Fiedler's Contingency Theory

yFiedler’s Contingency Theory Proposed by the Austrian psychologist Fred Edward Fiedler (1922- ). The contingency model emphasizes the importance of both the leader’s personality and the situation in which that leader operates. A leader is the individual who is given the task of directing and coordinating task-relevant activities, or the one who carries the responsibility for performing these functions when there is no appointed leader. Fiedler relates the effectiveness of the leader to aspects of the group situation.

Fred Fiedler’s Contingency Model also predicts that the effectiveness of the leader will depend on both the characteristics of the leader and the favourableness of the situation.

Additional Resources When business management students first learn about Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, they generally think of the more readily used form of the word “contingency”. Essentially, they think that a contingency is an something which is dependent upon or caused by some other event. Groups of people, leadership, or relationships seldom come to mind.

And yet, as its very root, the base-word contingent means a group of people in contact with each other, with connection or dependence among the followers and their leader. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, industrial and business psychologists such as Fiedler and Woodward started to study the leadership and behavior styles of managers. Before Fiedler’s study, industrial psychologists focused on the personal traits of successful leaders and believed in an ideal science of organization. They felt there was a best way to run a company or group which produced the best decisions and most effective business practices.

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The importance of Fiedler’s contingency theory is that it has influenced almost all modern management theories by denying the existence of a singular ideal organizational approach. The basis of Fiedler’s contingency model involved assessing a potential leader with a scale of work style ranging from task-oriented at one end, to relationship-oriented at the other. Then contingent on factors such as stress level in the organization, type of work, flexibility of the group to change, and use of technology, a customized coordination of resources, people, tasks and the correct style of management could be implemented.

Leadership as a wide spectrum of possible effective styles was a ground-breaking idea. It is still central in modern management theories which reject rigid assumptions about ideal management. The key to leadership effectiveness is viewed by most variants of Contingency Theory as choosing the correct style of leader. This style is dependent on the interaction of internal and external factors with the organization. For example, the ability to leaders is dependent upon the perception of subordinates of and by the leader, the leader’s relationship with them, and the degree of consensus on the scope of a given task.

Situational contingency theory agreed with Contingency theories on the basic idea of there being no single correct solution to organization. This and other similarities led to its main tenets merging into mainstream Contingency Theories. Situational contingency theorists such as Aldorry, Tooth, Vroom and Jajo held that group effectiveness requires a match between a leader’s style and situational demands. Similarly, the concept which Fiedler names “situational control” is the means by which a leader can effectively influence the group’s actions and behavior.

Fiedler’s theory further posits that most situations will have three hierarchical aspects that will structure the leader’s role. The first aspect is atmosphere – the confidence, and loyalty a group feels towards the leader. The second variable is the ambiguity or clarity of the structure of the group’s task. Lastly the inherent authority or power of the leader plays an important role in group performance. Normative Decision Theory, sometimes called Game Theory, attempts to model the process leading to an optimal business decision.

Normative decision making rarely happens in the real world, where perfect rationality does not match actual behavior. The more descriptive approach of how people actually make decisions is known as Decision Analysis. Theorists study the cooperation of workers with leaders, and among each other, and how closely the final decision correlates with a normative or optimal decision. In summary, modern business and industrial management are indebted, and in fact, based upon, Fiedler’s pioneering work on Contingency Theory for their theoretical core of flexibility and adaptation.

Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership Managerial leadership has influenced organizational activities in many ways. These influences include motivating subordinates, budgeting scarce resources, and serving as a source of communication. Over the years researchers have emphasized the influences of leadership on the activities of subordinates. These emphasis by researchers led to theories about leadership. “The first and perhaps most popular, situational theory to be advanced was the ‘Contingency Theory of Leadership Effectiveness’ developed by Fred E.

Fiedler” (Bedeian, Glueck 504). This theory explains that group performance is a result of interaction of two factors. These factors are known as leadership style and situational favorableness. These two factors will be discussed along with other aspects of Fiedler’s theory. “In Fiedler’s model, leadership effectiveness is the result of interaction between the style of the leader and the characteristics of the environment in which the leader works” (Gray, Starke 264). The first major factor in Fiedler’s theory is known as the leadership style.

This is the consistent system of interaction that takes place between a leader and work group. “According to Fiedler, an individual’s leadership style depends upon his or her personality and is, thus, fixed” (Bedeian, Gleuck 504). In order to classify leadership styles, Fiedlers has developed an index called the least-preferred coworker (LPC) scale. The LPC scale asks a leader to think of all the persons with whom he or she has ever worked, and then to describe the one person with whom he or she worked the least well with. This person can be someone form the past or someone he or she is currently working with.

From a scale of 1 through 8, leader are asked to describe this person on a series of bipolar scales such as those shown below: Unfriendly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Friendly Uncooperative 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Cooperative Hostile 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Supportive Guarded 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Open The responses to these scales (usually sixteen in total) are summed and averaged: a high LPC score suggests that the leader has a human relations orientation, while a low LPC score indicates a task orientation. Fiedler’s logic is that individuals who rate their least preferred coworker in elatively favorable light on these scales derive satisfaction out of interpersonal relationship; those who rate the coworker in a relatively unfavorable light get satisfaction out of successful task performance” (Gray, Starke 264). This method reveals an individual’s emotional reaction to people with whom he or she cannot work. It is also stressed that is not always an accurate measurement. “According to Fiedler, the effectiveness of a leader is determined by the degree of match between a dominant trait of the leader and the favorableness of the situation for the leader….

The dominant trait is a personality factor causing the leader to either relationship-oriented or task-orientated” (Dunham 365). Leaders who describe their preferred coworker in favorable terms, with a high LPC, are purported to derive major satisfaction from establishing close relationships with felow workers. High LPC leaders are said to be relationship-orientated. These leaders see that good interpersonal relations as a requirement for task accomplishment. Leaders who describe their least preferred coworker unfavorable terms, with a low LPC, are derived major satisfaction by successfully completing a task.

These leaders are said to be task-orientated. They are more concerned with successful task accomplishment and worry about interpersonal relations later. The second major factor in Fiedler’s theory is known as situational favorableness or environmental variable. This basically is defined as the degree a situation enables a leader to exert influence over a group. Fiedler then extends his analysis by focusing on three key situational factors, which are leader-member, task structure and position power. Each factor is defined in the following: 1.

Leader-member relations: the degree to which the employees accept the leader. 2. Task structure: the degree to which the subordinates jobs are described in detail. 3. Position power: the amount of formal authority the leader possesses by virtue of his or her position in the organization. (Gannon 360) For leader-member relations, Fiedler maintains that the leader will has more influence if they maintain good relationships with group members who like, respect, and trust them, than if they do not. Fiedler explains that task structure is the second most important factor in determining structural favorableness.

He contends that highly structured tasks, which specify how a job is to be done in detail provide a leader with more influences over group actions than do unstructured tasks. Finally, as for position power, leads who have the power to hire and fire, discipline and reward, have more power than those who do not. For example, the head of a department has more power than a file clerk. By classifying a group according to three variables, it is possible to identify eight different group situations or leadership style. These eight different possible combinations were then classified as either task orientation or relationship orientated.

In the following diagram, it shows that task-orientated leadership was successful in five situations, and relationship-orientated in three. Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership Leader-Member Task Position Power Successful Leadership Relations Structure Of Leader Style Good — Structured — Strong — Task Orientation Good — Structured — Weak — Task Orientation Good — Unstructured — Strong — Task Orientation Good — Unstructured — Weak — Consideration Poor — Structured — Strong — Consideration Poor — Structured — Weak — Consideration

Poor — Unstructured — Strong — Task Orientation Poor — Unstructured — Weak — Task Orientation (Gannon 360) “According to Fiedler, a task-orientated style of leadership is more effective than a considerate (relationship-orientated) style under extreme situations, that is, when the situations, is either very favorable (certain) or very unfavorable ( uncertain)” (Gannon 361). Task-orientated leadership would be advisable in natural disaster, like a flood or fire. In and uncertain situation the leader-member relations are usually poor, the task is unstructured, and the position power is weak.

The one who emerges as a leader to direct the group’s activity usually does not know any of his or her subordinates personally. The task-orientated leader who gets things accomplished proves to be the most successful. If the leader is considerate (relationship-orientated), he or she may waste so much time in the disaster, which may lead things to get out of control and lives might get lost. Blue-collar workers generally want to know exactly what they are supposed to do. Therefore it is usually highly structured. The leader’s position power is strong if management backs his or her decision.

Finally, even though the leader may not be relationship-orientated, leader-member relations may be extremely strong if he or she is able to gain promotions and salary increases for subordinates. Under these situations is the task-orientated style of leadership is preferred over the (considerate) relationship-orientated style. “The considerate style of leadership seems to be appropriate when the environmental or certain situation is moderately favorable or certain, for example, when (1) leader-member relations are good, (2) the task is unstructured, and (3) position power is weak” (Gannon 362).

For example, research scientists do not like superiors to structure the task for them. They prefer to follow their own creative leads in order to solve problems. Now under a situation like this is when a considerate style of leadership is preferred over the task-orientated style. Fiedler’s theory has some very interesting implications for the management of leaders in organizations: 1. The favorableness of leadership situations should be assessed using the instruments developed by Fiedler (or, at the very least, by a subjective evaluation). 2. Candidates for leadership positions should be evaluated using the LPC scale. . If a leader is being sought for a particular leadership position, a leader with the appropriate LPC profile should be chosen (task-orientated for very favorable or very unfavorable situations and relationship-orientated for intermediate favorableness). 4. If a leadership situation is being chosen for a particular candidate, a situation (work team, department, etc. ) should be chosen which matches his/her LPC profile (very favorable or unfavorable for task-orientated leaders and intermediate favorableness for relationship-orientated leader). (Dunham 360).

Several other implications can be derived from Fiedler’s findings. First, it is not accurate to speak of effective and ineffective leaders. Fiedler goes on by suggesting that there are only leader who perform better in some situations, but not all situations. Second, almost anyone can be a leader by carefully selecting those situations that match his or her leadership style. Lastly, the effectiveness of a leader can be improved by designing the job to fit the manager. For instance, by increasing or decreasing a leader’s position power, changing the structure of a task, or nfluencing leader-member relations, an organization can alter a situation to better fit a leader’s style. In conclusion, the Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership, has been cautious of accepting all conclusions. Fiedler’s work is not without problems or critics. Evidence suggests that other situational variables, like training and experience have an impact in a leader’s effectiveness. There are also some uncertainties about Fiedler’s measurement of different variables. For instance, there is some doubt whether the LPC is a true measure of leadership style. Despite these and other criticisms, Fiedler’s contingency theory represents an important addition to our understanding of effective leadership” (Bedeian, Gleuck 508). Fred Fiedler’s theory became an important discovery in the study of leadership. His theory made a major conrtibution to knowledge in the leadership area. Leadership Theories Fiedlers Contingency Theory Leadership Theories – Fiedlers contingency theory was developed by Fred Fiedler in the late 1960s. He believes the effectiveness of leadership styles vary depending on the situation.

Similar to the DISC assessment model, Fiedler believes that there are two types of the leader, the task oriented one and the people oriented one. The elements that would affect the effectiveness of leadership are:
• How clearly defined and structured the job scope is
• How much positional power the leader has
• The relationship between the leaders and the followers Fiedler believes that the most favorable situation is one that has a clearly defined scope, high positional power and good relationship between the leaders and the followers.

Fiedler found that task-oriented leaders are more effective in extremely favorable or unfavorable situations, whereas relationship oriented leaders perform best in situations with intermediate favorability. Overview of Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership is regarded by many as the first situational theory of leadership. He broke with the behavioral theorists of leadership and hypothesized that their is no one right way for a leaders to behave in all situations. He went on to state that situations could be classified as most [pic]

Fiedler’s Theory of Leadership is more complex than the behavioral theories of leadership. He said in took a pretzel shaped hypothesis to explain a pretzel shaped world. One of the contributions of his theory of leadership was the idea that not one form of leadership is appropriate for all situations. He continued to view most people as having a predisposition to be either task or relationship-oriented as a primary style of leadership. In addition, he recognized that people had a secondary style of leadership which they could use in low stress situations.

For task-oriented leaders, their secondary style was relationship-oriented. For relationship-oriented, the secondary style is to look for new challenges. To understand the situation, Fiedler said that the following three factors had to be considered: 1. Leader-member relations – Degree to which a leader is accepted and supported by the group members. 2. Task structure – Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with clear goals and procedures. 3. Position power – The ability of a leader to control subordinates through reward and punishment.

He further said that leader-member relationships had twice the impact on the favorableness of the situation than task structure and that task structure had twice the impact as the position power. In the least favorable situation, the task-oriented leader by using her primary form of leadership was more effective because she provided the structure to initiate the task. In the moderately favorable situation, the relationship oriented leader was more effective by using his primary form of leadership and building good leaders-member relations.

In the most favorable situation, the task-oriented leader was more effective because she would use her secondary style of leadership and maintain good leader-member relationships. One of the controversies surrounding Fiedler’s theory is his contingent that leadership is a personality trait and very difficult, if not impossible for leaders to learn other styles and to flexibly use them. He advised that the situation should be selected or “engineered” for the leader than try to develop the leader.

Web Sources: http://changingminds. rg/disciplines/leadership/theories/fiedler_lpc. htm                           http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Fiedler_contingency_model Fiedler’s (1967) contingency approach reinforced these findings, suggesting that no one leadership style is ideal for every situation. Fiedler felt that the interrelationships between the group’s leader and its member were most influenced by the manager’s ability to be a good leader. The task to be accomplished and the power to be associated with the leader’s position also were cited as key variables.

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Fiedler's Contingency Theory. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Fiedler's Contingency Theory
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