Insider Intelligence: An Old Solution to a Modern Problem

July 11, 2022
How a decades old theory about leadership can provide a path to employee satisfaction and retention

This article originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Are you struggling to keep good people or finding it difficult to attract good candidates for open positions? The good news is that providing pay increases or making more generous employment offers are not necessarily the only solutions to these problems.

In a recent study of more than 1,700 workers, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials all rated “interest in the type of work,” “quality of manager” and “quality of management” as the main things they look for in a new job. “Overall compensation” was below the mean, with less than 50% rating it “extremely important.”

Closely related, the Job Characteristics model from Hackman and Oldham shows the following five job characteristics create improved psychological states like meaningfulness and responsibility: Skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback. When these are present in a job, the employee has higher motivation, increased satisfaction and improved effectiveness.

The Path Goal Model

So, what does all this mean to you as a leader? It is well understood today that people want a more participatory work environment. Individuals no longer want to be simply told what to do and how to do it. Rather, they want a say in how their role is both defined and executed.

The Path Goal behavioral model of leadership, developed in the 1970s by Robert House, postulates that leaders’ behavior is contingent upon the satisfaction, motivation and performance of the follower. The goal of the leader is to help followers or team members identify their personal goals as well as understand the organization’s goals and find the best path that will help them achieve both.

The team member’s perceived ability and belief in who controls his or her destiny must also be considered. Additionally, the structure of the task and the nature of the workgroup are equally important, as these have an impact on the individual’s motivation. 

What Kind of Leader Will You Be?

Because individual motivations and goals differ, leaders must modify their approach to fit the situation. This theory is supported by data that shows that leaders who display strong consideration for their followers have high team performance, team member job satisfaction and above average leader effectiveness.

The basic premise is that the leader modifies his or her approach to fit the particular needs of the situation (credit to Granite State College for its concise summary):

1. Directive, path-goal clarifying leader:The leader clearly defines what is expected of the team members and tells them how to perform their tasks. This is most effective when the role and demands of the task are both ambiguous and intrinsically satisfying.

2. Achievement-oriented leader: The leader sets challenging goals for the team members. S/he expects them to perform at their highest level and shows confidence in their ability to meet this expectation. This model is most predominant and successful in technical, engineering, sales and entrepreneurial roles.

3. Participative leader: The leader seeks to collaborate with team members and involve them in the decision-making process. This behavior is dominant when team members are highly and personally involved in their work.

4. Supportive leader: The main role of the leader is to be responsible to the emotional and psychological needs of the team members. This behavior is especially needed in situations in which tasks or relationships are psychologically or physically taxing or distressing.

As you can likely see, there are places for these types of leadership within your organization. To maximize effectiveness, you must interpret the specific needs of your team member along with the specific situation and then adapt accordingly.

I believe you will find this old solution works quite well for some of the modern problems we face in managing, motivating and retaining today’s workforce.

Tim Brooks is VP of Sales for PSA Security Network. Request more info about PSA at