Theoretical Reflections

Theoretical Reflections - Contingency Theory

Research Notes

(Considerations for Technology Driven Reform)

Contingency theory suggests that appropriate behavior in a given situation
depends on a wide variety of variables and that each situation is different.
What might work in one organization, set of issues, or employee group might not
work in a different organization with its own set of issues and employees.
Effectiveness of schools, for example, is contingent upon the leadership style
of the principal and the favorableness of the situation (Hendricks, 1997). This
methodology acknowledges that no one best way exists to manage in a given
situation and those situational variables, from both the internal and external
environments impact on leadership practice.

Leadership styles cannot be fully explained by behavioral models. The
situation in which the group is operating also determines the style of
leadership that is adopted. Several models exist which attempt to understand the
relationship between style and situation; the four major theories comprising my
contingency category are Fiedler\'s Contingency Model, Situational Theory,
Path-Goal Theory, and the Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model.

Fiedler\'s Contingency Model

Fiedler\'s model assumes that group performance depends on:

Leadership style, described in terms of task motivation and relationship

Situational contingencies, determined by three factors:

1. Leader-member relations - Degree to which a leader is accepted and
supported by the group members.

2. Task structure - Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with
clear goals and procedures.

3. Position power - The ability of a leader to control subordinates through
reward and punishment.

High levels of these three factors give the most favorable situation, low
levels, the least favorable. Relationship-motivated leaders are most effective
in moderately favorable situations. Task-motivated leaders are most effective at
either end of the scale. Fiedler suggests that it may be easier for leaders to
change their situation to achieve effectiveness, rather than change their
leadership style.

Fielder, F. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. New York: McGraw.

This theory defines factors that determine how the leader\'s personality and
styles of interacting with others affects the group performance and
organization. The appropriateness of the leadership style for maximizing group
performance is contingent upon the favorableness of the group-task situation.
Group performance is related to both the leadership style and the degree to
which the situation provides the leader with the opportunity to exert influence.
Fiedler (1967) defines the group, leader, and leader effectiveness:

The Group: A set of individuals who share a common fate and are
interdependent in the sense that an event that affects one member will affect
them all.

Leader: The individual in the group given the task of directing and
coordinating task-relevant group activities or who in the absence of a
designated leader, carries the primary responsibility for performing these
functions in the group.

Leader Effectiveness: "...Defined in terms of the group\'s output, it\'s
morale, and the satisfactions of its members.

Feidler also classifies groups according to the work relations among the

Interacting groups: Require close coordination of several team members on the
performance of the primary task. Many tasks also require the close and
simultaneous coordination of two of more people.

Co-acting groups: Members work together on a common task, but each member
does their job relatively independently of other team members.

Counteracting groups: Individuals work together for the purpose of
negotiating and reconciling conflicting opinions and purposes. Each member works
toward achieving his or her own ends at the expense of the other, to an extent.

Situational Theory (Paul Hersey & Kenneth Blanchard)

This theory suggests that leadership style should be matched to the maturity
of the subordinates. Maturity is assessed in relation to a specific task and has
two parts:

Psychological maturity - Their self-confidence and ability and readiness to
accept responsibility.

Job maturity - Their relevant skills and technical knowledge.

As the subordinate maturity increases, leadership should be more
relationship-motivated than task-motivated. For four degrees of subordinate
maturity, from highly mature to highly immature, leadership can consist of:

Delegating to subordinates.

Participating with subordinates.

Selling ideas to subordinates.

Telling subordinates what to do

Lord, Robert G. and Maher Karen J. (1991) Leadership and Information
Processing: Linking Perceptions and Performance. Massachusetts: Unwin Hyman,

Situational Model of Hersey and Blanchard. - emphasize the importance for the
leader to consider the stage of organizational development of each of their
followers and to adapt their type of leadership to the followers developmental
level. Hersey and Blanchard talk about the leader and emphasize the influence of
their actions on the organization, through their followers. The leader can
compare to the influence of the executive in Lord and Maher\'s theories. Both of
the theories emphasize the influence of style or actions of the leader on the
outcome of the follower or organization.

Lord and Maher in