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Fiedler’s Contingency Theory Essay

The contingency Theory shows the relationship between the leader’s orientation or style and group performance under differing situational conditions. The theory is based on determining the orientation of a leader ( relationship or task ), the elements of the situation ( leader-member relations, task structure and leader position power), and the leader orientation that was found to be most effective as the situation changed from low to moderate to high control. Fred Edward Fiedler in his landmark 1964 article, “ A contingency of Leadership Effectiveness. studied and emphasized the importance of both the leader’s personality and the situation in which that leader operates. Fiedler found that task oriented leaders were more effective in low and moderate control situations and relationship oriented managers were more effective in moderate control situations. Fiedler and his associates studied leaders in a variety of contexts but mostly in military context and their model is based on their research findings. They outlined two styles of leadership namely task-motivated and relationship-motivated.

Task refers to task accomplishment, and relationship-motivation refers to interpersonal relationships. He measured leadership style leadership style with the Least Preferred Co-Worker scale (LPC scale ). According to Northouse ( 2007 ), the leaders scoring high on this scale are relationship motivated and those scoring low are task motivated. Northhouse further indicated that, central to contingency theory is the concept of the situation, which is characterized by three factors.

One, leader-member relations which deals with the general atmosphere of the group and the feelings such as trust, loyalty and confidence that the group has for its leader. Two, task structure, which is related to task clarity and the means to task accomplishment. Three, the position power, which relates to the amount of reward-punishment authority the leader has over members of the group. These three factors determine the favorableness of various situations in the organization. Definitions of factors in Contingency Theory Situational elements One, is the leader-member relations.

The regard with which the leader and the group members hold one another determines in part, the ability of the leader to influence the group and the conditions under which he or she can do so. It therefore follows that a leader who is accepted by the group members is in a more favorable situation than one who is not. Two, is the task structure which is determined by the following questions in mind; can a decision be demonstrated as correct? , are the the requirements of the task of the task understood by everyone? , is there more than one correct solution?.

If the group’s task is not structured, and if the leader is no more knowledgeable than the group about how to accomplish the task, the situation definitely becomes unfavorable. The third factor is the leader position power. This is determined by the rewards and punishments which the leader officially has at his or her disposal for either rewarding or punishing the group members based on how they perform. The more power the leader has, the more favorable the situation. Leader Orientation Fiedler used the Least Preferred Co-worker scale commonly known as LPC scale to measure leadership style.

LPC helps management identify the human relations orientation and task orientation of possible leaders. He analyses leader orientation as follows. One of the factors is relationship orientation in which he said that high LPC leaders are more concerned with personal relations, more sensitive to the feelings of others, and better of heading off conflict. Such leaders use their good relations with others to get a job done. This also enables them to deal with complex issues when making decisions. These leaders tend to have an LPC score of 73 and above. In high control situations, these leaders tend to become bored and are no longer challenged.

They tend to seek approval from their superiors ignoring their subordinates or they may decide to reorganize he task. They often become inconsiderate toward their subordinates as a result, become more punishing and more concerned with performance of the task. In moderate control situations, they focus on group relations. They reduce the anxiety and tension of group members and thus reduce conflict. They handle creative decision making groups well. They see this situation as challenging and interesting and perform it well in it. Lastly, in low control situations, they always try to obtain group support often at the expense of the task.

In fact under extremely stressful situations, they may also withdraw from leadership role, failing to direct the group’s work. The second factor is task oriented. According to Fiedler, the LPC score for leaders here is 64 and below. Low LPC leaders are more concerned with the task, and less dependent on group support. They tend to be eager and impatient to get on with work. They quickly organize the job and have a no-nonsense attitude about getting the work done. In moderate control situations, they are anxious and less effective. They become absorbed in the task and pay little attention to personal relations in the group.

They tend to be insensitive to the feelings of their group members, and the group resents the lack of concern. However, in high control situations, these leaders are relaxed and develop pleasant relations with subordinates and they are easy to get along with. As work gets done, they do not interfere with the group or expect interference from their superiors. And lastly in low control situations, the leaders devote themselves to their challenging task. They organize and drive the group to task completion. They also tend to control the group tightly and maintain strict discipline.

Fiedler and associates concluded that if a leader’s LPC scores fall between 65 and 72, then the leader must carefully analyze their leadership style as they learn more about the relationship oriented and task oriented styles. However, it is important to note that there is no single leadership style that is effective in all situations. Rather, certain leadership styles are better suited for some situations than for others. Fiedler further pointed out that the effectiveness of the leader is contingent upon the orientation of the leader and the favorableness of the situation.

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