Path-goal leadership is an approach to management that focuses on how a business owner can help employees achieve their personal goals. Through careful attention to employee concerns and needs, managers can foster a productive and happy work force that can achieve organizational objectives.

Personal Payoffs and Development

Rewarding excellence is a time-tested way to motivate workers. Financial rewards, such as a bonus for exceeding production goals, can spur your employees to work harder. Helping employees improve their career prospects is also a form of personal payoff. For example, a retail store manager might reward an employee’s excellent sales performance with a promotion that entails greater responsibilities and pay to match, rewarding the employee both financially and professionally.


In addition to motivation, employees also often need guidance to improve their performance. Path-goal leadership says leaders should analyze individual employee needs, then offer whatever guidance and information they need to improve themselves. For example, a car-dealership manager might create an employee-training program to help workers hone their sales skills, as well as offer one-on-one training sessions.

Clarify Expectations

Workers can’t operate effectively in an unpredictable environment, so managers must clarify worker expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page. For example, employees should know exactly what their duties are and how performance will be measured, as well as what rewards they can expect at different levels of achievement.

Remove Barriers

Path-goal leadership also involves removing barriers to employee productivity and personal achievement. For example, a manager should maintain an open-door policy so employees can express concerns about workplace obstacles, such as office politics or personal problems that are hurting performance. The manager then should do whatever is necessary to help employees overcome the barriers.


A key element of path-goal leadership is adaptability. Every employee and organization is different, so managers must remain flexible to ensure each worker receives customized support. For example, a manager should tailor on-the-job training to each employee’s experience and abilities. This prevents redundant training and makes effective use of employees' time.