Lifetime Achievement Awardee

Robert House

Trained in that great tradition of leadership studies at the Ohio State University, where he received his Ph.D. in management in 1960, Robert J. House was one of the foremost experts on leadership across cultures. The principal investigator, and founder in the early 1990s, of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE), he visited close to 40 countries during the course of the investigation. The GLOBE project, divided into four phases, has published two tomes—one examining leadership in 62 societies and the second taking a more in-depth look at 25 of those societies. The project has succeeded at providing a valuable resource for managers doing business in other countries and serves as a rich source of information for anyone interested in understanding how leadership grows in different cultural grounds.

In addition to his work developing GLOBE, House is best known for his creation of the Path-Goal Theory of Leader Effectiveness, which he developed in 1971 and revised in 1996. House described the essence of the theory as “the meta proposition that leaders, to be effective, engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance.”1 The theory, which has been widely studied, also led House to the development, in 1976, of his well-known theory of Charismatic Leadership.

House’s refreshing ability to analyze and revise his own work twenty-five years later, is illustrative of his approach. He quotes D.O. Hebb’s maxim that “a good theory is one that holds together long enough to get you to a better theory,” then continues to reflect that, “the virtue of internalizing the spirit of these assertions is that if one does so one will never be compelled to defend one’s own theory, which inevitably will be shown to be false.”2

A prolific writer, House authored more than 130 journal articles, which have been reprinted in numerous anthologies. He was a cofounder of the premier leadership journal, Leadership Quarterly, where he also served as executive editor, and received numerous awards throughout his career. He was a Fellow in the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Robert House was honored with the International Leadership Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award on October 28, 2011.   Sadly, Robert House passed away on November 1, 2011.

1. House, R. (1996). Path-Goal Theory of Leadership: Lessons, Legacy, and a Reformulated Theory. Leadership Quarterly, 7(3), 323-352.

2. Ibid, p. 349, quoting Hebb, D.O. (1969) Hebb on Hocus-Pocus: A Conversation with Elizabeth Hall. Psychology Today. 3(6), p. 21