The Path goal leadership theory is a model which is totally based on a leader’s style or behaviour that is best for the employee and the work environment in order to accomplish a given set of goals. The sole motive is to increase employee’s motivation, to empower them, be content which results in productive members of the organisation. Based on Vroom’s expectancy theory which states that an individual will act in a particular manner based on what is expected from the act, further followed by a given outcome. Martin Evans was the first to introduce path-goal theory in 1970 which was further developed by House in 1971.

To make it simpler and easy to understand, the path-goal theory is a process in which the leaders select a particular behaviour or style which is best for the employees needs and the environment to be worked on. This helps them in obtaining their daily goals and activities.

Path-goal theory is not given in details. It generally follows some basic steps which are as follows:

  1. Determining employees and environmental characteristics.
  2. Selecting a leadership style
  3. Emphasis on factors that’ll help the employee to succeed


All the employees of an organisation interpret their leader’s behaviour according to their needs, which includes the degree of structure they require, affiliation, level of ability perceived, desire for control. For instance, if the leader is providing more structure than what is required than it leads to de-motivation. Therefore, a leader needs to have a proper understanding of their employees to know the best way to motivate them.


Fighting obstacles is one of the prime motive of path-goal theory. If any of the obstacles tend to be strong than the leader needs to come in and find a solution for the employees to work in. Given below are some of the characteristics that often arise in our path:

  1. Designing of task- designing of a task requires a leader’s support. For instance, if the work to be performed is ambiguous, than the leader may step in to provide more structure or support.
  2. Formal authority system- looking at the task authority and the environment, the leader needs to provide clear goals.
  3. Group work- if the team is not supportive at all than the leader needs to be cohesive which provides zeal and devotion to all the team members.


All the variables that are independent and related to the path-goal theory are the leader’s behaviour or style. The leader needs to set him according to the style of the tasks in order to achieve their goal.

Mitchell and House1 also defined that there are four types of leader’s behaviours or styles, directive, supportive, participative, and achievement. This given types is based on two factors:

  1. Consideration – relationship and their behaviours. Mutual respect and trust.
  2. Initiating structure – working task behaviours such as scheduling, organising, and checking whether the work is completed or not.

The four types of behaviours of a leader are stated below:

  1. Directive – In this form of behaviour the leader informs all his/her followers of what outcome is expected, by telling the members what and how to perform a task which includes scheduling and co-ordinating the given work.
  2. Supportive –The leader needs to show some concern and caring for the team members by understanding their problems and being as friendly as possible. Some of the most effective situations are those situations that include mental and psychological challenges.
  3. Participative- The leader needs to discuss with his teammates before coming to a conclusion. It becomes more effective and productive when the subordinates are highly trained and are totally involved in their work.
  4. Achievement- The leader needs to set some challenging situations for his/her followers, expect them to perform their best and make them believe by boosting their confidence.

Read More about Leadership Strategies

Important topics related leadership strategies

Fiedler's Contingency Model

Hersey and Blanchard's situational theory

Leader Member Exchange Theory

Path Goal Theory