Path-Goal versus Situational Leadership

Darryl Bachmeier
Mar 13, 2019

Path-goal theory focuses on the how the leader can motivate followers. In Path-Goal, the leader adapts their leadership style to the situation. Followers are motivated if they feel they are capable of completing their tasks and if the followers feel the outcome of their works are advantages to them. Path-goal includes contingency theory, as there are three contingences, which are leader style, followers and situation, and the rewards necessary to meet the needs of the followers.

Situational leadership suggests that there is rarely a time where one leadership style will work in all situations. People are unique and require different styles of leadership. It depends on the followers to which style of leader can choose.

Leadership Styles


Path-Goal theory has four types of leadership styles: supportive, directive, achievement-oriented and participative. Directive leadership is one-way communication in that the leader gives instructions and the followers carry them out. Participative leadership is when the leader gives instructions but asks for feedback and suggestions from followers. Supportive leadership encourages the followers to achieve their goals, provides additional resources to meet their needs and leaves many decisions up to followers. In addition, supportive leadership is more personal seeking to treat followers uniquely. Achievement-oriented focuses on building competitive spirit in the followers and gives incentive to complete tasks.


Situational theory states that followers are unique because of their education, skills, confidence and eagerness to work. This leadership style therefore is dependent on the follower. There are four leader styles: delegation, participating, selling, and telling. These leader styles make up a spectrum of both supportive behavior and task behavior. Telling leadership exists when the leader communicates to the followers how they are to complete their tasks. Selling exists when leaders voice what needs to be completed but includes more participation from their followers. Participation occurs when the leader focuses more on leader-follower relationships and shares decision making with followers. Delegation style of leadership exists when the leader empowers their followers to take on most of the responsibility.

Both Path-Goal and Situational theory have four styles of leadership but they differ in that Path-Goal focuses on the leader matching the follower and situation. While, situational theory focuses on the follower’s readiness.



In Path-Goal theory, the leader attempts to influence on the follower’s outcomes and to assist them to reach their goals. The path portion of path-goal theory refers to how the leader helps the follower to perceive the rewards they can achieve through their performance. It is also about the leader supports the follower to learn the necessary behaviors in order to complete their tasks effectively. The goal portion refers to the leader aiding the follower to increase the number of rewards available. The leader helps the follower to determine, which intrinsic or extrinsic rewards they desire.


Situational leadership also considers the competence and the confidence of the follower and work ethic of the follower. The style of leadership can be uniquely applied to each follower. This is concerning the skill and knowledge level for the tasks that the follower must complete. In addition, how confident the follower feels they can complete their work. A follower may have the necessary knowledge but may not feel confident enough. A follower may also be eager but does not yet have the necessary skills.

In Situational leadership theory, there are four levels of follower readiness: low, moderate, high and very high with a spectrum of leader directive behavior. The leader must determine the readiness of the follower and then choose an appropriate leader style. Low readiness happens when the follower is unable and unwilling or insecure about their work. In this case, the leader should use the telling style of leadership. Moderate readiness exists when the follower is unable but willing or confident about their work. Moderate readiness calls for the telling style of leadership. High readiness occurs when the follower is able but unwilling or insecure; this calls for participating leadership. Very high readiness exists when the follower is able and willing or confident; it is best to use delegating style of leadership.

Where Path-Goal theory focuses on rewards of intrinsic and extrinsic nature, Situational theory focuses on the readiness, commitment, skills, knowledge and confidence of the follower.


Although Path-Goal and Situational theories adapt to different situations and consider the follower I believe that the most effective leadership theory is Path-Goal. Situational theory is appropriate to the competence and the confidence of the follower but it is not as personal as path-goal that involves the follower’s emotions. Like Situational theory, Path-Goal has four leadership styles that allow the leader to adapt in different situations but it is Path-Goal theory that considers the needs of the follower. These needs can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Path-Goal is more personal and focuses on the relationship between the leader and their followers. In addition, Path-Goal is supportive of the follower.

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