Columbia Records Success Using Path-Goal Leadership


According to Vandegrift and Mutusitz (2011) Columbia Records, founded in 1888, is a major thriving music industry that has helped establish famous musicians, recording instruments, and is a digital music pioneer. The long-standing career of Columbia Records has increased employment within its company, as well as rocketing performing artist’s careers. The path-goal leadership approach has been an essential component to Columbia Records success. Columbia Records utilizes expectations, support systems, barrier removal, and teamwork (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011).

Participative Leadership Behavior

At the root of path-goal theory is another theory called expectancy theory. According to Northouse (2016), expectancy theory identifies the needs required by individual members to motivate them as a leader. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Columbia Records was forced to consider more efficient ways to produce quality music (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011). Other musical agencies did not want to collaborate with Columbia because their cost for quality was high. Columbia Records took a unique approach and asked for the participation of Columbia Records employees. According to Vandegrift and Mutusitz (2011) managers would frequently ask employees for advice; which directly impacted the efficiency and lowered cost of products. The value Columbia placed in employees helped them to feel more invested in the company. Columbia Records felt the artist were assets with essential contributions (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011). According to Northouse (2016), a participative leader gathers ideas from group members and incorporates them into the decision-making process. Gathering information from different levels of employees helped motivate newer employees.

Supportive and Directive Leadership

Path-Goal theory has defined the way Columbia Records operates within the music industry. Even as some musical industries have taken over a 16% loss in sales due to digital music downloads, Columbia has seen more records (digitally and in stores) sold (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011). The leadership approach increased positive outcomes and overcame serious obstacles. According to Vandegrift and Mutusitz (2011), The leader should clarify expectations and help navigate barriers with a directive approach to leadership. A directive approach contributed to involve all members of Columbia Records to set clear expectations and goals. Another benefit of the direction style was the care provided for employee concerns. Considerations for employee well-being helped establish a friendly and safe work environment at Columbia Records (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011).


According to Northouse (2016), path-goal leadership relies on the motivation of the leader to influence successful outcomes from the followers. Path-goal theory postulates that success is not necessarily the responsibility of the members. To be motivated to achieve, individuals must see a leader who emanates behaviors necessary to reach the goal. Motivation to achieve a target relies on both on the ability to demonstrate passion, support, and clear guidance around obstacles (Vandegrift & Mutusitz, 2011).

One potential limitation noted in the article was cultural sensitivity. According to Vandegrift and Mutusitz (2011), more research needs to be conducted on the effectiveness of the path-goal theory of diverse cultures. The leadership approach of being collaborative may not be a good fit for some cultures who are more authoritative.


Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Vandegrift, R., & Matusitz, J. (2011). Path-goal theory: A successful Columbia Records story. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21(4), 350-362. doi:10.1080/10911359.2011.555651