Path goal leadership is a very personal theory. For instance, sometimes I
feel like life is constantly dangling a carrot from a stick right in
front of my face. It may bother me a little, but it doesn’t stop me from
going after it. That’s the great thing about goals, no matter how long
they stay in front of you, is that you keep going after them.
The path goal leadership theory plays on this concept. It is the strategy of leadership that makes the leader’s task to motivate and clarify the group’s goals, essentially making them a coach. This interpretation holds that the leader empowers the group to reach their goals, and ensures that they share an awareness of what those goals are. As the leader you are not only charged with giving your team the carrot, but making sure that carrot is what they really want (and that they can eventually get it.)
Path goal leadership theory encourages a strong communication about
goals and direction, with a strong relationship between the leader and
the group. With a clear set of requirements and providing the tools to
complete them, the leader can build a string of successes toward the end
There are four roles the leader can play within this theory (as defined by Robert House, an organizational theorist who first coined the term.) These subsets of leadership style in the path goal theory are adaptable to different situations and not mutually exclusive, so leader’s can adjust to fit their needs.
If you have a good understanding of what the needs of the group are, then you can adapt to the styles as the situation demands:
When working with a team that has lost motivation, or whose goals have become unclear through a significant change in the environment, path goal leadership is a great way to get everyone back on agreeable terms. With ease to visualize goals, and the direction to achieve them, you can create a sort of small-scale mission that is easier to communicate to the team and get buy in for.
Once you have the team “on the path”, with the carrot so deliciously positioned, the group will start to see the value of the group and regain their faith in the mission.