Contingency Theory & Situational Leadership

In most employment situations your boss can be either very easy to relate to or demanding and difficult to build a trustworthy relationship with. In professional situations it is important to have an effective and positive relationship with your boss. Fiedler’s contingency model and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership theories have similarities and differences about the relationships between leaders and their subordinates. Here I will explain the two theories and give some examples of leaders who show each style.

The Fiedler Contingency model is a leadership theory that describes specific traits and characteristics in relation to leadership styles and behaviors. The contingency model is based on ‘situational contingency’, which is a result of interaction of two factors. One factor is the leadership style known as the least preferred co-worker (LPC) and the other factor is known as situational favorableness.

The LPC is used for measuring an individual’s leadership orientation. The assessment has leaders think back on individuals they have worked with and whom out of those people they worked the least well with. When the results show a high LPC score it relates to a leader being relationship oriented. An example of someone who would be considered a relationship-oriented leader would be a person who does not like superiors to assign and structured tasks. These types of leaders normally have good leader member relations but their power is normally weak.

If the LPC score is low it relates the leader to be more task oriented. According to Fiedler, if there is a natural disaster, like a flood or a fire the best type of leader would be a task oriented leader. Someone who can get things accomplished in an efficient and timely manner with no questions asked. When I was lifeguard in high school my head guard was very focused and alert at all times while on duty. When there was an emergency and the pool had to be cleared he would get it done in a very quick and organized manner. Immediately when a situation occurred he knew exactly how to respond and what to do step by step. According to Fiedler he has a high LPC and is considered a task-oriented leader.

According to Fiedler both the high LPC as well as the low LPC leaders can be equally effective only if their leadership strategies and values fit the situation they are dealing with. There are three different situational components that determine situational favorableness: Leader-member relations which is the degree of mutual trust between leaders and employees, Task structure which is related to making sure all group tasks are clear and structured, and then Leader Position Power which relates to the power In the leaders position itself.  A favorable situation is related to good leader-member relation, a highly structured task, and a higher leader position power.

The Hersey-Blanchard Model of Situational Leadership is broken down in to four leadership styles:

* High Relationship-Low Task (Participating)

* High Task-High Relationship (Selling)

* Low Relationship-Low Task (Delegating)

* High Task-Low Relationship (Telling)

Each one of these task behaviors relates to the leader and how they spell out the duties and responsibilities of each group, and how they are told to do it. As a leader developing a management style is a life long process. There are many situations where employees and leaders will have their own styles, so it is important to find staff styles/behaviors that match the situation as well as the leadership style used at the current job. At my last job my boss was a high task-low relationship person. He would walk in and a let us all know our duties for the day and then he would go back to what he was doing in his office. He would never ask how we were or small talk on down time. He wasn’t interested in relating he was most interested in working and believed if there is time to lean there is time to clean at every moment. This is a great way to get things done but I did not see the employees look up to him with respect. Some of the employees who had been there a very long time, knew exactly what they were doing and how to set up each thing perfectly would clash with him because they felt he was constantly repeating himself about things they had already been told. I feel these employees were very relationship oriented and our boss was very task oriented, because of this there was a clash and most situations were very awkward and felt negative at times.


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