The important contingency theories of leadership are: 1. Fiedler’s Contingency Model 2. Situational Leadership Model 3. Leader – Member Exchange (LMX) Model 4. Path – Goal Model 5. Leader Participating Model.
Contingency Theory of Leadership
Contingency Theory of Leadership – Top 5 Theories: Fiedler’s Contingency Model , Path Goal Theory, Situation Leadership Theory and a Few Others
The core proposition of this theory is that leadership is a function of the leader, follower, and the situation. Hence, leadership is contingent upon these three variables and not styles.
Contingency theories have a number of variants. Let us have a look at some of the more important ones, namely, Fielder’s Contingency Model or FCM, path-goal theory, situational leadership theory, leadership substitute, and multiple linkage model. Before doing so, let us have a look at Reddin’s 3D theory.
Reddin’s 3D Theory of Managerial Effectiveness:
Reddin’s theory is interposed between style theories and contingency theories because it uses the term ‘condition’, rather than the term ‘situation’. It also speaks in terms of effective styles. He defined four conditions- low task-low relationship, low task- high relationship, high task-low relationship, and high task-high relationship.
A style that a leader adopts may be ineffective, latent (or neutral), and effective depending on the abovementioned conditions. In other words, Reddin proposes that ineffective, latent or effective styles depends on the four conditions. The weakness of Reddin’s model is that it skips the situation. The advantage of Reddin’s model is that in every condition that he proposed, there can be an effective style, latent style and ineffective style.
The FCM postulates that the leader’s effectiveness is based on ‘situational contingency’, which is a result of interaction of two factors, namely Leadership Style and Situational Favourableness (later called ‘situation control’). He created a measure called Least Preferred Co-worker or LPC to gauge the leadership style.
i. Leadership Style:
If someone asks you to describe the colleague you dislike most in the class, some of you might use harsh words and some others may use more humane words. The one who uses more humane description is considered a more relationship-driven person. Fielder uses this basic common sense to measure leadership styles.
He created a scale called Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC). The name of the scale can be a little confusing. The LPC does not measure the co-worker, but the leader. It is done using input from the way a person (leader) gives scores to the LPC. LPC scale has bipolar adjectives. For example, the scale has ‘Unfriendly’ and ‘Friendly’ or ‘Discouraging’ and ‘Encouraging’ with scales running from 1 to 8.
If the scorer gives 1 to the LPC, then the people orientation of the person who gives the score is low. However, if the person gives a score of 8 to the LPC, then the people orientation of the person who gives the score is high. It is possible to sum the scores given for various adjectives and then arrive at the degree of people orientation of a person. It is reiterated that LPC scores measure the relationship score of the person who is taking the test and not of the co-worker.
ii. Situational Favourableness:
Fielder gives predominance to situation. A situation can be classified as ‘favourable’ or ‘unfavourable’ depending on- one, ‘task structure’ or the degree to which a task is structured and two, ‘position power or the degree of authority enjoyed by the leader by virtue of his/her position.
Although over 400 studies have been conducted using this theory, the model has not become very popular because the LPC scale does not have intuitive appeal. “Moreover, it is difficult to classify a situation as highly favourable or not.” Yet another challenge is that in an organisation, the leader and the subordinates remain the same; only the situation changes.
So, one cannot opt for low LPC or high LPC leaders as and when the ‘favourableness’ changes. These challenges make it difficult to apply Fielder’s model as spelt out, although it may be a useful model to consider when appointing project leaders.
Let us take the case of a salesperson. The person may be skilled or not very skilled. If the goal is a simple sale, the skilled and the unskilled person may not expect anything from the leader of the sales team. However, if the sale involves several million rupees and the conditions are complex, the skilled one may expect support and guidance, while the unskilled one may expect detailed directions.
Path-goal theory explains how the behaviour of the leader influences the ‘satisfaction’ and ‘performance’ of a subordinate in a situation depending on the expectations of the subordinate.
House and Mitchell identified that there are four leadership behaviours that meet ‘satisfaction’ and ‘performance’ depending on the situation and the skill/competency of the followers:
i. Directive leadership gives the subordinates clear goals, rules, regulations, and procedures.
ii. Achievement-oriented leadership sets challenging goals and seeks performance improvements.
iii. Supportive leadership cares for the needs and welfare of the subordinates.
iv. Participative leadership consults the subordinates and takes their suggestions and opinions into consideration.
It is easy to see that the first two pertain to the task orientation and the last two to relationship orientation. The theory accepts that situational variables have an impact on the leadership styles and its outcome.
From this theory, we can make some important conclusions:
i. When the goal is ambiguous and the path is vague and unstructured, neither the leader nor the subordinates have answers. In this case, the subordinates expect the leader to be directive. If the situation is not very complex, a leader would be able to be effective by adapting directive leadership.
ii. In complex situations that require high level of expertise, such as finding a cure or vaccine for Zika virus, a directive style is not possible because the leader does not have enough information and expertise to clarify the goals or the path. Hence, a participative style would be more effective.
iii. When goals and paths are clear as in a BPO, supportive leadership is more effective, because the followers do not expect any guidance from the leader; rather they expect freedom to operate.
The important take away from this theory is that leadership effectiveness is contingent upon the situation and the followers.
When you have a college festival, who is the person you task to arrange the reception of the VIP? You will of course nominate someone with ‘ability and self-confidence’ to talk to the VIP. What about the person who is going to lead the group dance? The answer is similar, that is, you will select someone with ‘ability and self-confidence’ to handle the group dance on the stage.
The SLT is built on this simple common sense, and was proposed by Hersey and Blanchard. They used the term ‘maturity’ to refer to ‘ability and confidence/ willingness’ to do a job. High maturity means high ability and confidence to perform a task. Hersey and Blanchard who proposed the theory suggested that there are four levels of maturity (M1-M4; Ml being low and M4 high).
In other words, the theory proposes that the leaders need to assess the maturity (ability and confidence) of a follower to do a job, and then, match their leadership style to it. Depending on the maturity level, a leader may adopt one of the following styles namely telling (let us call it SI), selling (S2), participating (S3), and delegating (S4).
The Two terms, namely directive and supportive. The term directive refers to task behaviour and supportive refers to relationship behaviour. Situational leadership is based on an interplay among task behaviour, relationship behaviour, and performance readiness or maturity.
In other words, SLT attempts to integrate the maturity framework (Ml to M4) and situation framework (S1 to S4).
In other words, both telling and selling are shades of directive behaviour. Similarly, delegating and participating are shades of supportive/relationship behaviour. The maturity factors (M1 to M4) are embedded in the figure. For example, selling style is applicable when the followers are unable but willing and confident.
Hence, the leader can be effective by explaining how to do the task and pushing the decisions. Similarly, when the followers are able, willing and confident, the leader can delegate.
This theory was proposed by Ker and Jermier. It speaks of substitute and neutralisers that impact leadership. A substitute makes a leadership behaviour unnecessary and redundant. A neutraliser negates the impact of a leader’s behaviour. For instance, if a subordinate is experienced and has expertise, little direction (controlling of actions) is necessary.
Similarly, if the task is simple and repetitive, the leader need not direct. Further, if the organisational rules and regulations are clear and unambiguous, directing becomes unnecessary. Therefore, we can say that the characteristics of the follower, the task, or the organisation may make a leadership action unnecessary.
Similarly, some behaviour/characteristics of a follower/subordinate may neutralise some leadership behaviours. For instance, the reward-giving behaviour of a leader may be neutralised if the subordinate is highly motivated and does not care for rewards. Similarly, if the nature of the job is intrinsically motivating to a person or group cohesion is so high and motivating, actions of the leader to motivate may be neutralised.
The theory is very useful, but one has to be cautious while applying it. For instance, you may not reward someone because you realised that the person does not care for the reward, since the job is intrinsically motivating. However, if you reward someone else, who expects it, then the first person may feel aggrieved and demotivated.
This was proposed by Gary Yukl, an eminent theorist in leadership. The model suggests that the behaviour of a leader becomes effective depending on situational variables that are many in number. Also, there are other variables such as subordinate’s effort, role clarity, task skills, organisation of work, cohesiveness and cooperation, resources and support services, and external coordination.
Substitutes and neutralisers mentioned in leadership substitute theory also impact the effectiveness of behaviour. The model looks more comprehensive than most other models, but it is not easily testable, and therefore, it has not mustered adequate support.
Contingency theory is intuitively appealing. However, since there are limitless contingencies, it becomes very difficult to create any framework to apply this theory. This has created some disillusionment with the theory, although the theory has never been rejected outright.
Contingency Theory of Leadership – Important Theories
Contingency approaches to leadership take the position that there is no “one best way” to lead in all situations. Effective leadership styles vary from situation to situation depending on several factors like personality predispositions of the leaders, the characteristics of the followers, the nature of task being done and other situational factors.
The Contingency Theories have been developed by a number of thoughts.
The important contingency leadership theories are pointed out below:
i. Fiedler’s Contingency Model
ii. Situational Leadership Model
iii. Leader – Member Exchange (LMX) Model
v. Leader Participating Model
Let us explain this in details:
This theory plays a crucial role in the organisation. This attempt will explain what should be the leader’s style for the effective functioning of the organisation. A leader should be very much careful w.r.t. his style of interacting with his subordinates.
Statement of the Theory:
This theory states that the effective leader has to match with his leadership style with respect to motivational factors and situational factors. In other words, the proper match between leader’s motivations styles with respect to the situation asked for is the ultimate objective. Let us have a general concept on the above two factors.
The first factor on which leadership style depend in the motivational factor. The success of a leader depends upon his style of interacting with his sub-ordinates as well as with his work.
In other words, the two types of leaders are:
a. Task oriented leader – Leader who wants to get the work done i.e. productivity is the ultimate goal.
b. Relation oriented leader – Leader Who wants to get the work done by his subordinates or co-workers.
A fundamental question comes to our mind that how can we know that whether an individual is task oriented ore relation oriented? This can be known from the concept of LPC (Least Preferred Co-workers).
LPC is an instrument to measure that whether a person is task oriented leader or relation oriented leader. It contains 16 contrasting styles. From the LPC, Feidler concluded that, if LPC is high, it indicates task oriented leader. If LPC is low, it indicates relation oriented leader. If LPC is middle, then no conclusion is made.
ii. Situational Leadership Style:
This is the second factors that affect the leadership of an individual. It is necessary to match the leader with the situation.
However, Fiedler identified three factors for leader’s effectiveness:
a. Leader-member relations – It is the degree of confidence, trust and respect subordinates have in their leader. If the leader member relation is good, then the leader is effective.
b. Task Structure – It indicates the degree to which the job assignment is procedurised. The high degree task structures indicate favourable condition for the work.
c. Position Power – It indicates formal authority reward for good performance and punishment for lacking. It is based on formal structural position in the organisation, which includes power to higher, fire, discipline, promote and salary increment. If there is greater control.
On the basis of research Feidler concluded that the task oriented leader will do better in both high control and low control situation.
On the other hand, relation oriented leader will do better in moderate control situation. This can be explained with the help of Fig 8.4.
The situational leadership theory is one of the epoch making creation of two philosophers named Hersoy and Blanchard. This theory is based on the type of leader who can cope up with the situation.
Statement of the Theory – This theory states that an effective leader is the person who can cope up with the situation. That means, the person who copes up with the situation is called effective leader. It depends on the followers’ readiness.
This theory can be explained with reference to two prominent questions.
i) Why focus on followers?
ii) What do they mean by the term ‘readiness’?
The answer to the first question is we focus on followers as the followers who accept the leader.
The situational leadership theory consists of basically three qualities of the leader:
a. Task behaviour
b. Relationship behaviour
c. Maturity level
a. Task behavior – The amount of direction that a leader gives.
b. Relationship behavior – The socio-emotional support.
c. Maturity level – The desire of achievement, the willingness to accept responsibility.
The relationship between leader and follower moves through four stages:
b. Setting (employee oriented behaviour)
a. Directing – It refers to direct or to give instruction in the case there is high task and lower relation.
b. Setting – The employee oriented behaviour. Both having high selling (relation and task high)
c. Supporting – It supports to resolve for greater responsibility. It has high relation and low task.
d. Delegating – It supports and encourages sub-ordinates for self-confidence, they no longer need a directive of leader. Here, the relation is low and task is low.
It can be explained with the help of Fig 8.5:
From a – b = delegating
From b – c = supporting
From c – d = selling
From d – c – directing
iii. Leader Member Exchange Theory (LMX)/Vertical DYAD-Linkage Theory (VDL):
It plays an important role in organisation. This theory is based on proper relationship between leader of the organisation and number of organisations.
If the relationship is good, the organisation will be effective.
Statement of the Theory:
This theory states that leader has different relationship with different subordinate.
According to different category of sub-ordinates, the leader has to establish the relationship for the fulfillment of the objectives.
Each supervisor and sub-ordinate is considered to be vertically dyad (a group of two). The different relationship occurs due to time pressure.
Explanation of the Theory:
This theory is based on leader’s relationship with one group which is different from other group.
There are two types of groups in the organisation:
a. Ingroup – Let us have a brief idea about ingroup. The first category of group in the organisation is In-group. The In-group is the trusted group and receives special privilege. It is given a better responsibility. The sub-ordinate is the in-group who has attitude and personality character similar to leader.
b. Out-group – The second category of group is the out-group. It is the group in the organisation who is not given special attention. In other words, it is the group which receives less attention from leader. The leader only keeps formal relation. The leader pays only official relations as and when required.
Organisational Application (In – group):
In each organisation, there are both in-group and out-group. The in-group is given special attention.
a. Higher performance ranking
b. Lower turnover intension
c. Greater satisfaction of leader
d. Higher productivity
f. Salary level.
iv. Path-Goal Theory:
This theory plays an outstanding role in the organisation. It has a greater impact on the character of the leader. The leader should assist to the followers for attaining their objectives and provide necessary support and direction in order to ensure all objectives in the organisation.
Statement of the Theory – This theory states that ‘identify the goal and clear the path for attaining the goal’.
Explanation of the Theory:
Now, a particular question comes to our mind that, how the leader can influence his sub-ordinate. In order to answer this question, leader’s behaviour plays a significant role. The leader’s behaviour should motivate to the sub-ordinate to that extent so that the behaviour of the sub-ordinate should be more concerned about organisational objectives.
In this case, the following three points affect the behaviour of the leader:
a. Expectancy – It is defined as the belief that effort will lead to complete the work.
b. Instrumentality – This is defined as the ‘belief that the first level outcome leads to second level outcome.
For example – the promotion of an employee is based on performance.
c. Valency – It is defined as the strength of individual’s preference for a particular outcome.
For an effective leader, the four kinds of leadership behaviour are necessary:
c. Achievement – oriented
d. Participating style
Leadership and Followership:
Matching of these two styles is most essential in management as its basic objective or getting things done by others can be effectively attained only when there is perfect match between these two styles. Conflict between these two adversely affects the management effectiveness. Hence, the leader should make him fit for a match. The possible matches between leadership and followership styles are shown by arrow mark in the Fig.8.8.
Zero Level Conflict:
The level of conflict would be ‘Zero’ when the leader with exploitative autocratic style interacts with the follower with the ‘Yes-boss’ style. Similarly, the conflict would be at zero level when the leader with participative style interacts with the follower with critical style.
Benevolent autocratic leader by offering monetary and non-monetary benefits and by conferring new designations on his followers with the styles of ‘No-boss’, ‘Grumbling’, ‘Escaping’ and ‘Intellectual Arrogancy’ can minimize the level of conflict but he cannot bring down the conflict to ‘Zero’ level.
Thus, the Zero level conflict matching are:
(i) Exploitative autocratic style of the leader and Yes-boss of the followers; and
(ii) Participative/ democratic style of the leader and critical style of the follower.
Though it may be said that the match between participative style of the leader and critical style of the follower is effective and desirable, there is no such effective match in practice as these two styles are subjected to situational requirement.
Match of Situation-Leadership Style-Followership Style:
The mere coincidence of leadership and followership styles will not produce effective results. What is more essential is the coincidence of these two styles which should meet the situational requirements to maximize the human resources contribution towards the organisational effectiveness.
The emergency- situations can be handled effectively if the leader is in exploitative autocratic style and the follower is in Yes-Boss style. Other styles of the leader and the follower may not suit to this situation and hence, they may be ineffective match in situations of exigency.
The leader has to insist the followers to accept his decisions in some situations like adoption of latest technology which normally is resisted by the followers. In such situations, the leader in ‘the Benevolent Autocratic’ style can impress upon the follower to accept the decision of adoption of technology by offering benefits.
It is clear from the analysis that leader-follower and situations interaction should be taken into account to attain the organisational goals rather than mere leadership styles. One may agree to this but he faces the problem of integration of these three variables. There may not be specific and ready-made answer to this question but the problem can be minimized when the follower and leader adapt to their style based on the situational requirements.
Contingency Theory of Leadership – The Fred Fiedler Model
The Fred Fiedler Model:
A particular style of leadership cannot be effective under all circumstances. In other words, it is contingent on the environments obtaining in the enterprise. Even the universally accepted “democratic style” of leadership concentrating on subordinates participation in decision making process cannot be operative in every situation.
Fiedler argues that leadership behaviour is contingent on the environments. He stresses that the environment may be divided according to their favourability to the leader. Consequently, “the leadership characteristics vary according to the degree of favourability”.
The favourability of an environment to a leader depends on three considerations:
i. Leader member relations
ii. The task structure
iii. The degree to which the leader has formally defined organisationally supported power.
Fielder states that greater harmony between the leader and followers, greater structured task within well-defined limits and greater power with the leader to enforce his action may be stated as the characteristics of favourable environments. The degree of favourability will determine leadership behaviour.
To be specific, where the degree of favourability is very high, the leadership behaviour will include the elements of “high control of others and activity”; conversely, if the degree of favourability of environments is low, the leadership behaviour will be “permissive”.
Most of Fieldler’s findings have been verified but more verification does not entitle these phenomena to be a theory. A theory suggests explanations for why certain phenomena occur, and it proposes certain processes as “casual”. Fiedler’s contingency model does not satisfy this condition hence his observations may be called empirical generalization but cannot be called a theory.
Secondly, the empirical generalization does not prove to be useful even administratively, because some of his presumptions and the consequent predictions are unreal.
How can one predict the behaviour even though some of the environments have been laid down? Lastly, the contingency model has given scant regard to number of problems of logic.
One of the important problems he has not taken account of is that environment though may affect the person over time, but such effects may vary according to the characteristics of people.
Further, the operability of contingency model depends on the knowledge beforehand as to what are the values of contingency variables so that the leadership behaviour could be designed accordingly.
In the absence, one may change from permissive to controlling without much result.
Fred Fiedler’s Contingency Model – A Synoptic View:
The contingency model has following four components:
1. Three elements
2. Overall favourableness of the situation
3. Leadership traits
4. Group effectiveness
i. Leader Member Relation:
Leader member relationship is the most important component of leadership. If there exist estrangement between the leader and members of the group, the leader will find it difficult to implement any plan or policy for achieving the object of the group.
Hence, a climate of trust, confidence and harmony should exist between the leader and the followers on the basis of mutuality and reciprocity.
No leader can function unless he is fully assured by the organisation of the position and power of a leader.
The position and power of a leader depends on 4 sets of the following authority enjoyed by him:
a. Expert authority
b. Legitimate authority
c. Reward authority
d. Coercive authority
A leader not possessing the requisite expertise capable of excelling himself over his subordinates will get spontaneous response from his subordinates. The subordinates will respect him only when they are sure of getting something tangible from his superior.
Legitimate authority ought to go with every concept of leadership. A leader without legitimate authority commensurate to the position and status he is enjoying, will fail to act as effective leader.
If he possesses less authority, he will be faced with the danger of flouting his authority by his subordinates. Under such circumstances, it will be very difficult for him to command his subordinates or even to keep the group intact.
Sometimes, the authority of most leaders is usurped by their bosses with the result that they have to eat humble pie before their subordinates.
The subordinates know that they have a direct access to the higher boss with the result that they do not care for their immediate boss. This is a highly dangerous situation, which may crumble the very edifice of organisation structure if the hierarchy of authority is tempered with.
ii. The Position Power:
The position power of the leader is related to the authority of giving reward or the authority to coerce the subordinate.
If he is satisfied that the subordinate has done good work in accordance with the objective norm of performance, he enjoys power to reward him appropriately, to boost his morale, which in turn will not only motivate other subordinates to put their mind and heart into the work but will also elevate the status and position of the leader in the eyes of the subordinates likewise.
The leader should also possess the authority to penalize the subordinates if they have done bad work inspite of earlier advice and warnings.
iii. Task Structure:
Task structure also contributes to the effectiveness of leadership. Better the task structure, more favourable the situation to the leader.
A task is said to be structured better if it fulfills the following conditions:
a. Decisions about the tasks can be evaluated objectively.
b. The goal is clearly understood by the group.
c. There are few rather than many ways to accomplish the task.
d. There are few rather than many correct solutions to the problem.
There are 8 situations ranging from very favourable to unfavourable, to the leader. A favourable situation is that in which the relation between the leader and the group members is good and that the members are always inclined to help the leader to realize the group’s goals. Conversely, if the relations between the superior and the subordinates are not good due to prevalence of unfavourable situation, the subordinates will have reservations in extending full support to their leader.
They may even go to the extent of creating situations in which the leader find himself completely helpless to execute his plans and policies which are directed towards achieving the desired objectives.
The traits of a leader have relevance to the effective functioning of a leader.
The traits are:
a. Co-operative vs. uncooperative,
b. Friendly vs. unfriendly,
c. Self-assured vs. hesitant,
d. Interested vs. bored.
These have an important bearing on the proper functioning of a group. Any leader who is uncooperative or unfriendly or hesitant or bored will confront a lot of opposition from his subordinates. He will have to work very hard to carry his subordinates with him. Consequently, every leader should make a self – introspection of oneself and try to make up the deficiency in his style of functioning and behaviour.
4. Group Effectiveness:
Group’s object could be achieved only through group effectiveness. Group effectiveness implies that there exists a climate of trust and confidence and harmony existing in the group in which there is proper interaction between superior, subordinate and peers. Each one is striving to achieve the group’s object by subordinating his personal object. The leader is acting as the teacher and the subordinates are providing spontaneous support to the point of enlisting the cooperation and contribution of his subordinates by inviting them to participate in the decision making process.
The suggestions of the subordinates are evaluated on merit and they are accepted or rejected on the basis of logic and argument. The leader has an open mind and rational attitude to accept other’s advice and to make amends in his thinking and behaviour. When such environments exist in the group they will lead to make it effective.
A number of studies on leadership behaviour have been completed at the Ohio state university, which reveal two important variables on which leadership behaviour depends:
i. Initiating Structures (SI):
It reflects the extent to which an individual is likely to define and structure, his role and then of his subordinates towards goal attainment. A high score on this dimension characterizes individuals who play an active role in directing group activities through planning, communicating information, scheduling, trying out new ideas.
ii. Consideration (C):
It reflects the extent to which the individuals is likely to have job relationship characterized by mutual trust, respect for subordinate’s ideas and consideration of their feelings. A high score is indicative of a climate of good rapport and two-way communication. A low score indicates that the supervisor is likely to be impersonal in his relations with group members.
Later on, Paul Hessey and Kenneth H. Blanchard at the center for leadership studies, developed the Tri-dimensional leader effectiveness model. They have used the terms Task Behaviour and Relationship Behaviour for consideration and initiating structures as done by other professors of Ohio State University. According to them, there are 4 brave “Leadership Quadrants” which have also been described by them as “brave styles”.
a. High task and low relationship.
b. High task and high relationship.
c. Low task and high relationship.
d. Low task and low relationship.
They have defined:
Task behaviour – The extent to which leaders are likely to organise and define the roles of the members of their group (followers); to explain what activities each is to do and when, where and how tasks are to be accomplished; characterized by endeavouring to establish well defined patterns of organisation, channels of communication and ways of getting jobs accomplished.
Relationship Behaviour – The extent to which leaders are likely to maintain personal relationship between themselves and members of their group (followers) by opening up channels of communication, providing socio-emotional support, psychological strokes and facilitating behaviour.
The Tri-Dimensional Model was further improved upon by the application of the element of effectiveness, which was developed by William J. Reddin. The leadership style is effective when it is appropriate to, a given situation; conversely, the style is ineffective when it is inappropriate to a given situation.
Though democratic style is generally accepted as the best style, it cannot be operative successfully in all situations and environmental settings. Consequently, the successful leadership style is that the leader’s behaviour meets the needs of the group in the situations obtaining in an environmental setting. Environment includes the leader, the followers and the situational varieties. In short, the success of the leader depends on his behaviour in the environmental setting.