Contingency Leadership Theory: The Complete Guide 2024

May 31, 2024

Contingency Leadership Theory

Contingency leadership is a technique that claims that there is no single optimal organizational system. Instead, the optimal leadership style will depend on the circumstances.

Not only does contingency leadership concentrate on flexibility, it combines optimal management strategies to enhance the capacity of management.

This post focuses on everything you should know about this style of leadership. We’ll look at the theory, models, as well as the pros and cons of the same.

Let’s get started.

Contingency Leadership Theory

The contingency leadership theory dates backs to the 1960s and, according to the theory, leadership styles are situation-dependent. It builds on the premise that no single leadership style is suited for all situations.

The contingency theory emphasizes three primary aspects when identifying various leadership styles. These are traits, behavior, and situation.

Contingency Leadership Models

There are 6 contingency leadership models: Fred Fiedler contingency model, path-goal theory, leadership substitute theory, situational theory, multiple linkage model, and cognitive resource theory.

1. Fred Fiedler Contingency Model

Fred Fiedler created one of the earliest contingency theories.

According to him, leadership styles are fixed. Therefore, you cannot adapt your style to the circumstances. Instead, it is preferable to place leaders in settings that reflect their personality.

The Contingency Theory by Fiedler comprises two factors:

  • Leadership style
  • Situational favorability

One of the most common complaints of the Fred Fiedler contingency model is the lack of adaptability.

Fiedler argued that the inherent leadership style of a person is fixed. Therefore, replacing the leader is the most effective means of resolving issues. He did not permit leaders flexibility.

Despite several supporting tests, the model’s validity has often been questionable.

Notably, the model does not account for the proportion of circumstances that are neither favorable nor unfavorable. There is no evident contrast between low-LPC and high-LPC leaders.

2. Path-Goal Theory

The year 1971 saw the development of the path-goal theory by Robert House. The model assumes the following:

  • It is the leader’s responsibility to help followers achieve their objectives.
  • Leaders must participate in a variety of leadership behaviors.
  • Leaders should give the necessary guidance and assistance to their followers.
  • The leadership style should be optimally suited to the work environment.
  • The nature and requirements of a given circumstance determines the conduct of leaders.
  • Leaders should also ensure that their objectives align with those of the organization.

Path-Goal Theory typically consists of three fundamental steps. You identify the personnel and environment attributes, select a style of leadership, and concentrate on employee motivations that contribute to their success.

The notion of Path-Goal posits that leaders are adaptable. It holds that leaders may adapt their manner to different circumstances.

Even this theory has its own shortcomings.

  • The theory is intricate. Therefore, it is difficult to employ it in every leadership situation. The path-goal theory fails to explain the relationship between leadership conduct and the motivation of followers.
  • The conduct, motivation, and procedure required to implement the appropriate leadership style are difficult.
  • The theory is devoid of empirical evidence.

3. Leadership Substitute Theory

Steven Kerr and John M. Jermier (1978) suggested the leadership theory as an alternative to the path-goal theory. It facilitates understanding of the contingent link between leadership conduct and outcomes.

As for the criticism of this theory, it’s important to note the following:

  • Independent and dependent variables are gathered during the interpretation of contingent connections. The same individual manages the variables, creating a shared source of bias.
  • The emphasis of the study is the interrelationships between variables at a certain period. It lacks participation in several other measurements over a prolonged period.
  • This theory’s notion is weak. It is difficult to establish particular replacements and neutralizers for broad types of behavior.

4. Situational Theory

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard created the situational model in 1969. In their view, the leadership style varies based on the capability and willingness of the followers.

Situational theory focuses on two aspects:

  • Leadership style: Hersey and Blanchard characterized leadership styles based on relationship behavior and task directive behavior.
  • Performance readiness of an individual or a group: The appropriate leadership style relies on the individual or group under leadership.

This theory lacks an extensive amount of scientific evidence. It does not justify the assumptions and propositions of the strategy.

The methodology does not address how demographic features influence employee leadership preferences. It does not emphasize how group leaders may implement this concept.

Also, how subordinates go from low to high development levels is uncertain. It is also unclear how subordinates’ devotion evolves over time.

5. Multiple Linkage Model

Gary Yukl claimed that the relationship between leadership characteristics and group effectiveness is complicated. The leader behaviors consist of four factors:

According to him, exceptional leaders may influence factors in several ways. These factors moderate the effect of the leader on group performance. However, the repercussions of a leader’s actions are situation-dependent.

The problem with this model is that there are no weird assertions on which leader behaviors affect certain scenarios.

Again, it is more of an outline than a formal theory with specific prescriptions, not to mention that minimal research support this hypothesis.

6. Cognitive Resource Theory

The model possesses the following attributes:

  • The concept focuses on the cognitive skills of leaders.
  • The model takes personalities, the level of situational stress, and group-leader relationships into account.
  • The Cognitive Resource Theory investigates the factors that influence leadership effectiveness. These resources include experiences, intellect, competence, and task-specific knowledge.
  • The cognitive resource theory is a development of the characteristic theory.
  • The model incorporates contextual elements while analyzing leader behavior.

The theory is challenged for its improper use of elements, including intellect. It has disregarded the many forms of intelligence based on creativity, emotional intelligence, and so forth. Furthermore, the theory does not specify forms of positive and negative stress.

Final Thoughts

The contingency leadership theory method is practical when incorporated into organizational development.

The philosophy incorporates several management strategies. It asserts that there is no single optimal method to structure or lead a business.

Several models seek to comprehend the connection between style and circumstance. These models assist shape the perspective of leaders about contingencies.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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