DISCUSS IN DETAILS SITUATIONAL/CONTINGENCY THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP. OF WHAT SIGNIFICANT OR APPLICATION HAS THIS THEORY TO THE ORGANIZATION.
Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal”.
Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits, situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision and values, charisma, and intelligence, among others.
An organization (or organisation) is an entity, such as an institution or an association, that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment. The word is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon which means “organ”.
SITUATIONAL AND CONTINGENCY THEORIES
Situational theory also appeared as a reaction to the trait theory of leadership. Social scientists argued that history was more than the result of intervention of great men as Carlyle suggested. Herbert Spencer (1884) (and Karl Marx) said that the times produce the person and not the other way around. This theory assumes that different situations call for different characteristics; according to this group of theories, no single optimal psychographic profile of a leader exists. According to the theory, “what an individual actually does when acting as a leader is in large part dependent upon characteristics of the situation in which he functions.”
Some theorists started to synthesize the trait and situational approaches. Building upon the research of Lewin et al., academics began to normalize the descriptive models of leadership climates, defining three leadership styles and identifying which situations each style works better in. The authoritarian leadership style, for example, is approved in periods of crisis but fails to win the “hearts and minds” of followers in day-to-day management; the democratic leadership style is more adequate in situations that require consensus building; finally, the laissez-faire leadership style is appreciated for the degree of freedom it provides, but as the leaders do not “take charge”, they can be perceived as a failure in protracted or thorny organizational problems. Thus, theorists defined the style of leadership as contingent to the situation, which is sometimes classified as contingency theory. Four contingency leadership theories appear more prominently in recent years: Fiedler contingency model, Vroom-Yetton decision model, the path-goal theory, and the Hersey-Blanchard situational theory.
The Fiedler contingency model bases the leader’s effectiveness on what Fred Fiedler called situational contingency. This results from the interaction of leadership style and situational favorability (later called situational control). The theory defined two types of leader: those who tend to accomplish the task by developing good relationships with the group (relationship-oriented), and those who have as their prime concern carrying out the task itself (task-oriented). According to Fiedler, there is no ideal leader. Both task-oriented and relationship-oriented leaders can be effective if their leadership orientation fits the situation. When there is a good leader-member relation, a highly structured task, and high leader position power, the situation is considered a “favorable situation”. Fiedler found that task-oriented leaders are more effective in extremely favorable or unfavorable situations, whereas relationship-oriented leaders perform best in situations with intermediate favorability.
Victor Vroom, in collaboration with Phillip Yetton (1973) and later with Arthur Jago (1988), developed a taxonomy for describing leadership situations, which was used in a normative decision model where leadership styles were connected to situational variables, defining which approach was more suitable to which situation. This approach was novel because it supported the idea that the same manager could rely on different group decision making approaches depending on the attributes of each situation. This model was later referred to as situational contingency theory.
The path-goal theory of leadership was developed by Robert House (1971) and was based on the expectancy theory of Victor Vroom. According to House, the essence of the theory is “the meta proposition that leaders, to be effective, engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance”. The theory identifies four leader behaviors, achievement-oriented, directive, participative, and supportive, that are contingent to the environment factors and follower characteristics. In contrast to the Fiedler contingency model, the path-goal model states that the four leadership behaviors are fluid, and that leaders can adopt any of the four depending on what the situation demands. The path-goal model can be classified both as a contingency theory, as it depends on the circumstances, and as a transactional leadership theory, as the theory emphasizes the reciprocity behavior between the leader and the followers.
The situational leadership model proposed by Hersey and Blanchard suggests four leadership-styles and four levels of follower-development. For effectiveness, the model posits that the leadership-style must match the appropriate level of follower-development. In this model, leadership behavior becomes a function not only of the characteristics of the leader, but of the characteristics of followers as well.
Closely related to the situational approach is what has become known The contingency theory of leadership was proposed by the Austrian psychologist as contingency theory. Fred Edward Fiedler in his landmark 1964 article, “A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness.”
The contingency theory emphasizes the importance of both the leader’s personality and the situation in which that leader operates. 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 outline two styles of leadership:
• task-motivated and
Task refers to task accomplishment, and relationship-motivation refers to interpersonal relationships.
Fiedler measured leadership style with the Least Preferred Co-Worker Scale (LPC scale.) The leaders scoring high on this scale are relationship motivated and those scoring low are task motivated (Northouse, 2007, p.114).
CONTINGENCY THEORY is a class of behavioral theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation. A contingent leader effectively applies their own style of leadership to the right situation.
Central to contingency theory is concept of the situation, which is characterized by three factors:
• Leader-member relations, deals with the general atmosphere of the group and the feelings such as trust, loyalty and confidence that the group has for its leader.
• Task structure, is related to task clarity and the means to task accomplishment.
• The position power, 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 organizations
Contingency theories are a class of behavioral theory that contend that there is no one best way of leading and that a leadership style that is effective in some situations may not be successful in others.
An effect of this is that leaders who are very effective at one place and time may become unsuccessful either when transplanted to another situation or when the factors around them change.
This helps to explain how some leaders who seem for a while to have the ‘Midas touch’ suddenly appear to go off the boil and make very unsuccessful decisions.
Situational theories lean towards the different styles of leadership. The type of leadership needed changes from situation to situation. Those leaders that could adapt to the different situations were the most sought after people.
Just having different styles of leadership isn’t enough. That person must be able to apply the leadership style to the various situations where they can take control and influence the people.
Contingency theory is similar to situational theory in that there is an assumption of no simple one right way. The main difference is that situational theory tends to focus more on the behaviors that the leader should adopt, given situational factors (often about follower behavior), whereas contingency theory takes a broader view that includes contingent factors about leader capability and other variables within the situation.
By looking at Hersey and Blanchard’s leadership styles you can see that situational leadership follows the same styles as the behavioral theories.
• Fielder, F. E. (1964). A theory of leadership effectiveness. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.
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• Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. An introduction to situational leadership. Training and Development Journal, vol. 23 (1969). pp. 26–34.
• House, R. J. Path–goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly, vol. 7 (1996). pp. 323–352.
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• Kim, H. and Yukl, G. Relationships of managerial effectiveness and advancement to self-reported and subordinate-reported leadership behaviors from the multiple-linkage model. Leadership Quarterly, vol. 6 (1995). pp. 361–377.
• Vroom, V. H. and Jago, A. G. Situation effects and levels of analysis in the study of leader participation. Leadership Quarterly, vol. 6 (1995). pp. 169–181.