Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership: Definition, Styles, Variables, and Pros/Cons

What is Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership?

Fiedler’s contingency leadership is a leadership theory or style that states that leaders’ effectiveness is determined by their ability to match their leadership styles with the demands of the situation. It says there is no universally accepted leadership style rather best leadership style is contingent on the case, problem, or situation.

In 1967, Fred Edward Fiedler, a renowned researcher of organizational psychology, developed a leadership theory in his book, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness. This theory is also called Fiedler’s contingency model of leadership, Fiedler’s contingency theory, Fiedler’s leadership theory, Fiedler’s leadership style, Fiedler’s situational leadership, etc.

Fiedler’s goal was to determine what determines a leader’s effectiveness. Fiedler, then in his book stated two factors which are the natural style of a leader and situational favorableness. This concludes that when you as a leader are able to match your leadership style with the situation you are an effective leader and vice versa.

Fiedler’s Contingency Leadership Styles

Fiedler’s leadership theory identified two leadership styles – task-oriented and relationship-oriented. He developed a scale called LPC i.e. least preferred coworkers.

LPC is a scale that helps to measure or identify a leader whether he is a relationship-oriented or a task-oriented leader. More simply, when you rate the least preferred coworkers, you are a relationship-oriented leader.

Related: Contingency Theory of Management

Whereas, when you rate fewer the least preferred coworkers, you are a task-oriented leader.

Task-Oriented Leaders

According to Fiedler, task-oriented leaders are those who rate fewer LPC scale. These are the leader who is good at organizing teams and tasks and getting things done.

They usually, give little to no focus on relationships or building bonds when the time is to do work. They try to get the job done and later think of establishing a relationship with their followers or subordinates.

Relationship-Oriented Leaders

Relationship-oriented leaders are those who rate higher on the LPC scale. These are the leaders who are good at building a stronger bond with their subordinates and managing conflicting situations.

They first focus on creating a good bond with their followers and then ask them to do the given jobs. They are good at increasing employee satisfaction within the organization.

Fiedler’s Situational Variables

Fiedler identified three situational favorableness or variables that determine the favorableness of the situation. He stated that a leader’s effectiveness is partially contingent upon three situational variables they are leader-member relations, the task structure, and the leader’s position power.

Leader-Member Relations

This is the variable that measures how healthy the relationship is as a leader with your followers or team members. The more your team members trust you the stronger your relations will be.

In addition, to establish a good leader-member relationship you should be able to stand on your words and lead them by example. Create a positive impression and help your team members to upskill and grow.

Task Structure

Task structure states that the more clear and precise the job is the more favorable the situation is and vice versa. It defines the clarity of the task that needs to be done.

Related: What is Organizational Structure?

Make sure your task is clear, precise, and easy to understand by all team members. The more the task is clearly structured, the more clearly your team members will do it.

Leader’s Position Power

It is the power you hold as a leader in your organization. The more position power you have the more favorable situation will be for you. It lets you control your teams and make necessary decisions on your end as per the situation.

When Leaders Are Effective?

After understanding, the leadership styles and situational variables let’s understand when task-oriented and relationship-oriented are effective. In the contingency theory of leadership, Fiedler stated the following:

He stated that the situation is favorable when:

  • There is high mutual trust, respect, and confidence between leaders and followers.
  • The task is clear and controllable.
  • The followers accept the leader’s power.

Moreover, Fiedler explained that task-oriented leaders are effective when the situation is either extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable.

Relationship-oriented leaders are effective in situations partially or moderately favorable and unfavorable.

Read Also: Autocratic Leadership Style

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fiedler’s Continency Model of Leadership

  • Advantages:
    • It is easy to use.
    • It is a flexible style of leadership.
    • It has an intuitive appeal as the right leader can choose the best style to lead their followers.
    • It is simple to understand that leaders must evaluate the situation and apply the correct leadership style.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Leaders can not change their leadership styles in different situations.
    • Situational leaders can divert attention away from long-term strategies which may affect the long-term goal achievement of the organization.

Read Next: Ohio State Leadership Studies

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