The Importance of Goals in Motivation and Leadership

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“A goal is a regulatory mechanism for monitoring; evaluating and adjusting one’s behavior…Goal attainment also gives people a sense of accomplishment” (Latham, 2007, pp. 267-268)

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Goal setting has been widely used to enhance work motivation. It is argued here that an examination of the importance of goals in the goal-setting process and theory helps clarify several issues in motivation and leadership. For example, in the organization’s operation, attempts to attain long-term and short-run objectives, depend on effective leadership expressed in communication and delegation of tasks to subordinates.

At the same time, goals of employees, evident in groups or isolations greatly influences the type of leadership inherent in the organization. in consideration for the Latham’s views quoted in the topic, this essay presents more adjusted models with explanations on how goal achievement leads to employee satisfaction. The discussions also concerns goals as a regulatory mechanism for observing the workers behavior besides drawing inferences from the resulting situation for further analysis. The content is bound to theories of motivation on one end and limited to the importance of goals on leadership and worker motivation on the other.

As a regulatory mechanism for monitoring an individual’s behavior, a goal’s first objective is to identify the needs of the person concern. In this respect, human need arise in the order of most basic to tertiary depending on the person’s ability to meet them. Psychologist generally recognize that the intensity of needs vary from person to person depending on the motivational factors at the time. Then the individual acquires values and other motives from his environment (that could be at home or in the work place).

In a model for understanding the role of goals in organizations, (Lock and Latham, 2004) learned that individuals’ values and motives informs the individual’s personality which translates to goal option that produces the goal itself. Self-satisfaction and goal efficacy merely indicate the effects of direct consciousness of the employee who works to improve his or her performance. In the model, the theories of motivations act as the focus of motivation as employees performance goes with associated rewards (Latham & Locke, 1975, p. 528).

The importance of goals in motivation and leadership

Appraisal rewards invoke emotional response following mental motivation to work based on measurable results. The interaction of this rewards with the nature of work may cause an employee to develop goals that specifically tenable within the existing leadership and company policies or evade the task all together. However, in most scenarios, the reward used by organizations to capture the attentions and attract human resource input target their needs.

The needs may vary across the working period but owing to the fact, the established business organizations can offer packages tailored to particular interest of its leaders and subordinates alike, the organization succeed in motivating its staff using various techniques and skills. Generally, every organization depends on its staff to remain in its course. Therefore, organizations should find it worth investing in their workers for it to succeed. Primarily, motivating workers from their days of induction through the working period, synergizes personal goal setting and predisposes the workers to attaching their goals to that particular firm that hires them. The input of leadership only provides constant reassurance to the employees against certain contingencies to work consistently (Locke, 1970, p. 58)

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The organization has numerous ways of motivating its employees, some of these ways lie in models and theories while a significant proportion of motivation view for goals attainment depend on functional mechanisms of the methods used. Putting goals in the regulation mechanism leads to important events necessary for sustainability of an organization besides maintaining good relations amongst its workers and between the organization and its customers. Since the employees operate on the frontier between the organization’s services and its customers, the organization must support the interests of the employees through recognizing their goals using general models such as Maslow (1954) and Herzberg’s dual factor classification (Locke.,1976, p. 1334).

Cybernetic model of motivation focus on simplifying the variations occurring between goals and outcomes as rational model uses controlled experiments to make predictions like valences and simple evaluations. Given a typical condition, the employee’s goals analysis involving discrepancies, valences, and expectancies yield valid results. The controlled experiments in the analysis reveal that negative outcomes generate more attention from the employees leading to motivation. Quite often employees attempt to minimize the discrepancies that cause their performance to fall below the expectations of their goals. A fall in employee performance is normally followed by adjustments in the individuals’ cognitive and behavioral skills, which are innate in his or her needs (Maslow, 1962, p. 53).

In successful organizations, individual employees and groups within the organization set for themselves measurable goals. The consistency of variations concerning efforts aimed at realizing the specific goals. In theory, large discrepancies have the potential to improve the performance of the of employees by showing goal off the mark. However, the motivation created does not lead to a proportionate increase in efforts to regain the original performance aimed at achieving the goal. This occurs when the discrepancies are too large. Since financial incentives and fringe benefits increase the valence of achieving organizational goals, (incentives create commitment to hard goals achieved under ordinary circumstances (Kernan, & Lord, 1990, p. 196)

Nevertheless, Herzberg et al (1959) dual factor theory contributes significantly to understanding motivational aspects that affect goals directly. In this theory, motivational factors represent typical employee objectives that usually go without public notice. These intrinsic goals attach a worker to a firm for long periods as the company realizes its goals. On the other hand, hygiene factor creates the environment for realizing organization goals in the interests of its employees.

These latter factors also recognize the efforts of the workers in groups as well as individually. In an organizational set up, these factors represent the intrinsic values of the organization such as its principles among various aspects of its organizational culture. Factors such as employee salary, interpersonal relations among the employees and between the employees and their senior officers portray the image of the company in the face of the public.

In addition, company policies, job security and working condition contributes towards worker motivation because it streamlines the workers performance with specific goals that aim at alleviating the living status of the employees. On the other hand, the hygiene factors in Herzberg two factor theories emphasize the employee’s intrinsic values inherent in the organizational culture of successful organizations (Latham, 2007, pp. 268).

In terms of motivation and the role of goals in employee and organizational functioning, motivators identified by Herzberg show consistency with Maslow’s higher order motivational factors such as self actualization portrayed in good relation with fellow workers and dignity that does not attract any monetary reward. (Ashkanasy, Wildrom, & Peterson, 2000, p. 111) observed that motivators maintain the long term objectives of the organization in the site of the individual. When recognition for an employee’s talent and exceptional contribution become necessary, the organization leadership considers promotion of workers who meet their goals with minimal discrepancies.

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Ideally, promotion is based on merit of individuals whose efforts in achieving set goals remains consistent with the organization’s expectation. In essence, such employees also experience greater job satisfaction and find more motivation to work for the organization. Again, the good attitudes associated with this performance always keep the workers with the enthusiasm of having their goals increased from time to time. In its eternity, job satisfaction causes employee loyalty that leads to improved quality of output from the workers (Maslow, 1954, p.69).

Current motivational theories fail to address motivational issues adequately. Instead of using simple approaches to understand the entire functions of motivation, most theorist of motivation resort to its implication in the organization. Some of the theories identified that address the subject of motivation through implication include goal-setting theory, outcome or expectancies theory and self efficacy/collective theory.

Realizing employee goals and motives helps the management role of the organization to coordinate functions of groups, because groups in the organization draw from different background of the society consisting of varied demographic structure. Most important, path-goal leadership streamlines group efforts toward company policies with more effectiveness because it shows how performance relates to individual and group goals of the workers (Kernan, & Lord, 1990, p. 198).

Goals contained in an organization’s policies help in acknowledging unique employee values and needs that form the basis for evaluating and adjusting behavior. In this manner, various goals identify different aspects of both biological and mental needs expressed by employees at the work place generally aimed at job satisfaction and realizing the company’s objectives. When agents or forces of implementing the organizational objectives such as supervisors reward employees according to their needs, they consider it as motivation for adjusted goals. Similarly, varying goals and approaches to achieving them creates the ambience that sustains work satisfaction with the effect of accomplishing goals of the organization and the individual employee (Latham, 2007, pp. 268)..

Goals formed with consideration of unique competencies of every worker in single and multiple situations lead to shared benefits from the resulting accomplishment. Hence, they increase the efficiency of the organization to manage a highly diversified group of workers within the organization’s existing framework. Consequently, the improved working conditions channel different efforts of the various departments involved in meeting set goals to specific objectives.

The organization that recognizes these kinds of KITA motivations experience better performance with their goals always posted ahead of their activities. Most KITA motivations are usually associated with events causing predetermined outcomes to the organization. Therefore, goals provide readily available regulatory mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the employees’ performances through registering the frequencies in accomplishments. The intensities of near accomplishments also contribute to the evaluation of goals attainment in observing the progress of the organization (Latham & Locke, 1975, p. 526).

When goals correspond with issues appealing to the employees, the discrepancies occurring in performance cause positive outcomes. The outcomes direct the actions of employees toward rebuilding organization and individual confidence by critically re-evaluating their goals against their efforts and the organizations objective. Kerman and Lord (1990) found that anticipating certain behavior from employee-focused goals significantly improved the performance of workers because the employees feel valued by their leader.

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The importance goals in leadership

Kerman and Lord (1990) found that anticipating certain behavior from employee-focused goals significantly improved the performance of workers because the employees feel valued by their leader. In essence, goals define the nature of leadership suitable for the organization at different times. In organizations, goals generally relate to situational leadership because firms operate in relatively volatile market conditions.

The levels of returns fluctuate through times reflecting variations in events occurring within and outside the organization’s environment. Since financial incentives and fringe benefits increase the valence of achieving organizational goals, issuing incentives may go together with the discrepancy information. In this regard, the leader should determine whether the rewards are commensurate with the targeted objectives or if the goal requires readjustments for the employees to achieve them properly (Kernan, & Lord, 1990, p. 195).

Prioritizing multiple goals against competing interests of the leader and scarce resources may sometimes cause conflict and confusion. Therefore, effective allocation of the scarce resources available at the organization’s disposal and expected performance of each worker forms the core of goal setting. This is particularly important in medium sized companies where the output per worker makes a significant contribution in the organizations output.

Whether in time or effort, the goals must continually reflect the balanced interest of the organization and the workers. In an organizational setup, understanding goals is important in identifying situational cues necessary in resolving many goals occurring at the same time with equal agency. Therefore, presence of incentives in goal setting simplifies the processes of organizing conflicting goals with slightly varying degrees of intensity (Terborg & Miller, 1978, p. 31).

Leadership within an organization deals with dynamic people, either in their behavior or in their normal professional functioning. Consequently, goal setting helps in assessing the attitudes of staff motivated by their objectives at different times. Similarly, attitudes reflect the true state of the mind and physiological predisposition that makes goals achievable in a certain way unlike the other. Therefore, the success of the company in achieving its objectives or goals depends on the leadership effectiveness to combine contingent incentives with discrepancy information for emotional appraisal. This way the managers can harness employee efforts in the production and delivery services of the organization while at the same time allow employ to achieve optimal satisfaction (Herzberg, Mausner, & Synderman 2000, p. 113).

Unlike Herzberg’s KITA theory of movement in goal setting and work satisfaction, Locke’s approach to job satisfaction and goals achievement considers different causes for acting together within the individual employee and in the workplace. Conversely, Herzberg’s dual factor theory contradicts the functioning of human needs that demand hygiene factors to act together with motivational factors in his environment, thereby creating the drive to achieve set goals (Locke, 1976).

Based on this claims, Locke’s criticism to Herzberg theory of motivation presents new concepts of understanding goals within an organization and in the lives of individual employees. Since the prosperity of an organization depends on largely on the tasks carried out by its employees, it goes without considering that mind-body dictum of the employee and their varying differences that cause differences in operational needs. Consequently, the organization should be careful with classification system used by its management to inform its incentive methods by placing group needs of the organization in various categories (Latham & Locke, 1975, p. 525).

There is no clear distinction between physiological processes and psychological needs as claimed by Herzberg in his classification system. Therefore, a composite method that integrates both aspects of motivation offers effective model of addressing organizations goals with its workers. Moreover, it enhances the strengths of both the organization and its workers to operate as a unit. In turn, this improves the output of the organization uniformly and systematically from all branches as the goals set coincide with the motives of the employees. Similarly, motivation viewed through this frame work yields rapid progress accompanied by good company reputation because it heightens the degree of work satisfaction on one end, and focuses on self actualization identified by Maslow (1954) as human’s ultimate goal ((Herzberg, Mausner, & Synderman 2000, p. 7.).

Basic needs of human survival that motivates workers to attainment of realistic organizational goals are usually short lasting. This follows the principal of marginal satisfaction derived from the hygiene factors. Therefore, they fail to maintain the organization in the path to realizing its long-term objectives considering its resources and human capital. Owing to the observation that motivation precedes goals setting in single and multiple situations, it emerges that company goals as contained in the organization’s policies impact directly on the level of motivation of the workers as well as on the task.

Due to this process, the knowledge of motivation for employees plays important roles in organizational goal setting (long term and short-term objectives) with higher probability of success when implemented by assigned company workforce. Again, offering comprehensive motivation to employees by including few conditions that would spit the task into responsibility with various factors, simplifies the activities aimed at realizing the goals (Latham, 2007, pp. 267).

Fortunately, this approach to motivation in goals setting and achievement blends individual tasks with the functions of the workers themselves. In addition, the process enhances the workers attitude towards the job itself thereby manipulating their behavior to the advantage of the entire system. For example, when employees accept evaluation from positive outcomes such as increased incentives, contingent rewards and promotion, these act as further motivation for achieving organizational goals set by the company through a consultative and participatory approach.

While the amount of organization’s returns depends on the frequency of positive events in the expectancy of each workers valence, the degree of intensity per worker output is largely influenced by company polices, the opinion of supervisors and relationship with co-workers. Precisely, employees cite company policies for job dissatisfaction leading to poor motivation hence failure to achieve certain goals.

Formulating policies that address different motivational aspects of employees, generally harmonize the possibilities of achieving organization long-term goals. In the mean time, (Murray, Poole, & Jones, 2006, p. 46) find that immediate results derive from horizontal expansion where the organization strengthens relations between co-workers and subordinates through goals that enhances productivity of groups in dynamic situations. Such goals, accounts for personal values expressed in unique accomplishments that are unquantifiable through vast models used by organizations to offer motivations. Individual values of employees act as the real bases for response to the company objectives at different times.

The values also present serious challenges to the managers because they do not carry the same weight as monetary rewards as the associated motivation. Hence, they are characteristic of the workers performance as measured by valences per worker and expected outcomes. The importance of goals in Motivation and Leadership

Varying goal of individual workers within an organization usually indicate the degree of competencies inherent in the employee. It also shows the level of maturity that the worker has acquired in his area of expertise while serving in the organization. Therefore, varying targets for the workers helps the leadership of an organization to harness optimal potential of the employee in the dynamic workplace environment (Morgeso, DeRue & Karam, 2010, p. 23).


In the “life cycle theory of leadership” proposed Maslow (Maslow 1954),it is evident that employees can be moved without experiencing equally substantial motivation. In this case, the role of the organization leadership in determining goals depends on the leader’s ability to evaluate the worker’s behavior in different tasks in the view of the organization goals. The theory resolves possible conflicts between organization leadership and the employee by including favorable shared benefits accruing from achieving specific goals. In this case, the benefits form the primary basis of company core values such as accountability and transparency.

Such values then conform to the organization’s operating principles that score the confidence of the workers and act as the benchmark against which future motivations a hinges. The result is a comprehensive model that integrates personal goals with organizational objectives.

Reference List

Ashkanasy, N., Wildrom, C. & Peterson. M.F. eds., 2000. Handbook of Organizational Culture & Climate, Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage.

Herzberg, F. Mausner, B. & Synderman B., 2000.The motivation to work. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.pp. 5-11. p. 113.

Kernan, M.C. & Lord, R. G. 1990. Effects of valance, expectancies, and goal performance discrepancies in single and multiple goal environments. Delaware: The American Psychology Psychology Association, Inc. Jourmal of applied psychology. 75(2). 194-203.

Latham G.P., 2007. Work Motivation History, Theory, Research and Practice, London: Sage Publications. pp. 267-268.

Latham, G. P., & Locke, E. A. 1975. Increasing productivitywith decreasing time limits: A field replication of Parkinson’s law. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 524-526.

Locke, E.A. 1970, The supervisor as ‘motivator’: his influence on employee performance and satisfaction, in Bass, B.M., Cooper, R. and Haas, J.A. (Eds) , Managing for Accomplishment. Washington, DC: Heath and Company, pp. 57-67.

Locke. E.A. 1976. The nature and causes of jobsatisfaction, in Dunnette, M.D. (Ed.), Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, IL: Rand McNally Journal of Human Resource Management 11 (4): 766-788.

Locke. E.A., Cartledge. N. & Knerr, C.,1975).’Studies of the relationship between satisfaction, goal-setting and performance”, in Steers.M.R. and Porter, WL. (Eds), Motivation andWork Behavf0r; New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.pp. 464-73.

Maslow, A.H. 1962. Toward a Psychology of Being. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. In Ogbonna, E. & L. C. Harris. Leadership Style, Organizational Culturepp. 1297-349.

Maslow, A.H., 1954. Motlvatlon and Personaity, New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers.

Morgeso, D., DeRue, S. & Karam, S. 2010. Leadership in Teams: A Functional Approach to Understanding Leadership Structures and Processes. Journal of Management, 36(1): 5-39. Web.

Murray, P., Poole, D. & Jones, G., 2006. Contemporary Issues in Management and Organisational Behaviour, Victoria: Thomson.

Terborg, J. R., & Miller, H. E. 1978. Motivation, behavior,and performance: A closer examination of goal settingand monetary incentives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63, 29-39.

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