The Path-goal Leadership Theory: The Police Captain

Subject: Family, Life & Experiences
Pages: 5
Words: 1117
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


Many theories explain leadership approaches. However, The Path-Goal Contingency theory is the highlight of this assignment and is evaluated Vis a Vis the role of Police Captain in charge of patrol. The Path-Goal Contingency theory is explained about my patrol team, which is led by the Police Captain and is responsible for night patrols in an area prone to drug-related crimes.

To enhance the effectiveness of the team, the police captain incorporates our opinions while making and implementing decisions. Notably, the captain identifies and shares with us particular strategies, participates actively in patrol work, and offers support to patrol team members whenever necessary. This made the Captain a highly respected leader and a person to listen to and eagerly share ideas with, which results in a cohesive and cooperative patrol team. Therefore, the application of the Path-Goal approach to our patrol captain has led to effectiveness in patrol work.

Leadership theory: The Path-Goal

The foremost feature of Police Captain Leadership is to always follow context-based leadership behavior. As it was mentioned before, the captain uses directive language when instructing us on the goals that we should pursue. However, this does not mean the captain is dictatorial. As explained by Weiss (2011), the captain seeks the participation of every team member in formulating goal attainment strategies. This is achieved informally through dialogues and consultative meetings.

To succeed in this means that the Police Captain has to subordinate his characteristics and acquire traits that support and complement his followers. In this regard, for the best leadership outcome, the Captain has to moderate his behavior accordingly to suit the behavioral needs of his followers.

By doing this, the Police Captain compensates for his followers’ shortcomings and as such influences and motivates his followers positively (Weiss, 2011; House, 1996).

Team leader influence

My professional performance is greatly influenced by the captain’s leadership approach. This is because the captain values my contribution to the success of the team. Before embarking on duty, the captain gathers the team and outlines the task lying before us for the upcoming night, this is a great chance to evaluate the risks and get prepared for further unpredictable circumstances. Every member gets an opportunity to give a personal evaluation of the task ahead and give suggestions which the captain incorporates in decision making. Additionally, the captain communicates clear goals including what is expected of each of the team members by emphasizing standard procedures of operation. This leaves little room for ambiguity. Following the rules leads to attractive rewards, whereas violation of standards leads to appropriate correctional procedures combined with the right support (by the captain and other patrol members) to help such individuals meet team expectations. This ensures that every team member feels content to be a part of the patrol team and there are sufficient support mechanisms to help individual team members meet not only mutual but also individual goals.

Transactional and transformation leadership

The attainment of the Path-Goal theory of leadership is only achieved through sustained cooperation between the leader and the followers (House, 1971). The Police Captain has, with time, acquired certain leadership behavior that enables unprejudiced cooperation within the team. Police Captain uses directive verbal and nonverbal skills such as maintaining direct eye contact with his juniors while communicating, maintaining upright and firm body postures, nodding as well as complements to appraise members’ contributions. Comments such as ‘this is what we need to do’, ‘what is your feeling’, ‘this needs to be changed to reflect on…’, ‘that is a very important point of view’, have become part of the patrol team’s transactional dialogue. Furthermore, he spends a lot of time with team members evaluating progress, assisting, and negotiating necessary adjustments to the daily procedure. The captain also expresses confidence and optimism to team members.

Traits of an Effective Team Leader

The captain has developed a tendency to instigate transactions while making decisions within the patrol team. I have noted that since the captain took the leadership of the team, changes have been experienced – teamwork became the foremost feature of ours, unlike many other teams whose prerogative was to stand for oneself. The reason for utilizing teamwork and incorporating contributions of patrol team members in decision making is aimed at helping the patrol team draw lesson from experience. While the teams conclude there has to be someone who does it perfectly and someone who is not very good at it. Therefore, allocating authority to deserving members according to Bass and Avolio (1994) explains added authority to successful team members, which grooms future team leaders. However, let’s not confuse this with replacing the responsibility.

Changes that can be made

One of the recommended changes in the leadership style of the Police Captain as discussed in this paper is the trait theory. The theory allows individuals to take various risks and the police occupation faces many challenges. Here it has to be said that the Captain was excellent in drawing conclusions that subconsciously made us understand what was bad and what was right. Our leader never actually expressed utmost indignation but we always understood what the quality of work was via gestures, facial expressions, and other non-verbal means of communication. Moreover, it is crucial that namely this way of punishment and encouragement made us think that we had to be real professionals and could not let a mistake slip. Since people’s lives depended on us infrequent situations, we could not let the Captain down, as well as we could not stand to think we are not pros. That is why I would suggest some changes making. For instance, a good leader has to take risks and explain to the followers that there is nothing dreadful in making false decisions sometimes. An efficient leader does not afraid to take risks and appreciates every outcome possible because any experience is precious. This way the teamwork will become yet efficient because the team members will not be afraid to suffer in the Captain’s opinion if something goes wrong since it was him who conveyed the idea that risks are always unpredictable. Furthermore, the trait theory will teach the Police Captain, along with his juniors the art of persuasion. This is a very handy technique in the police force.


The Path-Goal theory employed by the police captain seems to be useful for leading the patrol team in enhancing patrol work. This is because the theory leads to the attainment of both collective and individual responsibility for team tasks. As such this leadership model is recommended for wholesale application within the police force since, being change-based, the approach will ensure that necessary changes, concurrent with modern policing needs will be progressively instituted through cooperation amongst all police departments.

Reference List

  1. Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
  2. House, R. J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16: 321–339.
  3. House, R. J. (1996). Path-Goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly, 7 (3): 323–352.
  4. Weiss, J. W. (2011). An introduction to leadership. San Diego, CA: Lexington Books