The Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

The Path-Goal was produced by Robert House and is based on the Motivational Expectation Theory. The model is formed on the employee’s perception that the impact of expended effort on performance depends mainly on the leader’s behavior. Managers assist group members in obtaining rewards by identifying ways to achieve goals and removing barriers to improved production. They provide information, support, and other resources that workers need to accomplish the task.

According to this concept, leadership is not seen as a position of power. Instead, leaders act as coaches and facilitators for their assistants (Goh, et al., 2020). It guides supervisors in improving subordinate satisfaction and performance levels. The premise is that employees are satisfied with productivity when there is a strong relationship between effort and administration and performance and reward. There is a linear relationship between leadership effectiveness and the motivational power of expectations available to followers. The ideal is when rewards are entirely consistent with the outcomes. It is argued that subordinates will favorably perceive and follow a leader only to the extent that they value them as a person who helps them achieve meaningful goals.

The Leader-Member Theory

Leader-member exchange theory takes a different plan than other theoretical strategies because it looks at the dyadic connection, not just a top-down view. It does not suggest that leaders should treat all subordinates the same. Instead, it takes for granted that each manager is individual, each member is different, and their relationship is unique (Cote, 2017). It explains that people interact with each other based on a basic expectation of reciprocity.

The leader-member exchange theory also seeks to account for different roles, diverse people, learning opportunities, working and living conditions, organizational changes, and the profession’s development over time (Cote, 2017). The theory attempts to explain the natural world and the many factors that influence relationships. Leader and member exchange is a good trait in an organization. It recognizes that each follower and leader is unique and will have unique working relationships that develop over time. Developing a working relationship with followers is essential for building trust, but leaders should always do so with an eye toward equal opportunity and maximum involvement of all members.

Comparison of Features of Two Theories

Path-Goal Theory focuses on a leader who can choose variant behaviors (directive, supportive, and achievement-oriented). Accordingly, the manager makes a decision based on employees’ requests and needs to assist employees in performing their assignments and work plans.

Leader-member theory (LMX) concentrates on the dyadic relationship between head and follower, based on the level of interaction and division of duties. In this approach, the responsibility of the leader is to create effective leadership by disseminating valuable information among all employees of the organization. The leader-member theory aims to establish a trusting atmosphere between workers and the leader. Thus, the corresponding loyalty and support of the manager are essential for the effectiveness of cooperation. Each leadership system has the specifics of how the administration influences employees or motivates them to fulfill a purpose (Cote, 2017). The path-goal approach directs on the leader’s behavior, which should help meet the needs of employees; the LMX theory on the established professional and supportive relationships in the team.

General in the theories of Path-Goal Leadership and LMX Leadership is the focus on the attraction and motivation of workers in the organizational environment. These theories can operate at all levels of the company and in each type of task or project. No matter what leadership style a manager chooses, his goal is to support employees in complete outputs and reach objects. In the process of developing an organization, the leader must be flexible about the style or behavior that may be necessary according to the capabilities of the employee and the complexity of the assignments (Cote, 2017). An essential ability for directors who practice these two approaches is adapting to the situation and applying elements of another theory. As a result, businesses can benefit from the fact that employees will be motivated to obtain goals. This will increase job satisfaction, productivity, and cohesion (mutual respect) in the team.

Examples of the Application of the LMX Theory

Facebook motivated its employees according to the LMX model. Zuckerberg used this paradigm to improve in all areas, and this approach produced success for the company. It enabled workers to receive all available information and easily contact managers. This practice is effective because it shows every employee of the organization that everyone is working for the same purpose. Elon Max, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, also practices the LMX theory. He is noted for his ability to inspire, motivate and work closely with his team. The manager’s involvement in all processes allows him to connect with ordinary workers and achieve significant results (Cropanzano, et al., 2017). The theory permits the director to set ambitious aims and motivate workers to fulfill them.

Path-Goal Theory: Starbucks Case

Starbucks widely applicates the theory of ‘Path-goal,’ the main points of which have become leading in the Howard Schultz activities. He made extensive use of the basic behavioral directives of this model, thus inspiring employees in their pursuit of unified goals. His actions are based on the assertion that all workers are partners; they must know they are expected to provide quality services and products to customers (Goh, et al., 2020). The leader took care of his employees and coordinated and encouraged them to realize these purposes by assuming free health services and product discounts. Heinrich Schultz inspired others by his example and developed a trusting relationship with his team, supporting his views on company expansion and development initiatives. It enabled him to set concrete, achievable goals in which the corporation achieved maximum performance and satisfaction.

Path-Goal Theory: Apple Case

‘Apple’ and its former leader Steve Jobs is one of the best examples of applying the Path-Goal theory. Although, as a leader, he made the final decisions, his main statement was that one person never solves big things in business; goals can only be achieved through teamwork. He always listened to the needs of his employees, clearly articulated the idea of new products, and walked the collaborative path together with his followers to achieve the desired success. Steve Jobs was also convinced that everyone should be treated equally, and this was the only way to ensure the maximum contribution of everyone in the company (Cote, 2017). As a manager, he understood the need to work with highly motivated employees. Therefore, he showed by his example the ability to solve problems quickly and thus gain affection. ‘Apple’ employees also have all the technology and incentives because improving well-being leads to better organizational performance.


  • What are the main keys to success according to the Path-Goal theory?
  • From what concept did the Path-Goal theory emerge?
  • What is the position of the leader in Path-Goal theory?
  • What is the importance of motivation in the theory of Leader-Member Exchange?
  • What is the peculiarity of the theory of the LMX according to the examples?
  • What aspects of cooperation are influenced by the theory of the LMX?


Cote, R. (2017). A comparison of leadership theories in an organizational environment. International Journal of Business Administration, 8(5), 28-35.

Cropanzano, R., Dasborough, M. T., & Weiss, H. M. (2017). Affective events and the development of leader-member exchange. Academy of Management Review, 42(2), 233-258.

Goh, S. Y., Kee, D. M. H., Ooi, Q. E., Boo, J. J., Chen, P. Y., Alosaimi, A., & Ghansal, M. (2020). Organizational culture at Starbucks. Journal of the Community Development in Asia, 3(2), 28-34.

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