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John Terrill’s Leadership Approach at DGL International Report (Assessment)

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One leader’s style may be to exhibit initiating structure activities more frequently than consideration activities, whereas another leader’s style may be the opposite. Following Schien (1996), a large segment of leadership research has focused on the problem of determining which styles of leadership activity are most effective in different work situations. Perhaps the most cogent explanation of why the frequency of leadership behavior is posited to affect the subordinates’ performance and job attitudes is found in House’s Path-Goal theory of leadership effectiveness. Path-goal leadership theory can be successfully used by John Terrill in order to solve the conflicting situation and improve organizational relations.

Discussion Section

House’s model (1971) explains leadership effectiveness as an extension of the expectancy theory of motivation. This model suggests that the subordinate’s satisfaction and work motivation is a function of their expectancy that work effort will result in higher performance levels and the expectancy that higher performance will lead to desired outcomes. The frequency of the leader’s Initiating Structure activities is considered to enhance and reinforce the subordinate’s subjective expectancy that individual effort will result in successfully completed work assignments. The frequency of supervisor Consideration behavior is viewed as a desired outcome reinforcing the subordinate’s job performance. The leadership influence is stronger when the frequency of the reinforcement behaviors is made contingent upon subordinate performance.

In contrast to other models (transformational, situational, and democratic), the strength and need for path-goal leadership effects on subordinate’s motivation will vary depending on the structure of the work task, the subordinate’s psychological and skill attributes, the workgroup norms, and the organization environment. Consequently, the effectiveness of different leadership styles is posited to vary between different work situations (Segriovanni and Glickman 2006). However, at extremely high-intensity levels, the individual’s arousal level may be accompanied by feelings of increased tension resulting from the intense stimulus events. It is suggested that at these high levels of arousal, an individual may psychologically withdraw from the stressful events, and the motivational response to the stimulus will begin to decline (Robbins et al., 2006).

The supervisor’s leadership behavior can be represented as a time series of stimulus events for the subordinate where the intensity of specific events and the frequency of events may vary in different relationships (Robbins et al., 2006). If one extends the underlying opponent-process phenomena to explain the subordinate’s response to a time series of leadership events, then the hypothesis could be made that the manifest response to intense leadership incidents will be inversely related to the frequency of the supervisor’s leadership activity. When an active leader demonstrates an intensely satisfying or dissatisfying behavior, the strength of the subordinate’s opponent process will dampen the hedonic disturbance and quickly return the subordinate to an equilibrium position derived from the normal leadership experiences with that supervisor (Segriovanni and Glickman, 2006). Consequently, there will be weaker manifest responses to intense leadership incidents the more active the leader is. Conversely, when an inactive leader demonstrates an intensely satisfying or dissatisfying behavior, the subordinate’s weak opponent-process will be less inhibiting on the level of hedonic disturbance and will be slower in returning the subordinate to an equilibrium position. Consequently, there are likely to be stronger motivational effects associated with intense leadership incidents of less active leaders. There are various criterion variables that could be utilized to measure the subordinate’s manifest response to leadership stimuli. The subordinate’s job performance has often been used as an important measure of leadership effectiveness in the Path-Goal model. Arousal theory, however, would suggest that the subordinate’s activation to exert high-performance effort may be accompanied by a corresponding increase in perceived stress. Therefore, the criterion variables of subordinate’s job performance and job tension were of particular relevance in assessing the manifest responses to intense leadership events (Robbins et al., 2006).

Both shared a common administrative/policy umbrella. Using variables conceptually similar to those House analyzed in the early development of his approach, we did not find consistent relationships across bureaus or managerial levels. The data were consistent with clinical forecasts, but we did not explicitly measure environmental, technological, or structural conditions. Exploratory analysis of organizational environments and lateral leadership appeared fruitful, and psychometrically sound instruments for measuring them now appeared to be available. It was decided to collect another round of data in a sample where units shared a common technology and structure but differed in their geographical location (Summers and Smith 2006).

It also became increasingly clear that theoretical developments in the microanalysis of leadership were difficult to translate beyond the individual and small group level. The literature in organization theory (Summers and Smith 2006) was a conceptual morass of conflicting perspectives, measures, and premises. However, there appeared to be some consensus concerning the overall pattern of relationships among environmental conditions, structure, and performance. In more uncertain, dynamic settings, organizations with a more organic structure appeared to outperform their more rigidly structured counterparts. The leader could alter the mismatch between environment and structure to increase the chances of unit success. The model proposes that path-goal leadership is affected by macro factors and that leadership and complexity interact to influence unit outcomes (Lagone and Rohs 2003). Organizations are designed to accomplish objectives assuming a typical pattern of environmental, contextual, and structural conditions. However, these conditions may vary across work units. As complexity increases, these variations are assumed to increase. Reinforcement and exchange views center on recognition of inconsistencies in the stream of external reinforcers and the ability to make inconsistencies negotiable instruments for leadership influence (Segriovanni and Glickman 2006).


As the environment, context, and structure of a unit become more complex; there are more such streams of reinforcement and potential areas of exchange. At the same time, greater complexity from the environment, context, or structure is seen as producing an imbalance among external factors. Leader action attributed to the superior is expected to have a more dramatic impact on subordinate affective states than action attributed to role requirements. The action attributed to the leader may be seen as direct assistance in coping with the job and organizational problems. Conversely, when action is attributed to the “system,” it is not seen as particularly helpful to subordinates in solving their particular problems. Thus action attributed to the system may be relatively noninfluential. For performance, the linkage is somewhat different. Concerning performance, the table shows the most consistent pattern of results to be with environmental and structural complexity (Zaccaro and Klimoski 2006). The path-goal leadership model will help DGL International to maintain criteria with the most consistent pattern of significance. This is especially true for contextual complexity where all three lateral dimensions are involved. Environmental complexity is also important, especially for adaptation to pressure.


House R. J. 1971, A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16, 321-38.

Lagone, C. A., and Rohs, F. R. 2003, Community Leadership Development: Process and Practice. Journal of the Community Development Society, 26 (4), 252-267

Robbins, SP, Bergman, R, Stagg, I & Coulter, M 2006, Management, 4th edn, Pearson Prentice Hall, Sydney.

Segriovanni, Th., Glickman, K. 2006, Rethinking Leadership: A Collection of Articles. Corwin Press; 2nd edition.

Schien, E. H. 1996, Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass.

Summers, J & Smith, B 2006, Communication Skills Handbook, Wiley.

Zaccaro, S. J., Klimoski, R. J. 2001, The Nature of Organizational Leadership: Understanding the Performance Imperatives Confronting Today’s Leaders. Jossey-Bass.

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