Contingency theory of leadership in the workplace

In the workplace, there are dozens of factors that can affect a leader’s effectiveness. These include things like the size of the team, the scope of a project and the expected delivery date for a result. Different leaders, each with unique leadership styles, will respond to these variables in different ways. Contingency theorists would say that no matter how successful a leader is, there will always be a particular situation that will challenge them. Therefore, leaders must be willing to acknowledge the fact that their success depends partially on their circumstances in addition to their personal skills.

To lead their team well, managers and supervisors may need to either adapt their leadership style to the current situation or delegate some of their leadership responsibilities to a coworker.

a)  The Fiedler Model:

 The Fiedler Contingency Model was created in the mid-1960s by Fred Fiedler, a scientist who studied the personality and characteristics of leaders.

The model states that there is no one best style of leadership. Instead, a leader’s effectiveness is based on the situation. This is the result of two factors – “leadership style” and “situational favorableness” (later called “situational control”).

Fiedler argues that leaders should take a number of environmental or situational factors into account before deciding on the appropriate leadership style: task-oriented or relationship- oriented. Leaders would be very unlikely to be successful if they cannot ‘match’ their personal leadership style to the demands of the situation. As a result, the most effective way to handle the situation is to change the leader itself based on the situational factors (leader-member relations, task structure, and the leader’s position power) or to change the situation to suit the leader. Fiedler’s Contingency Model can help assessing the appropriate leadership style.

Situational Favorableness

Next, you determine the “situational favorableness” of your particular situation. This depends on three distinct factors:

Leader-Member Relations – This is the level of trust and confidence that your team has in you. A leader who is more trusted and has more influence within the group is in a more favorable situation than a leader who is not trusted.

Task Structure – This refers to the type of task you’re doing: clear and structured, or vague and unstructured. Unstructured tasks, or tasks where the team and leader have little knowledge of how to achieve them, are viewed unfavorably.

Leader’s Position Power – This is the amount of power you have to direct the group, and provide reward or punishment. The more power you have, the more favorable your situation. Fiedler identifies power as being either strong or weak.


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