House’s Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

Cite this article as:"House’s Path-Goal Theory of Leadership," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 24, 2020,


What is House’s Path-Goal Theory?

Path-Goal Model of leadership was proposed by Robert House. It concerns the relationship between leadership styles and situations. More specifically, it explores which leadership styles are more effective in any given situation.

The model posits that the primary leadership function is to clarify objectives, set goals, identify methods of accomplishment, and remove obstacles for the subordinate. In this way the leader makes subordinates believe that the methods will lead to higher performance, the performance will be rewarded, and the rewards are valuable. To do this effectively, a leader must adopt a leadership style that fits the situation.

As part of this model, House identified 4 types of leadership style:

  • Directive – Emphasis on telling the subordinate how to perform a task. Used primarily when a subordinate lacks experience or the job is highly complex (requiring management direction).
  • Supportive – Emphasis on personal relationships with subordinates. Used primarily when the job is uninteresting or work is stressful.
  • Participative – The leaders involve subordinates in the decision-making process. Used when a subordinate is experienced and the job is complex.
  • Achievement-Oriented – Managers motivate subordinates by setting lofty goals, focusing on task engagement, and individual improvement. Used when the task is complex and subordinates are not motivated.

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