to complement their team members and make up for their shortcomings with certain leadership styles.  

Path Goal Theory of Leadership - What is the path goal theory of leadership?

The Path goal theory was first developed by Robert J. House and published in the Administrative Science Quarterly in 1971 and later updated in the Leadership Quarterly in 1996. The theory was based on the expectancy theory of motivation, the claim that an individual will act in a particular way because they expect a favorable outcome. 

4 Ways to apply path goal theory

Leaders can use the path goal theory of leadership in different ways. Using a certain leadership style would depend on the workplace structure and relationship behaviors like respect and trust of the team members. 

There are four path goal theory leadership styles that can not only be applied by leaders but also by trainers and instructors delivering corporate training:

1. Directive 

This leadership style identifies clear objectives for the present and the future. It’s mainly based on the workplace structure and is very task-oriented. Here, the leader takes a more active role and sets definite expectations for goals and performance.

In a training setting, this can include more individualized coaching and classroom instruction as opposed to freestyle, self-paced learning. Larger training objectives can be divided into manageable steps with checkpoints along the way. The directive strategy also makes use of incentives for success and sanctions for non-compliance.

2. Supportive 

In this and the following styles, things like respect, trust, and association among team members are considered. Team leaders are approachable and should show sincere concern for their team members’ problems. 

Providing training naturally falls into the scope of supporting others. As a trainer or instructor, you should care about your employees’ needs and wants to support them in achieving their professional development goals. One way of doing this is to make your training available for self-directed learning. Make it simple for them to find courses like new manager training courses and professional development training courses that they need at any time, as well as provide timely support and guidance when necessary. 

Path Goal Theory of Leadership - Way to apply path goal theory

3. Participative

When you use participative path goal theory in your training sessions, you give your employees a way to engage with the training program by involving them in goal setting. This concept of leadership relies heavily on input and feedback, so encourage them to create notes, share courses, and give opinions to each other. 

This is achievable with social learning technologies that are available on most modern learning management systems (LMS). Your workers will be free to engage with and imitate their colleagues as a result. The informal peer network’s activity stream can promote friendly competition and self-directed study.

4. Achievement-oriented 

This achievement-oriented behavior is used by leaders who demand a lot from their team members. It’s often also referred to as the theory of goal-setting. For this strategy to be effective, leaders must project confidence in their team’s ability to overcome obstacles. 

Set the bar high when it comes to employee training initiatives. Make a list of the courses you require to be completed by your employees and give them a deadline. Additionally, to help your employees stay on track with their training, consider implementing a standup bot. This tool can send daily reminders to employees to complete their required courses, as well as provide a platform for them to discuss their progress and any challenges they may be facing. You can also consider holding a daily standup meeting to keep everyone accountable and ensure that they are making progress toward their training goals. Connect your courses to a more important objective, project, or priority. Even if the timeframe is short, be sure to say that this is an achievable goal.

5 Benefits of path goal theory of leadership

1. Overcome challenges in training

Challenges and obstacles in training, such as low participation rates or unfinished courses, are unfortunately inevitable sometimes. Providing trainers with the four different strategies can better prepare them to avoid problems and equip them with the means to handle different types of learners. This way, delivering successful corporate training programs becomes more possible. 

2. Achieve training-related goals

Having effective training methods can guide your future leaders in the right direction and achieve your training-related goals. These can include reaching high test score averages or improving specific skills and abilities. Ultimately, the business can only stand to benefit by making up for shortcomings and supporting its leaders and employees in setting and reaching their goals.  

3. Boost productivity, motivation, and confidence

Successfully completing training programs can lead to significant boosts in productivity, motivation, and confidence. Effective trainers, and by extension effective leaders, understand the importance of rewarding and recognizing efforts through the use of incentives and intrinsic motivation. By applying different path goal leadership styles, you can drive employees to their maximum potential. 

Path Goal Theory of Leadership - Benefits of path goal theory of leadership

4. Encourage a support network

Having a supportive training and leadership style ensures that interactions remain learner-centered. Your employees’ personal preferences and emotional needs are accounted for and are at the center of decision-making. When employees feel respected and valued, they are more likely to develop a stronger bond with the organization and their colleagues and tend to work harder.

5. Build a positive work environment

A more positive and functional environment is nurtured when the path goal theory is applied to corporate training. As communication and collaboration allow employees to be involved in daily workplace happenings, a peaceful workplace can be created and nurtured. Having a Zen workplace instantly alleviates stress, resulting in employees becoming more productive and being provided with more effective and successful leaders. Professional development training courses also help to create a more positive and functional environment by teaching employees how to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Create corporate training courses with EdApp

Creating corporate training that applies the strategies mentioned in the path goal theory of leadership is simple and easy with EdApp. As an award-winning company training software, you can implement various elearning strategies such as microlearning, gamification, social learning, real-time feedback, and learning paths. 

Path Goal Theory of Leadership - EdApp

EdApp supports a free online course library with over 1000 courses, including leadership training and various self-improvement courses. Use these courses as is or add special touches by editing them on EdApp’s Creator Tool to match your company’s brand and guidelines better. 

Here are some of the leadership courses that you can find in their course library: 

  • Leading Under Pressure – In this course, award-winning rescue diver John Volanthen teaches leaders and aspiring ones how to effectively deal with high-pressure situations and make it a practiced skill. Most of the leadership techniques and advice listed here are based on his experience in planning and executing some of the world’s most complex rescue dives.
  • Leadership and Coaching/Management Styles – This free online course helps managers explore different management styles and how leaders can apply them to drive better outcomes for their teams. It also goes through various techniques for developing a winning strategy to attract top talents, ways to foster a positive workplace culture, and best practices for onboarding new employees.
  • Beginning to Lead a High-Performing Team – Designed for first-time leaders, this course explores the key factors that help build high-performing teams and the key qualities that make a leader strong and dependable. It also guides learners on how to become an effective and transformational leader and explains the “leadership shadow” to improve the self-awareness of managers as leaders.
Path Goal Theory of Leadership - Leading Under Pressure

As a trainer, you’ll also have access to a course creator tool and a template library to help you build your courses from scratch – no design or programming experience required. You can even make use of features like real rewards, where you can incentivize learners with prizes, or Brain Boost, a spaced repetition tool that helps embed key information into long-term memory. You can also even create your own quizzes with EdApp’s built-in quiz software, Rapid Refresh.

Join EdApp for Free and apply the path goal theory of leadership to your training programs today!

Darcy is a learning expert at EdApp, a mobile-based training platform that helps businesses bring their training solutions to the next level with democratized learning. She has a background in content writing and specializes in eLearning and global communications. When she’s not writing SEO-optimized content, she’s trying to finish her video game backlog.