The Contingency Theories of Leadership

Contingency theories of leadership complement trait and behavioral theories in understanding leadership by putting into consideration the environment in which the leader exists.   It plays a significant role in understanding leadership effectiveness in a given situation in which the leader exists.
 This means that a leader applying a given leadership style in a given situation might be effective and unsuccessful if applied in another different situation. There are three key contingency theories: Fiedler’s model, Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory, and Path-Goal Theory. 

Fiedler Model: The Contingency Theories of Leadership

According to this theory, the effectiveness of a leader is determined the degree to which the given situation gives the leader control and the leadership style applied by the leader to enhance group performance. Fiedler model assumes that the leadership style applied by the leader in a given situation is fixed based of the leader’s orientation. The Fiedler contingency theory puts into consideration three situational factors which act as its developmental backbone. 
The first situational factor is the leader-member relations. In this case, the theory asserts that increased degree of confidence and trust in the leader by the members of the group the leader is leading enhances the effectiveness of the leadership offered by the leader. This means that the leader has to strive to earn confidence and trust from group members in order to effectively realize the group performance. Similarly, if the leader is operating under a situation where there is no confidence and trust, performance by the group under such leadership is likely to be compromised. According to the theory, the leader should do anything to enhance relations between the members and the leadership failure to which the leader will be ineffective.
The second situational factor is the task structure. According to the Fiedler model, the effectiveness of the leader is partly based on the degree of structure in the jobs. An organization that has poor structures does not offer effective leadership since there is confusion in delegation of duties to the employees in the organization. Effective leadership would be recognized in a situation whereby the organization has good task structures and the delegation of duties is clear, from the top management to the subordinate staff.  Therefore, for the leader to be effective or to be seen as being effective, the leader must ensure that there are good task structures in the organization and that there is no confliction as to who should perform a given task. 
The last situational factor that enhances the Fiedler contingency theory is the position power. Position power is the ability by the leader to hire, fire and reward. A leader would be effective in leading a group or organization if there bestowed powers to relinquish the duties of an employee who the leader deems unfit to deliver the specific objectives of the given task. The leader will also be effective, if powers to reward hard employees as part of motivational strategy for them to give their best. Any leader who does not have such powers is a proxy leader and is bound to be ineffective since the leader is not required to take correctional measures in a case where employees under perform. 
The Fiedler contingency theory therefore concludes that, for effective leadership to be realized, a group or an organization must source for a leader who fits the situation or develop mechanism to change the situational variables to fit the current leader. The theory also notes that stress is an enemy of rationality and creator of unfavorable conditions for any leader to achieve effectiveness in the line of duty. However, the theory further notes that the management of that stress is best determined by the leader’s intelligence and experience.

Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory:The Contingency Theories of Leadership

This theory focuses on follower “readiness”. This means that followers of a given group or organization can willingly accept or reject the leader irrespective of the leader’s qualifications. The theory suggests that it is a difficult task for the leader to be effective if the followers have shown their rejection since their response to the leader’s actions determines the effective of the duties assigned to the leader. “Readiness” in this theory refers to the extent to which the people (followers) have the aptitude and motivation to complete a specific task.
This theory offers several measures which the leader should put into consideration to counter attack any negative behavior shown by the followers since it determines the effectiveness of the leadership offered. If the group of people the leader is leading is unable and unwilling to follow instructions to complete a given task, the leader has the responsibility of to give clear and specific directions for the accomplishment of the task. However, if the group under the leadership of a given leader have the ability to follow given instructions but are unwilling to accomplish the specified task, the leader ought to use a supportive and participatory style of leadership in order to engage all the members of the group under the leader’s mandate.

Path-Goal Theory:The Contingency Theories of Leadership

This theory is developed from the expectancy theory of motivation and the Ohio State studies.  According to the theory, leaders should ensure that their followers have the right information, support and resources to accomplish a given task and achieve the objectives of the task as specified. This means that the effectiveness of the leader is determined by the ability of the leader to help the followers in achieving their goals through proper guidance. If the leader doe not provide the necessary, material’s required to complete a given task; the failure by the followers to achieve certain targets is solely blamed on the leader.
According to this theory, it is the responsibility of the leader to clarify the path which the worker’s need to use to achieve their goals. This means that the leader must have ability to recognize the necessary measures that need to be implemented for the sake of helping the workers achieve their goals. The effectiveness of the leader would be through the achievement of worker’s goals through the use of paths provided to help them by the leader. However, the leader would be deemed ineffective to lead if worker’s goals cannot be achieved through the given paths. 
Path-Goal Theory advocates that leaders need to display multiple leadership types in order to be able to deal with all situations that might arise from the worker’s under the leader’s mandate. Theory illustrates four types of leaders: directive leadership – in this case the leader focuses on the work to be done. The leader must give directions on how a given task if going to be completed and the best measures to be put in place for the realization of the worker’s goals. Supportive leadership focuses on the well-being of the worker. The leader must ensure that worker’s have the right healthcare such that their health does not compromise the tasks assigned to them. 
The third type of leadership advocated by this theory is the participatory leadership. In this situation, the leader makes thorough consultation with employees in making decisions that help in realizing the goals of the organization.  This kind of approach helps the employees feel part of the organization hence deriving their motivation to perform better in the given tasks. The last leadership approach based on this theory is the achievement oriented leadership. This kind of leadership helps in setting challenging goals for the employees, which help in promoting the welfare of the organization. If the challenging goals are achieved, the leader is deemed to be effective in administration of duties. 

Contributions by the Theories to Understanding Effective Leadership

Each of the discussed theories contributes differently to the understanding of effective leadership. Therefore, leader must be able in a position to determine the maturity of followers/workers before applying a given leadership style in any specific situation. The Fiedler contingency theory therefore concludes that, for effective leadership to be realized, a group or an organization must source for a leader who fits the situation or develop mechanism to change the situational variables to fit the current leader.
The Situational Leadership Theory suggests that it is a difficult task for the leader to be effective if the followers have shown their rejection since their response to the leader’s actions determines the effective of the duties assigned to the leader. For Path-Goal Theory, the effectiveness of the leader is determined by the ability of the leader to help the followers in achieving their goals through proper guidance. If the leader doe not provide the necessary, material’s required to complete a given task; the failure by the followers to achieve certain targets is solely blamed on the leader.

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