The four types of leader behavior in path–goal theory can be seen in Table 13.2. Like SLT, path–goal theory assumes that leaders not only may use varying styles with different subordinates but might also use differing styles with the same subordinates in different situations. Path–goal theory suggests that, depending on the followers and the situation, these different leader behaviors can increase followers’ acceptance of the leader, enhance their level of satisfaction, and raise their expectations that effort will result in effective performance, which in turn will lead to valued rewards (see Highlight 13.5).
TABLE 13.2 The Four Leader Behaviors of Path–Goal Theory
Directive leadership. These leader behaviors are similar to the task behaviors from SLT. They include telling the followers what they are expected to do, how to do it, when it is to be done, and how their work fits in with the work of others. This behavior would also include setting schedules, establishing norms, and providing expectations that followers will adhere to established procedure and regulations.
Supportive leadership. Supportive leadership behaviors include having courteous and friendly interactions, expressing genuine concern for the followers’ well-being and individual needs, and remaining open and approachable to followers. These behaviors, which are similar to the relationship behaviors in SLT, also are marked by attention to the competing demands of treating followers equally while recognizing status differentials between the leader and the followers.
Participative leadership. Participative leaders engage in the behaviors that mark the consultative and group behaviors described by Vroom and Yetton. As such, they tend to share work problems with followers; solicit their suggestions, concerns, and recommendations; and weigh these inputs in the decision-making process.
Achievement-oriented leadership. Leaders exhibiting these behaviors would be seen as both demanding and supporting in interactions with their followers. First they would set challenging goals for group and follower behavior, continually seek ways to improve performance en route, and expect the followers to always perform at their highest levels. But they would support these behaviors by exhibiting a high degree of ongoing confidence that subordinates can put forth the necessary effort; will achieve the desired results; and, even further, will assume even more responsibility in the future.
Shifting Behaviors at Caterpillar
James Despain was a leader with a very directive leadership style. He began his career at Caterpillar Inc. as a young man, sweeping the factory floor. He followed the lead of others of his generation—the 1950s were a time when leaders were the ultimate authority and words like participative and consultative were unheard of. Despain worked his way into supervisory positions and finally was named vice president of the track-type tractor division. Despain claims he “spent much of [his] career as a manager focusing on what employees were doing wrong.” He focused on the tasks at hand and little else. But in the early 1990s Despain had to face some hard facts: his $1.2 billion division was losing millions of dollars per year, his management team was getting hundreds of grievances from their employees, and morale at the Caterpillar plant was extremely low.
Despain and his leadership group identified the need for a strategic plan to transform the working culture. Key to the plan was determining a strategy for dealing with employee attitudes and behavior. Despain and his transformation team identified nine behaviors or “common values” that they wanted every employee to emulate every day— trust, mutual respect, customer satisfaction, a sense of urgency, teamwork, empowerment, risk taking, continuous improvement, and commitment. Employee evaluations were based on the manifestation of these behaviors. Above and beyond those behaviors, top executives and management were expected to lead by example and commit themselves to practice 100 positive leadership traits. Statements such as “I will know every one of my employees by name . . . will recognize their accomplishments with praise . . . will trust my employees to do their work” became the new mantras for those in charge.
Through this process, Despain came to understand that “the most important thing for employees in the workplace is to achieve self-worth.” The principal change he was striving to achieve was to make employees accountable for how their jobs got done; for workers that meant stretching a little more every day to achieve their full potential. For managers it meant shifting away from achieving traditional metrics and toward drawing desired behavior from workers. “And we found that the more we focused on behavior, the better the metrics got.” The result: Despain’s division cut its breakeven point in half within five years of launching the transformation.