Contingency Theory of Leadership

The term leader is very common for all!

In management terms, a leader is a person who has impending power and influence on a group of people towards a meticulous direction or objective.

Leadership theories can be famed between who gets to be a leader and a follower. There are quite a number of leadership theories, it is very vital for an individual to be aware of each leadership theory but here we will discuss the contingency theory in detail.

What is a contingency theory?

The Contingency Theory of Leadership states that a leader’s effectiveness is reliant upon how his or her leadership style matches the circumstances. Some of the well-known contingency theories are the path-goal theory, the situational leadership theory (SLT), and Fiedler’s contingency model, the Leader participation model.

Looking back at the history of contingency theory

Fred Fiedler in 1960 researched leadership style. He identified leadership depends upon the following four contingent factors:

1) The leader’s supremacy and influence and his or her chosen goals,

2) Followers’ expectations

3) The intricacy of the organization

4) The certainty or uncertainty of the task

We will have a look at the various contingency theories

1. The Fiedler Model of Contingency       

       A.Identifying leadership style

  • Identifying leadership style is the initial step in using the model. Fiedler believed leadership style is unchanging, and it can be measured using a scale he developed called Least-Preferred Co-Worker (LPC) Scale
  • The scale recommends thinking about the person with who you have least enjoyed working. This can be a person who you’ve worked with within your job.
  • You then rate how you feel about this person for every factor, and add up your scores. If your total points are high, you’re likely to be a relationship-orientated leader. If your total points are low, you’re more likely to be a task-orientated leader.


Unfriendly 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Friendly
Unpleasant 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Pleasant
Rejecting 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Accepting
Tense 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Relaxed
Cold 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Warm
Boring 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Interesting
Backbiting 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Loyal
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
Insincere 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Sincere
Unkind 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Kind
Inconsiderate 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Considerate
Untrustworthy 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Trustworthy
Gloomy 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Cheerful
Quarrelsome 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 Harmonious


Source: Table from “A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness” by Professor F.E. Fiedler. ©  1967. 

The model describes that task-oriented leaders usually view their LPCs more negatively, resulting in a lower score

relationship-oriented leaders usually analysis their LPCs more positively, giving them a higher score

B.Defining the situation

The situation is defined by three factors in the contingency theory and they are:

 1.Leader-Member Relation

How well you are relating to your followers. If you maintain excellent relationships with them and they trust you, then the situation is favorable also how the leader interacts with employees and feelings such as trust, loyalty, and confidence that the group has.

2.Task Structure 

If the task is one that is well understood, then the circumstances are favorable. Or else, it is unlikely that you will be successful.

3.Positional Power 

This is the amount of power that you have over your followers. Power is all about your capability to provide rewards or punishment. More power enables you to have a major influence over your followers. If you have more power, then things will work out in your favor. Your positional power is either brawny or feeble.

C.Matching leaders and situations

Here, based upon the situation leadership style is fixed and identifies whether he is task-oriented or relationship-oriented.

To summaries, Three Situational Factors:

·       Leader-member relations: the degree of self-confidence and faith in the leader

·       Task structure: the degree of structure in the job

·       Position power: leader’s ability to hire, fire, and prize


Merits of Fiedler Model of Contingency

  • Flexible in nature and changes according to the situations. It allows managers to change the policies according to the situation.
  • Improves decision making skill

Demerits of Fiedler Model of Contingency

  • It can be hard in some cases while making decisions
  • Always Situational based decisions can sometimes be a failure

2.Situational leadership theory

Developed by Hersev Blanchard. The complete focus of this model is on their followers

There are two types of behavior:

  • Directive behavior and Supportive behavior

Directive  Behavior

Involves clearly telling people

  • What to Do?
  • How to Do It?
  • Where to Do It?
  • When to Do It?

And then closely supervising their performance

Supportive Behavior


  • Listening to People
  • Providing Support and Encouraging Their Efforts
  • Facilitating Their Involvement in all activities
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making

3.Path goal theory

This theory mixes two accepted theories goal-setting and expectancy. Under this theory, leaders have the accountability of making sure their subordinates have the support and information required to attain the goals.

Leaders provide followers with all information and support, to help them achieve their goals

  • Leaders can elucidate the “path” to the worker’s goals
  • Leaders can display multiple leadership types

Four types of leaders are:

  • Directive: focus on the job to be completed
  • Supportive: focus on the well-being of the employee
  • Participative: consults with workers in decision making
  • Achievement-Oriented: sets challenging goals

 4.Leader participation model

This is referred to as the decision-making model. Decision making is key in leadership and to a large extent, determines the relations between the leader and the followers. This relation has a collision on the leader’s achievement.

The contingency theory of leadership is alarmed by the situations in which leaders function. The theory suggests that these situations are what determine the effectiveness of the leader.

Although quite different from other theories, it still gives a unique perspective to be considered.


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