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Contingency and situational leadership

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As mentioned earlier  leadership is a process whereby the situation can influence which type of leadership behaviour to take. Leaders are most effective when they make their behaviour contingent with the situation, this is also know as the contingency approach to leadership.  Both internal and external environments can have a significant impact on leader effectiveness.

Situational Leadership Theory

 

The overall situational leadership approach suggests that the leader must act in a flexible manner to be able to diagnose the leadership style appropriate to the situation, and to be able to apply the appropriate style. Leaders are not a special breed or born, rather that individuals must develop their capabilities for leadership by serving in groups that are functional.

 

Situational Leadership attempts to explain effective leadership within the context of the larger situation in which it occurs. There are different theories that attempt to describe situational leadership, these includes:

  1. Fiedler’s Contingency Theory.
  2. House Path-Goal Theory
  3. Vroom and Yetton's Normative Theory

Fieldler's contingency theory

 

The situational contingency theory proposes that the effectiveness of a leader or the organization, is contingent on two elements: the leaders’ motivational structures or leadership style and the degree to which the leadership situation provides the leader with control and influence over the outcomes.

 

Two leadership styles were proposed:

 

– Task-oriented.

– Person-oriented.

 

Whether the person-oriented or task-oriented is expected to be more effective depends on the favorableness of certain factors:

 

– The favorableness of the leader-match relations.

– The degree to which the tasks performed by the group were structured.

– The leader’s position.

 

Leadership styles and situational control can be matched either by changing the leader’s personality or by changing the individual’s

situational control in order to affect organization or group performance.

 

House’s Path-Goal Theory

 

House suggests that the leader should make desired rewards available (goal) and clarify for the subordinate the kinds of behavior that will lead to the reward (path). The theory proposes four types of leader behavior and two situational variables.

 

Four types of leader behavior:

 

– Directive leadership- characterized by a leader who informs subordinates what is expected of them and provides specific guidance.

– Supportive Leadership- characterized by a leader who is friendly and approachable and shows concerns for the status, well-being, and personal needs of the subordinates.

– Achievement-oriented leadership- characterized by a leader who sets challenging goals, expected subordinates to perform at best, and shows confidence that subordinates will perform well.

– Participative leadership- characterized by a leader who consults with subordinates and asks for their suggestions before making a decision.

 

The two situational variables are:

 

– Subordinate characteristics- which includes ability (for esteem and self-actualization) and personality traits (authoritarianism, close-mindedness).

– Task characteristics- which includes, simple versus difficult, stressful versus non-stressful, dull versus interesting, and safe versus dangerous tasks.

 

Vroom and Yetton’s Normative Theory

 

The normative theory offers guidelines on how decisions ought to be made in specific situations. Five decision-making methods ranging form highly autocratic to highly participative are identified. The appropriate method depends on the answer to seven questions relating to the problem being solved and subordinates involved. The first three protects the quality of the decision and final four enhance the subordinate acceptance.

 

 

 

To learn more about situational/contingency theories click on the links below: