How can leaders use alternative leadership styles to add value in different types of situations?
The path–goal theory advanced by Robert House seeks the right fit between leadership style and situation.34 Unlike Fiedler, House believed that a leader can use all of the following leadership styles and actually shift back and forth among them:
Path-goal leadership styles
House’s path–goal theory suggests that the key task of any leader is to “add value” to a situation. They do this by shifting among the four leadership styles in ways that contribute something that is missing or needs strengthening. They avoid redundancy by not trying to do things that are already taken care of. When team members are already expert and competent at their tasks, for example, it is unnecessary and even dysfunctional for the leader to tell them how to do things.
There is a variety of research-based guidance on how to contingently match path–goal leadership styles with situational characteristics. When job assignments are unclear,directive leadership helps to clarify task objectives and expected rewards. When worker self-confidence is low, supportive leadership can increase confidence by emphasizing individual abilities and offering needed assistance. When task challenge is insufficient in a job, achievement-oriented leadership helps to set goals and raise performance aspirations. When performance incentives are poor, participative leadership might clarify individual needs and identify appropriate rewards.35
Four Leadership Styles in House’s Path–goal Theory