Contingency leadership

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Contingency leadership
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Contingency Theory of Leadership states that a leader’s effectiveness is contingent upon with how his or her leadership style matches to the situation (Leadership Theories, n.d). That is, the leader must find out what kind of leadership style and situation he or she thrives in. The Contingency Theory is concerned with the following:

  1. “There is no one best style of leadership”
  2. A leader is effective when his or her style of leadership fits with the situation

Evolution of contingency theory

There have been two major stages in the development of contingency theory. The first, extending from early 1950s to the early 1960s, was essentially exploratory. A sizeable body of research data was collected, and various hypotheses were tried out in an attempt to explain the findings. During this period it is totally impossible to separate research from theory. The second stage began with the statement of contingency theory in a form much the same as that currently existing. This stage has continued to the present with the testing of these early propositions and of others that have emerged since.

Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness

The contingency model of leadership effectiveness (Fiedler, 1978) has been the basis for an extensive body of research. During the last three decades, numerous studies have supported its propositions (Peters, Hartke, & Pohlmann, 1985; Strube & Garcia, 1981), but the model has also elicited strong criticisms. This article argues that the contingency model was one of the first models in leadership research that was theoretically multi-level and methodologically multi-source. New evidence and alternative perspectives are offered to address the issues concerning the conceptual definitions of the model's components, which have often been the subject of debate. The discussion concludes with productive avenues for future research in the paradigm and its potential contributions to leadership training and development within a multi-level framework.

The leader is an individual in the group, who directs and coordinates task-relevant group activities, or who, in the absence of a designated leader, automatically performs these functions in the group. This chapter provides an overview of the framework for the understanding of factors which determine a leader's personality attributes and its impact on group performance, the development of integrative model, and empirical support for the model. A leader is either appointed by a representative of the larger organization of which the group is a part; or is elected by the group; or in case there is neither an elected nor an appointed leader, he can be identified as most influential on task-relevant questions of a sociometric preference questionnaire. The leader and member abilities are among the most important predictors of group performance, and a high correlation between the leader's ability score and the group's performance presumably reflects the degree of leader influence over the task itself. The negative correlations suggest that the leader's influence, or his contribution to the task is minimal. A leader can be trained to modify these attitudes, but considerable effort might be required on the part of many individuals to make them. The leader's task functions and his therapeutic attitudes are highly speculative, and extensive future research is required to elucidate the role, which these therapeutic attitudes play in the group process.

Comparisons to other Leadership Theories

Comparing Fiedler’s Contingency Theory to other theories, we see that the contingency theory incorporates some parts of other theories. In many ways, the contingency theory derives from the trait theory. A leader’s traits are directly related to the most effective style and situation in which they lead. The factor of relations with followers related to the transactional and transformational theories. The Contingency Theory states that a leader’s relations impact their effectiveness, which is the basis of these two theories. In transactional leadership, a leader’s ability to influence followers with rewards and punishments for behavior to ensure member goals is the basis of the style. In Transformational Theory, the leader relies on building relationships between themselves and followers. Leaders who are people-oriented rely on these relationships to be effective and have influence over his or her followers.

Strengths of Contingency Theory

  • Used to create leadership profiles for organizations.
  • Puts emphasis on combination of leaders style and the situation.
  • “It is predictive; there is a well-defined method to evaluate LPC and Situations”.
  • Can be used to create leadership profiles for organizations, in which certain styles can be matched with situations that have proven to be successful.
  • Companies can know what type of person would fit in each position of the organization whenever there is an opening.
  • Helps to reduce what is expected from leaders, and instead puts emphasis on finding a match to the situation.
  • Very useful in matching professionals to the right situations and determining the best person for a job.


Author: Paulina Olszewska