This is another contingency theory of leadership which has received widespread attention in the literature and is called path-goal theory. In this theory it is explained that subordinate and environmental characteristics are those contingency variables that mediate the relationship between leadership style and subordinate outcomes such as teacher performance, motivation and job-satisfaction.
Path-goal theory is rooted in an expectancy theory of motivation. Its implications for leadership is that subordinate behaviour is motivated by leader behaviour to the extent that the leader influences the expectancies of subordinates in a positive way and is helpful in assisting subordinates in accomplishing goals.
This theory implies that the leadership style of an individual varies as situations within an institution change. This theory also suggests that effective leaders clarify the paths (behaviours) that will lead to desired rewards (goals).
The path-goal theory identifies four kinds of leader behaviour.
(a) Directive Leadership:
The leader provides structure to the work situation by establishing specific expectations for the subordinates, such as the nature, amount and the time of performing a task. The leader insists that specific performance standards should be maintained.
(b) Supportive Leadership:
The leader has friendly relationships and shows concern for the well-being and needs of subordinates. The leader is approachable and exhibits trust.
(c) Achievement-oriented Leadership:
The leader expects high levels of productivity from subordinates and exhibits the confidence that subordinates can achieve these high levels. The leader sets challenging goals and emphasizes excellence.
(d) Participative Leadership:
The leader consults his subordinates and considers their views seriously before taking a decision.
The situational factors in the path-goal theory of leadership include:
(1) Subordinate characteristics such as their locus of control, perceived ability and authoritarianism:
(i) Locus of control refers to the degree to which an individual sees himself or herself in control of the events surrounding him/her. Individuals with an internal locus of control are likely to prefer a participative leader whereas individuals with an external locus of control may respond more favourably to a directive leader.
(ii) Perceived ability refers to the perception of the subordinate of his/her own ability to accomplish an assigned task. Employees with high perceived ability are less likely to prefer a directive leadership.
(iii) Authoritarianism is the degree of authoritarianism in the subordinate influencing his/her need for either a directive or a non-directive leadership behavior.
(2) Environmental characteristics are outside the control of the subordinate. Nevertheless, they influence his/her ability to perform effectively. These are as follows:
(i) Task structure refers to the level of task complexity and ambiguity.
(ii) Authority system refers to the degree to which the formal authority system facilitates or hampers the work behaviour of subordinates.
(iii) Work group refers to the degree to which the primary work group norms are clear and supportive.
In short, the path-goal theory of leadership has a great deal of potential in facilitating an understanding of the intricacies of leader-subordinate behaviour.