Contingency Theories Of Leadership Essay Example
Contingency Theories Of Leadership Essay Example

Contingency Theories Of Leadership Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3216 words)
  • Published: June 27, 2018
  • Type: Report
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This report offers an executive summary of the Contingency theories of Leadership and their pertinence to the study of Management and Leadership in organizations. It commences with a definition of leadership and traces the development of leadership theories over the previous 70 years, concentrating on contingent theories of leadership. These theories provide observations into the attributes of prosperous leaders, comprising their generic traits and behaviors, as well as their capacity to adapt to diverse situations and circumstances. They also emphasize the position of leaders in connection to their followers.

According to the report, there isn't a singular definitive way to lead because of various factors. The changing nature of work and society necessitates new strategies that encourage a more collaborative and adaptable approach to leadership. In essence, leadership involves influencing a group of individuals and directing them towards achieving a common goal.


Typically, a leader possesses authority, confidence, and the capability to motivate the group, thereby instilling trust and respect. Ultimately, leadership encompasses the actions undertaken by leaders.

The foundation of all research conducted on leadership within the context of business management is the concept of "authority." Even individuals without a formal position of authority in an organization can still have the ability to influence others, as mentioned earlier. The presence of a "boss" or multiple levels of authority and leadership highlights the significance of leadership in organizations. This hierarchical model has proven to be the most effective and efficient system for generating productivity and profitability. Leadership plays a crucial role in strengthening and empowering the organization, managing relationships and resources. Employees need leadership to provide guidance, motivation, and inspiration for optimal performance, as well as preventing

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any actions that may harm the business overall. Similarly, customers and clients rely on leadership to inspire trust and confidence in the products or services offered by the business. Additionally, leadership ensures smooth operation by ensuring fair and timely financial compensation for employees while satisfying stockholders with their investments.

The workplace functions as a team environment, emphasizing the significance of leadership. It's worth noting that not all individuals in positions of authority are true leaders; some merely manage without leading. Studies demonstrate that 80% of organizational problems stem from interpersonal issues, highlighting the crucial role of good leadership in achieving overall success. Effective leadership fosters a sense of value in team members and encourages their active participation in the organization's development, ultimately benefiting the business.

Research has demonstrated that effective leadership can result in various advantages for employees, such as increased satisfaction with their work and personal lives, a sense of ownership over their tasks, and improved skills and abilities. Additionally, it can bring numerous benefits to the organization or business as a whole, including a greater focus on strategic aspects alongside operational responsibilities, a larger pool of qualified and developed individuals, and the cultivation of strong leaders from within (future leader development).

In an ideal scenario, all managers should possess leadership skills. However, in reality, this is not always the case. It is vital to comprehend the distinction between management and leadership since both hold significance but have distinct characteristics.

To manage is to bring about, accomplish, have charge of, or take responsibility for conducting. Leading is influencing and guiding in a direction, course, action, or opinion. This distinction is crucial, as Warren Bennis emphasizes. According to John

Kotter, the author of “John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do,” leadership and management are distinct yet complementary systems of action. Both are essential for success in a complex and volatile business environment. Bennis also provides insightful comparisons in his book “On Becoming a Leader.”

According to the author, managers adhere to the existing methods and practices, while leaders strive to introduce fresh strategies for completing everyday tasks. Managers prioritize systems and structure, while leaders prioritize individuals and circumstances. This is why leaders can inspire trust among their followers, instead of solely relying on their positional authority. In summary, managers focus on doing tasks correctly, while leaders focus on doing the tasks that are ethically and morally right.

Why is leadership so important? Does it really matter if a group lacks the support of a competent leader? Yes, it does matter in fact. It appears that leadership is crucial for the success of both the group or community as a whole, as well as for individuals within the group. This section provides a brief overview of the development of leadership studies and theories over time. The table below summarizes the major theoretical approaches:

Historical Leadership Theories| Leadership Theory| Time of Introduction| Major Tenets|
Trait Theories| 1930s| Leaders possess different individual characteristics compared to nonleaders.|
Behavioral Theories| 1940s and 1950s| Effective leaders exhibit different behaviors than ineffective leaders.

The text describes two major classes of leader behavior: task-oriented behavior and relationship-oriented behavior. These behaviors are important to consider in the study of leadership. Additionally, the text discusses various theories related to leadership, such as contingency theories in the 1960s and 1970s, which suggest that the effectiveness of leader characteristics and

behaviors depends on factors specific to each situation. Another theory mentioned is leader-member exchange in the 1970s, which explores the different quality of relationships leaders have with their subordinates and how it affects workplace outcomes. Charismatic leadership from the 1970s and 1980s is also discussed, which focuses on how effective leaders inspire commitment by communicating a vision, displaying charismatic behavior, and setting a powerful personal example. Lastly, contingency theories propose that the organizational or work group context influences the effectiveness of certain leader traits and behaviors.

Contingency theories gained popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s, with three well-known ones being Fiedler's contingency theory, the situational leadership theory, and the path-goal theory. Fred Fiedler introduced the Fiedler Model as the first comprehensive contingency model for leadership. It suggests that the effectiveness of group performance depends on how well the leader's style matches with the level of control they have in the situation. Fiedler also emphasized the importance of identifying an individual's basic leadership style as a key factor in their success.

Fiedler developed the least preferred coworkers (LPC) questionnaire to assess whether individuals prioritize task or relationship objectives. The LPC questionnaire comprises pairs of 16 opposing adjectives (such as pleasant – unpleasant, efficient-inefficient, open- guarded, supportive-hostile). Respondents are instructed to think about all their previous co-workers and evaluate, on a scale of 1 to 8, the person they least enjoyed working with for each set of contrasting adjectives. Fiedler believed that by analyzing respondents' answers to this LPC questionnaire, he could determine their fundamental leadership style. If the least preferred co-worker is described in predominantly positive terms (resulting in a high LPC score), it suggests that the

respondent values positive personal relationships with colleagues. In other words, if one describes the person they struggled to work alongside favorably, Fiedler would categorize them as relationship-oriented.

The text discusses Fiedler's theory of leadership styles and the importance of matching a leader's style with the situation. According to the theory, if someone sees their least preferred co-workers in negative terms (low LPC score), they are focused on productivity and considered task-oriented. Around 16 percent of respondents fall in the middle range and cannot be categorized as relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Fiedler believed that a person's leadership style is fixed. After determining a person's basic style through the LPC, it is necessary to find a situation that matches their style. Fiedler identified three contingency dimensions that he believed are crucial in determining leadership effectiveness.

These are the three contingency variables for leadership: leader-member relations, task structure, and position power. Leader-member relations refer to the level of confidence, trust, and respect that members have towards their leader. Task structure pertains to the extent to which a job follows specific procedures, whether structured or unstructured. Position power indicates the level of influence a leader holds over important power factors like hiring, firing, discipline, promotions, and salary increases. To assess the situation using these variables is the next step. Leader-member relations can be either good or poor, task structure can be high or low, and position power can be strong or weak. Fiedler's research showed that in extreme situations, such as those mentioned, an authoritarian or task-oriented leader is most effective.

In both very favorable and very unfavorable situations, an effective leader exhibited task-oriented behavior. This behavior in very unfavorable situations may

have been motivated by the leader's fear that being relationship-oriented would be seen as a complete abandonment of leadership. However, in moderately favorable or unfavorable situations, the most effective leadership style was employee- or relationship-oriented.

Limitations According to Fiedler himself, one important limitation of his model is that it is applicable only to interacting groups in which the task requires close supervision among group members. It is not applicable to co-acting groups, such as sales teams in which the performance of each member is added together to yield a group score.

Hersey’s and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory The situational leadership theory was initially introduced in 1969 and revised in 1977 by Hersey and Blanchard. The theory suggests that the key contingency factor affecting leaders' choice of leadership style is the task-related maturity of the subordinates. Subordinate maturity is defined in terms of the ability of subordinates to accept responsibility for their own task-related behavior. The theory classifies leader behaviors into the two broad classes of task-oriented and relationship-oriented behaviors.

The main concept of situational leadership theory is that the effectiveness of leadership depends on the maturity of subordinates. It is assumed that leaders should adapt their style to the development level of their followers, considering their competence and motivation. There are four leadership styles (S1 to S4) that correspond to the follower's development levels (R1 to R4). These styles suggest that leaders should prioritize either the task or the relationship depending on the follower's development level.

Leadership style in response to follower development level:

Follower development level: Low
- Task/directive behavior: High

Follower development level: High
- Relationship/supportive behavior: Low

Leadership styles:
- S1: Telling/Directing
- Follower: R1: Low competence,

low commitment/Unable and unwilling or insecure
- Leader: High task focus, low relationship focus

In situations where the follower lacks competence and is unwilling or afraid, the leader assumes a highly directive role, providing clear instructions without much emphasis on the relationship. The leader may also establish a structure for the job and control over the person's actions.

The leader's initial step is to determine the cause of the person's lack of motivation and assess any limitations in their ability. These two factors may be interconnected, such as when a person denying their true capabilities experiences a lack of confidence. Additionally, if the leader prioritizes building a strong relationship, the follower may become uncertain about the necessary tasks versus the discretionary ones.

The leader maintains a clear directive approach to ensure clear instructions for all necessary actions. When the follower has some level of competence and variable commitment, or is unable but willing or motivated, the leader has a high focus on task accomplishment and building relationships. However, if the follower is capable of performing the job, even with a degree of overconfidence, simply telling them what to do may demotivate them or result in resistance. In this case, the leader needs to persuade the follower to embrace a different approach by explaining and clarifying decisions. The leader dedicates time to listening, advising, and, if needed, using coaching methods to help the follower acquire the required skills. It should be noted that S1 and S2 are driven by the leader.

S3: Participating / Supporting Follower: R3: High competence, variable commitment / Able but unwilling or insecure Leader: Low task focus, high relationship focus

If the follower has the ability to

perform the job but lacks commitment, the leader should focus on understanding their reasons for refusal and persuading them to cooperate. It is important for followers in this situation to express their skills and motivation. The leader's role is to listen, praise, and motivate the follower to show necessary commitment.

S4: Delegating / Observing Follower: R4: High competence, high commitment / Able and willing or motivated Leader: Low task focus, low relationship focus

When the follower is both capable and motivated to perform the job, the leader can trust them to take charge and allow them independence. However, it may still be necessary for the leader to monitor progress from a distance in order to ensure smooth operations.

Followers at this level require less support or frequent praise, but occasional recognition is still appreciated. Please note that S3 and S4 levels are led by the followers themselves. This approach has limitations as it is based on assumptions that may be questioned, such as the belief that the relationship is less significant at the 'telling' level. The Path-Goal Theory, proposed by American psychologist Robert House, suggests that leaders must motivate their subordinates by (1) highlighting the connection between their own needs and the goals of the organization and (2) clarifying and facilitating the path that subordinates must follow to fulfill both their own needs and those of the organization.

House's theory predicts the impact of structuring behavior based on different conditions. The choice of leadership behaviors is influenced by two factors: the characteristics of the subordinate and the task. The leader's behavior is dependent on these characteristics, making it a situational leadership theory. There is no one-size-fits-all leadership behavior for

motivation, so the leader provides what is lacking to motivate the follower. Once the follower and task are assessed, the leader assists in defining goals and finding the most efficient path to reaching them. During task completion, leaders may adjust their styles for different motivations required by different aspects of the job.

House identifies four leadership styles based on the situation: Directive Leadership, Supportive Leadership, Participative Leadership, and Achievement-Oriented Leadership.
1. Directive Leadership involves the leader providing specific guidance to subordinates regarding performance.
2. Supportive Leadership emphasizes creating a positive and friendly work environment to enhance subordinates' well-being and job satisfaction.

The leader is friendly and shows concern for the subordinates. Additionally, they practice participative leadership by consulting with subordinates and considering their suggestions.

4. Achievement-oriented Leadership. The leader establishes lofty objectives and anticipates exceptional performance from subordinates. Despite being a intricate and occasionally bewildering theory, it serves as a reminder for leaders to constantly consider their primary roles: defining goals, elucidating paths to attain them, eliminating obstacles, and offering support and encouragement for goal achievement. Nevertheless, most of the responsibility lies with the leader, with little emphasis placed on the follower.

Some argue that this type of leadership can ultimately be counterproductive, leading to the development of learned helplessness. One of the common issues in leadership is managing power. Leadership or management involves influencing the individuals you are in charge of, in order to achieve desired outcomes. The level of influence a leader has is determined by various factors, including their own personality and the personalities of those they interact with. The ability of a leader to influence their followers is often referred to as power. In the following

sections, we will delve into the various types of power that a leader may possess.

Five major sources of leader power have been identified: Reward Power, Coercive Power, Legitimate Power, Referent Power, Expert Power. Developing trust leadership is a practice for everyone in the workplace, not just CEOs and owners. It begins with honest intention and self-awareness. Furthermore, trust is essential for effective communication and leadership. Here are five strategies for developing leadership and establishing trust: tell the truth, it is easy to say but difficult to practice.

Your customers, co-workers, employees, shareholders, and vendors all desire truth from you. If there is a delay in delivering a product, an incomplete report, a quality issue, or a decrease in earnings, be honest about it. Most people have the capacity to handle the truth and it encourages others to also be truthful. The truth doesn't need to be managed or remembered. Simply tell the truth—it's more effortless.

Take action, evaluate the available information and make difficult and timely decisions with 70-80% of the information. Waiting to act may result in tragedy, so be proactive.

* It is important to follow through on your commitments and promises. Whether it is returning a call, handling a matter, or being punctual, it is crucial to do what you say you will do. * Consistency is key.

Leadership necessitates consistent behavior, mood, and communication across both personal and professional realms. Trust is destroyed when there is a discrepancy between what is done and said to one person compared to another. It is important to exemplify the expectations you have for others and refrain from asking others to do something you yourself would not do.


is established through ethical behavior. Leadership is a blend of inherent abilities and learned skills that are utilized in specific scenarios. Moreover, there is no singularly correct method of leadership; what may be effective in one situation could be detrimental in another. Therefore, in order to effectively lead in the fast-paced world of today, adaptability to changing leadership styles to suit each circumstance is crucial.

References include comparison studies of different transformational authors such as Bass, Cacioppe, Gronn, Hughes, et. al, Popper ; Zakkai. These studies were mentioned by Vanisha Balgobind in her dissertation work titled "The impact of Transformational Leadership on Subordinate Job satisfaction" (June 2002). Another relevant source is the work on Transformational Leadership by Colonel Mark A. Homrig (21 Dec 2001), retrieved from http://leadership.

au. af. mil/documents/homrig. htm on Aug 1st 2008.

Antonakis, J. and House, R. J., (2002).

The full-range leadership theory: The way forward. In Avolio, B. J. ; Yammarino, F. J.

(Eds.) (2002). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. New York: Elsevier.

* Bass, B. M., (1999). Two decades of research and development in transformational leadership [Electronic version]. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 9-32 * Bass, B. M.

, (1995). Does the transactional–transformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? [Electronic version]. American Psychologist. 52, 130-137. * Bono, J.

E. ; Judge (2004) conducted a meta-analysis on the relationship between personality traits and transformational and transactional leadership. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

89, 901-910. * Harris, J. H., Harris, R.

B. and Eplion (2007).

Personality, leader-member exchanges, and work outcomes [Electronic version]. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management. 92-107 * Humphreys, J. (2001). Transformational and transactional leader behavior [Electronic version]. Journal

of Management Research.

1, 149-159. * Kirkbride, P. (2006). Developing transformational leaders: the full range leadership model in action. Industrial and Commercial Training, 38 (1).

23-32. * Sagie, A. and Koslowski, M. (1994).

Organizational attitudes and behaviors as a function of participation in strategic and tactical change decisions: An application of path-goal theory. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 37-47. * Yukl, G.

, (2006). Leadership in organizations. New York: Elsevier. Online Resources *

php/resources/32-the-fishy-challenges-of-leadership-in-business * * http://www.nwlink.

com/~donclark/leader/leadcon.html *

htm * * * pgdsw.files.

The following websites are included:,,, and rocw. *

The websites listed are,,, and http://www.

The website "" and the website "" provide information on leadership and trust in the workplace.

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