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Path-Goal Theory Case Study

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Updated: May 16th, 2019


The three leaders in the case study operate under different work conditions, group norms and employee-types. Consequently, the effectiveness and ineffectiveness eminent in each of the shifts depends on the leader’s ability to merge his or her leadership style with these variables.

Model description

The model chosen for analysis is known as the Path-goal model. In this school of thought, leaders ought to motivate their followers in order to facilitate goal accomplishment. The theory has four major aspects that include goal definition, path clarification, elimination of obstacles and support provision. Furthermore, leaders ought to alter their leadership style in response to employee characteristics and task characteristics.

In the path-goal model, one can be a directive, achievement oriented, supportive, and participative leader. A directive leader clarifies goals, timelines and all other aspects of work. He or she manages various aspects of work. The achievement – oriented supervisor causes workers to feel challenged through high goal – setting and by urging them to accomplish those goals.

A supportive leader focuses on subordinates’ human needs while the participative leader seeks ideas and opinions from employees. These characteristics are not mutually exclusive as one may choose a different type of behavior depending on the situation under consideration. In addition, one leader can demonstrate more than one type of style at any one time.

For one to become a successful leader, one must know the characteristics of one’s followers. Subordinates traits change depending in their preferences for structure, their desire for control, their need for affiliation as well as the confidence they have in their ability to complete tasks.

Those with a high need for affiliation require a supportive leader while employees with an internal locus of control (those who believe in their ability to control their lives) require participative leaders. Individuals with great confidence in their ability to perform tasks need to have less directive leaders. Employees who exhibit authoritarian traits and work in uncertain situations require directive leadership for clarity.

Task characteristics can also alter leadership behaviors. Situations with ambiguous tasks require structured leadership, hence directive managers. On the other hand, repetitive tasks require supportive and human-centered styles. Work places with weak group norms and formal authority require less directive styles.

The model is useful in facilitating motivation among employees. Additionally, if applied correctly, employees will find great satisfaction in their work. They will have rewards and payoffs that they can work towards. It helps to put goals at the center of work activities and thus enhance results. Leaders can eliminate obstacles and support their followers to optimize their potential through this model.

Analysis of the case study

Art appears to have a number of leadership challenges. His employees are bored and lack motivation to carry out their duties. They also know their tasks inside out. The path goal theory states that directive leadership is suitable to dogmatic subordinates who have unclear, complex and ambiguous tasks. In the first shift, employees are not authoritarian at all. They are already confident about their ability to complete tasks. Additionally, they seem to have an internal locus of control.

The last thing they need is a directive leader, yet Art has selected the directive leadership style. His behavior is incompatible with his employees and well as their work environment.

Art needs to minimize his level of involvement in the employees’ work. He should borrow some of Bob’s ideas by dealing with his subordinates’ human needs. Art ought to work on his likeability as well as his ability to relate to his subordinates. These workers need a human touch and they have a high need for affiliation, which is the perfect scenario for supportive leadership.

Conversely, Bob, who supervises the second shift, has a different set of leadership challenges. Bob is a supportive leader as seen through his interactions with workers. He remembers his followers’ birthdays, takes them out for lunch, and praises their performance. However, this approach does not suit their task characteristics as outlined in the path-goal model. The employees are uncertain about some of their tasks especially when the computer is poorly calibrated.

They seem to have ambiguous goals and work under a lot of pressure. Their set up changes very frequently, so they require a supervisor who will clarify their goals. Additionally, these employees have low confidence in their ability to perform tasks as they keep talking about how difficult the job is. This scenario requires a directive leader who will provide structure and guide them in their daily tasks. Bob ought to get more involved in his subordinates’ tasks so as deal with this challenge.

Lastly, Carol seems to have mastered her situation and her employees quite well. She is a participative leader in certain circumstances, a supportive leader at other times, and an achievement-oriented supervisor in certain circumstances. She knows when to solicit for ideas or when to support workers. Carol represents the ultimate path-goal leader; she works on employees’ personal needs while focusing on the ultimate goal in the enterprise. She also eliminates obstacles and clarifies path in the way that the matter has been described in the theory.

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"Path-Goal Theory." IvyPanda, 16 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/path-goal-theory-case-study/.

1. IvyPanda. "Path-Goal Theory." May 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/path-goal-theory-case-study/.


IvyPanda. "Path-Goal Theory." May 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/path-goal-theory-case-study/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Path-Goal Theory." May 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/path-goal-theory-case-study/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Path-Goal Theory'. 16 May.

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