In this paper I present a retrospective review of the development and history of the path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. I briefly describe the origin of the theory. The theory is then summarized. The various methodologies that have been used to test the theory and lessons learned from empirical testing are discussed. Two legacies of the theory are described: the substitutes for leadership theory and the 1976 theory of charismatic leadership. A reformulated 1996 path-goal theory of work unit leadership is presented. The reformulated theory specifies leader behaviors that enhance subordinate empowerment and satisfaction and work unit and subordinate effectiveness. It addresses the effects of leaders on the motivation and abilities of immediate subordinates and the effects of leaders on work unit performance. The reformulated theory includes 8 classes of leader behavior, individual differences of subordinates, and contingency moderator variables which are related to each other in 26 propositions. The contingency moderators of the theory specify some of the circumstances in which each of the behaviors are likely to be effective or ineffective. It is argued that the essential underlying rationale from which the propositions are derived is strikingly parsimonious. The essence of the theory is the meta proposition that leaders, to be effective, engage in behaviors that complement subordinates ' environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance . This meta proposition, and the specific propositions derived from it, are consistent with, and integrate, the predictions of current extant theories of leadership. Further, the propositions of the theory are consistent with empirical tests with empirical generalizations resulting from earlier task and person oriented research. It is my hope that the 1996 theory will be subjected to empirical tests and that such tests will lead to a further improved theory to be formulated at some future time.
The Leadership Quarterly – Elsevier
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