Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership

What type of leadership style do you prefer? Is it focused on completing tasks and generating beneficial results or is it about building a healthy and friendly relationship with your subordinates?Is this natural style of leadership doing well for your company? Is it the best-suited type of leadership?To be able to use a leadership style and put it in the best use for all kinds of different situations, one must be well acquainted with the Fiedler’s Contingency model.

There are a lot of different contingency models. The basic idea behind a contingency theory (model) is that it tells that there is no one particular direction in which an organization must be run.  In other words, there is no one best singular best way to strategize and mold a company or manage a team.

So, a contingency theory scrutinizes how best to run an organization under given circumstances. Thus, the right leadership style will be contingent on the given situation.

Definition 

Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, just like the other contingency theories, states the same that there is no one definite way of leading an organization. It entirely depends on the situation that may arise. The scenario will only determine the suitable mode of leading the team.

It is necessary to understand that in Fiedler’s Contingency Model, the leadership style is fixed. It must not vary or should be changed as per convenience. It will affect the get the best results out of the contingency model.

There are factors that affect the situation of this leadership style.

These factors are the relation between leaders and members, position of the leader, and structure of tasks. These are the principles deciding the fate of this leadership.

Understanding Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Understanding Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Fiedler’s Contingency Model was created back in the mid-60s by Fred Fiedler. He was a scientist who studied the personality and traits of leaders. To put in simple words, how leaders led their teams and met the goals desired by a company.

The contingency model states that there is never the best style to carry out leadership. A leader’s effectiveness and will towards the work that is based on the need of the situation.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model’s effectiveness, efficiency, and the result are majorly based on two factors.

First- the “leadership style”- A lot of things depend on the style of leadership adopted by the leader. It defines whether the leader is concerned about his team members or the production.

The second factor is- the “situational favorableness”. It is now commonly known as “situational control”.

Let us explore both of these now-

1. Leadership Style in Fiedler’s Contingency Model

The first and crucial step is identifying the leadership style that best suits an organization. Fiedler believed that leadership style must be fixed. The leadership style can be measured using a scale developed by Fiedler known as the Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC) Scale.

The first thing is that the scale asks you about the person (colleague) you have least liked or enjoyed working with. This person can be anybody either who you have shared your work with or somebody from with you in education or training.

It then proceeds with making you rate how you feel about that person. Rating is taken based on various factors, and then the rating is added, and the score is generated.

Depending upon the score, the leadership style is decided and suggested. If the total score is high, you are most likely to be a relationship-oriented leader. On the other hand, the overall score is low; you are more prone to be a task-oriented leader.

The factors based on which the result is evaluated are:

  • Unfriendly
  • Unpleasant
  • Rejecting
  • Tense
  • Cold
  • Unkind
  • Quarrelsome

Apart from these factors, there are many more factors that can be used to define and select a better leadership style. More the number of factors, the better will be the selection of the leadership style.

The contingency model says that task-oriented leaders view their LPC scale more negatively, resulting in a lower score. These leaders were referred to as Low LPC leaders by Fiedler. He generalized that low LPCs are very active and beneficial from task-oriented leadership style, which focusses on completing tasks.

In the task-oriented leadership style, the low LPC leaders are quick in organizing groups of members to complete tasks and projects fast. They focus more on reaching their targets, irrespective of how their relationship was with the members of the team.

While, in a relationship-oriented leadership style, the main motive is to build a good relationship with colleagues and this way, the production results get deteriorated. It often jeopardizes the company’s reputation. So, Fiedler views the LPC leaders more positively, providing them with a higher score. He referred to them as high LPC leaders.

These high LPC leaders give more importance to building personal relations and bonds. They are skilled at managing and avoiding conflicts. Thus, keeping the work atmosphere healthy and stress-free.

2. Situational Favorableness in Fiedler’s Contingency Model

After deciding and fixing the leadership style, next comes determining the “situational favorableness” of the particular solution. The situational favorableness depends on three different aspects. These are:

  • Leader-Member Relations

It is the stage where trust and confidence that the team confines in you. A leader who is loyal and more trusted finds himself at a better place amongst his subordinates. Also, a leader who has comparatively more influence in the team is in a preferred position than one who is not trusted.

  • Task Structure

It revolves around the type of task that you are doing. It can be clear and structured, or vague and unstructured.

Unstructured tasks are the ones where the leader and his team members have very less or negligible knowledge of how to succeed or accomplish them. These scenarios are viewed unfavorably.

  • Leader’s Position Power

It is the power a leader needs to provide to the group he is responsible for. A leader should give rewards and punishment based on the need to maintain the aesthetics of the workplace.

Applying Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Applying Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Step 1: Identify the leadership style

Using the LPC scale, a score is generated based on various factors. A high score means that the leadership style is relationship-oriented. On the contrary, a low score indicates that it is a task-oriented leadership style.

Step 2: Identifying the situation

After deciding the leadership style, certain situations must be evaluated. Answering specific questions helps in identifying the location. These can include questions like; if leader-member relations are excellent or poor, if the type of the task to be done is structured or unstructured or if it is worthy enough or not.

There can be questions related to the experience as well. And lastly, to know if one as a leader is capable enough to manage the team or how influential he is.

Step 3: Determine the most effective leadership style

Based on the different factors, the ones discussed above; like leader-member relations, task structures, leader’s position power within the group, Fiedler devised the type of leader that would be most effective and appropriate in each of the situations.

All these steps must be taught in the contingency model to ensure proper working and establishment of the right type of leadership style and its implementation.

Example of Fiedler’s Contingency Model

1. Pizza Hut Restaurant Manager working with Fiedler’s Contingency Model

To get a better and clear understanding of the concept, suppose you are a newly appointed manager at a Pizza Hut outlet. The following situational factors can arise and be expected;

  • Trust will provide below. Since you have been recently appointed, your team members won’t be comfortable with you initially. As the staff turnover is pretty high at any restaurant, it is going to take a while to build strong relationships with your colleagues.
  • The task structure and layout is high. It is so as the moving process is demarcated into sections, from preparing different sorts of pizzas to welcoming customers.
  • The position power is high too. You have been given the right to hire as well as fire employees. Apart from this, punishing for mistakes and rewarding for good work is also in your hands.

2. Software Development Manager working with Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Let’s consider another example to make you understand better. Imagine yourself as a manager who’s just been promoted in the software development team. And you have been working there for two years. So, just peep into the situations you will be in.

  • The trust will be elevated since you have worked with them for a long time. Two years are enough to know the other members of the company. And they also know you; they will trust you more than anyone else.
  • The layout and take structure would be high as well. We know that there is a lot of complexity in software development, so the task structure is also high. And the team already is aware of what is expected and what is to be completed in the week.
  • Position power isn’t high. The promotion has happened yet you don’t hold much authority. All you will be doing is managing the team’s day-to-day tasks and goals. You won’t be responsible for any managing of the line in them. It weakens the power of position, although the promotion is done.

Here, using Fiedler’s Contingency Model, one can easily focus on building relationships based on the relationship-oriented leadership style. It is done by taking into consideration all the factors and scenarios mentioned and explained in the model.

Criticism of the Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Criticism of the Fiedler’s Contingency Model

There are a few criticisms of Fiedler’s Contingency Model. These are based on distinct aspects and are not specific to any one thing.

One of the greatest is the lack of flexibility. It is believed as the leadership style is fixed, one can only hope for better or more effective results if the leader is changed. It is in contradiction to what Fiedler allowed; that is, he didn’t allow flexibility in leaders.

Another issue or drawback is that of the Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC) scale. The leadership styles have been clearly defined when the score is either low or high.

But, in the case when the score lies in the middle of the two-edged scores, the model can prove to be unclear as to which style must be chosen and proceeded with.

Other than these two, some more criticisms have been listed. One of the most talked-about criticisms of Fiedler’s Contingency Model is “The Contingency Model of Criticisms and Suggestions”, published in the Academy of Management Journal.

In its 13th volume, the author says that even under the best cases, the reliability of variance is averaged at 50 percent based on the LPC scale. It concludes that the LPC scale is not so reliable after all.

It can also happen that the co-worker is genuinely unpleasant and confused. However, even if you have encountered such a person just once, you might still be labeled as a low LPC leader no matter how people-oriented you are.

Advantages and Disadvantages 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fiedler's Contingency Theory of Leadership

There are specific merits and demerits of leadership styles that should be known before applying them. So keep them in mind before opting for this leadership. It will make you aware of what will be the benefits and harm of it.

Advantages of Fiedler’s Contingency Model

  1. The situational factors and LPC both can be measured easily.
  2. In determining the effectiveness and efficiency of a leader, this leader is helpful. And this makes it different from any other leadership style.
  3. For defining and distinguishing the leaders based on situations, this leadership works accurately. One can determine the role of leader and what work will be best for his leadership can be known through this style.

Disadvantages of Fiedler’s Contingency Model

  1. This leadership style isn’t flexible. If this leadership style doesn’t match the circumstances, it won’t work. You have to change it anyhow.
  2. The situation can be accessed incorrectly sometimes.

Final Thoughts about Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Even though Fiedler’s Contingency Model has some somewhat mentioned criticism, it is one of the best ways to generate a suitable leadership style. It aids in realizing an appropriate leadership style based on specific parameters.

In addition to this, it fixes the leadership style and then helps in maintaining the ethics of the company. It is done by identifying and analyzing the situation or problem faced in-depth, followed by narrowing down the best result and solution for it.

This way, Fiedler’s Contingency Model has undoubtedly proved to be one of the necessities for leaders of large groups, whether in task-oriented or relationship-oriented leadership styles.

This Fiedler Contingency Model isn’t helpful for workplaces in the 21st century. At times, it can be useful and working- Maybe for analyzing and determining the situation or whether we have to focus on any relationship or tasks or not.

These things can be decided through this style, but applying it can be harmful if the execution isn’t proper.

Please share your thoughts about Fiedler’s Contingency Model ineffective business management and leadership with us in the comments.