Leaders can take a strapping or restricted approach in clarifying the path to subordinates the way in which to go. To illuminating the path they possibly will be directive or give indistinguishable hints. To removing barriers, they may well polish the path or facilitate the follower to shifting the bigger blocks. In rising rewards, they possibly will provide intermittent encouragement even lay concrete on the way with gold. This merit of approach should depend on the circumstances as well as the follower’s aptitude and motivation and at same time on difficulty of the job and additional contextual factors. This approach takes for granted that there is only one right way to attain a goal and the leader can show it to his follower. This radiates a leader as the perceptive person and the supporter as reliant.
Leadership is an issue that consists of a great deal concerning changing people’s minds frequently in essential form. It is the process of influencing and supporting other people enthusiastically toward achieving objectives. Before presenting the relationship of path-goal theory regarding “Jeanne Lewis” case, it is essential to have a better knowledge about path-goal theory of leadership. The Path-Goal theory has developed to illustrate the technique that leaders persuade and support their followers to gain the goals in their prefixed path.
Robert, H. et al (1991) have developed a path-goal view of leadership initially presented by Martin G. Evans, which is derived from the expectancy model of motivation. The term path-goal has derived from the belief that effective leaders clarify the path to help their employees to achieve their goals and to make journey along the path easier by reducing roadblocks. (Syque, 2007, p. 23)
Summer in Jeanne Lewis 1991 served at Staples as a marketing intern. After her graduation from HBS and getting her MBA she joined Staples as a Marketing Manager with responsibility for sales forecasting and field marketing in 1993. She became Director of New England Operations in 1994 and in the next year she was promoted Director of Sales for 150 stores on the East Coast. In 1996 she became VP and Divisional Merchandising Manager at Staples and in 1997 promoted as SVP and she planned to leave Staples in January 1998. Her case at Staples is very significant. (Suesse, J. M., 2000, p. 12).
In 1999, a team work was conducted by Jeanne Lewis for Staples that combines the appropriate mix of business along with the cyber-savvy through the observational of competitive operational industry regarding market size, company opportunity to increase the overall share and proper utilization of brand value. Thus, growth, which is the company’s finest goal, has been achieved by this group wok that can be termed in terms of path-goal theory-
- Goal Setting: Goal plays a central role in the path-goal process. Goal setting is the establishment of the targets and objectives for successful performance, both long-run and short-run. It provides a measure of how well individuals and groups are meeting performance standards. (p.245) As human behavior is goal oriented, various members of Lewis’s group had the idea of achieving the goals of providing customer service, environmental safety, corporate construction and expansion, higher sales through supply, product innovation, growing Greenfield and growing the service plan business that had been with the resources and leadership available. Without those goals, Lewis could not coordinate her members to go through a specific direction. (Hersey, P. Blanchard, K. H. Johnson, D. E., 2001, p. 247)
- Path Improvement: The step surrounding goal setting represents only half of the path-goal leadership process. For this, Lewis also needed to consider some contingency factors and range the leadership options open to them before deciding how to smooth the path toward a goal. Thus, Lewis provided a balance of both task and psychological support for her employees according to the logic. She provided a task support when she helps assemble the resources, budgets, power and other elements that are essential to get the job done. At the same time she was to provide psychological support to stimulate those who want to do the job. (Suesse, J. M., 2000, p. 15).
- Leadership Styles: According to this theory, the leader’s role is to help the employees understand what needs to be done (the goal) and how to do it (the path). Further, the leaders need to help employees see how achieving the goals will be beneficial for the company Thus, Lewis’s style followed the participative style in which she invited the employees to provide input to decisions, and use these suggestions for final decisions.
- Contingency Factors: Two factors are important here- general work environment and specific characteristics of employees. At first, Lewis had to identify whether the member’s tasks are already modified or not, accuracy formal authority system, and satisfaction of existing group regarding social and esteem needs. (Syque, 2007, p. 27)
Here, Lewis had also identified 3 important variables:-
- Locus of control- Alternative belief about whether a member’s achievements are the original product of his own effort.
- Willingness to accept others influence- This degree was low here.
- Self-perceived task ability- Members with high confidence react positively with supportive leaders.
Successful leadership depends more on appropriate behavior, skills and actions and less on personal traits. Thus the most important skills for this purpose are-
- Technical Skill refers a person’s knowledge and ability in any type of technique.
- Human skill is the ability to work effectively with people and to build teamwork.
- Conceptual skill is the ability to think in terms of models, framework and broad relationships.
Following those terms, leadership behavior is of many types. Like-
- The directive leader lets followers know what is expected from them, schedule works to be done and give specific guidance.
- The supportive leader is friendly and shows concerns for the needs of the employees.
- The participative ones concern with the followers for decision-making purpose.
- Achievement oriented leaders set challenging goals and expects followers to perform such role.
- Among those, Lewis’s behavior seems to be participative as the company states that it grows through the people which is mostly possible by the work under participative leadership. The condition seems that as a leader, Lewis decentralized authority. Here, the decisions were not unilateral. The leader and groups acted as a social units. Members have been informed about the different conditions of the company and encouraged to express their ides, made suggestions and took actions. (Hersey, P. Blanchard, K. H. Johnson, D. E., 2001, p. 249)
Before identifying Lewis leadership style, we should mention several other types-
- Positive and negative leaders
- Autocratic, consultative and participative leaders.
By observing the leadership module of Lewis, it can be said that her leadership style reflects somewhat positive and participative approach as positive style is incorporated with rewards, either mental or financial. Participative approach is the best approach in today’s working environment and for getting higher output from the group members. Because of implementing such approach, Lewis partners became informed of the entire problem associated for their duties. For this, they imagined newer ideas, provided advice and took right action in right time.
This system has a wider use as the participative parties are consistent with collegial and supportive model.
Directing Leaderships are focused high tasked and low relationships when the employees are unconfident, unable and unwilling with low competence, low commitment. Under this leadership without any concern for the relationship leaders take an extremely directive role to decisive employees what to do when the employees cannot perform the job and are reluctant or anxious to try. In this stage the leader may also endow with a working framework for, both the job and the terms by which the employees would be controlled.
To investigate such a situation the leader would first find out why the employees are not motivated and scrutinize if there is any lack of capability or limitations in aptitude. Both the two factors are interlinked, for instance when employees believe that they are less capable than they may be in some form of rejection and have lack of self-confidence. When the leaders paying attention more on the relationship, the employees possibly will become confused regarding what must be done and what is not obligatory. Thus the leaders should maintain a clear ‘do this ‘ position to make certain that all required actions are clear.
Jeanne Lewis at Staples Marketing Department goes into a Directing Leadership role. Here she wants to shape out what is beneath the marking success. Thus she dives down into the particulars in order to outline what she really dealing with. She until the end of time thinks of it as kind of a long slow jump into the control freak. She tends to drive everybody crazy, for learning about their business. She looks for employees perceptive their business, considerate of them and hopefully communicative all along the way. So she played directive role. She added ‘I come back to the surface which is really where I’m most comfortable. But I only do that when I felt like I know what I’ve got in the way of challenges and opportunities and how strong the team really is.’ (Suesse, J. M. 2000, pp. 6)
She warned her fresh staff that she wants to “ride shotgun” towards them and ask an assortment of questions to teach them as far as she could. She programmed numerous meetings with individuals of her direct reports. Outcomes from the Employees were satisfactory but the reaction was very serious. People sometimes left her room on crying. Some who arranged to have her team asked to meet Lewis on a one-on-one basis.
Delegating Leaderships are low task focus and low relationship focus to the employees who are high competence and willing to motivate. Within this practice the employees can perform the job and are well motivated to do it, thus the leader can essentially let them do it and trust them to get on though they might necessitate keeping a somewhat distant eye on belongings to make sure that everything is going on to plan. Employees in this stage have minor requirements for support and frequently go into raptures where intermittent credit is always welcome.
Lewis at Staples Marketing Department tried to repeatedly “take the pulse of the floor.” She embarks on getting some signals to adapt her style. Her Delegating Leadership Style has been honed in “rough and tumble.”
She given explanation, “The first time I decided to challenge a marketing program, I thought we were going to have some good honest dialogue around it. But the person was just devastated. It was a real eye-opener for me. I realized I needed to shift my style or would have people leaving my office in tears and end up accomplishing nothing.” (Suesse, J. M. 2000, pp. 9)
For Lewis delegating role at the end of 1991, Staples grew more impressive. Employees’ reaction and development was admirable. Senior management team sustained to devote time and concentration to recruiting and developing talent. Staples employees turned into competitive drive, “can-do” attitude with enthusiasm to learn and elongate themselves. They become flexible and willing to move through the company maintaining entrepreneurial spirit.
Taking into account the needs of the employees, screening apprehension for employee’s welfare and generating a friendly working environment the supportive leadership developed. Supportive leadership aimed to increasing the employee’s self-esteem and assembling the job more interesting and easygoing. This framework is more applicable when the job is hectic, unexciting and hazardous.
By end of 1996 Staples became a $3 billion business along with 500 stores. At the same time small business stay behind the core customer of the company and extended its contributions to the SME and large businesses. It was well thought-out into three strategic business units as Retail, Contract & Commercial, and International. Lewis supportive leadership led Staples Business Advantage that provided complete and customized solutions at Staples in international division. Herewith the employees she practiced dotted-line reporting relationships those were more significant than solid-line reporting relationships.
Staples’ employees responded to be flexible and willing to move across the company. These interrupted rotations assisted the company to avoid complacency and uphold the entrepreneurial spirit. They become more comfortable to taking risks on for the company and accountable for their job. It was really hard to find people who could succeed in this fast-paced and often traumatic environment. (HBS No. 898-158)
The path-goal theory is essentially characterized by the creation of a goal orientation and improving the path towards the goal so that they will be attained. After the overall discussion of path-goal theory regarding the leadership module by Lewis, we are now aware about the leader’s central role about the fruitfulness of the theory. But the impact of employee behavior is also very much important in the assumption and implementation of this theory. (Hersey, P. Blanchard, K. H. Johnson, D. E., 2001, p. 253)
So, this relationship can be discussed as
- Goal setting is very much important issue as this offers a measure of employee performance standards. It has the vastest implementation because regarding the organizational goal; the employees can work through in specific directions.
- Besides the process of path-goal improvement considers resources, budgets, power and other elements for removing environmental constraints that influence employee attitude for providing their best effort. Because of having proper psychological effort offered by the leader, they work for him and learn from him. In short, a total mental state of working with the whole enterprise formulates that is very much vital for the success of this theory.
- Path-goal theory exclusively focuses on employee characteristics by considering their general work environment. Factors, like employee willingness to accept the influence of others impact their behavior much. The higher the extreme of this variable, the lower the employee’s ability and willingness to perform the task which requires directive leadership. In contrast, the lower the degree of this variable, employee’s characteristics is assumed to have high potential and ability but low willingness to perform the task where the leadership needs to be participative (Hersey, P. Blanchard, K. H. Johnson, D. E., 2001, p. 245)
- Another variable is self-perceived task ability in which the employees have high confidence in their capability to react most positively to the supportive leader. Other than, employees who do not have confidence about their working skills, behave accordingly by choosing an achievement-oriented leader. The path-goal model also focuses on motivational models that identify primary and secondary needs of employees. Degree of need satisfaction also acts as a catalyst of employee behavior that is closely related with path-goal theory through obtaining desired organizational objectives along with employee’s personal interest.
Hersey, P. Blanchard, K. H. Johnson, D. E. (2001), Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources, 8th ed., Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice-Hall Inc, ISBN-10: 0130175986, pp 245- 267.
Suesse, J. M. (2000). Jeanne Lewis at Staples, Inc. (A) (Abridged). Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. Pp. 1-14, 78-91.
Syque (2007), Leadership Style. Web.