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The Fiedler contingency model is a leadership theory of Industrial and Organizational Psychology developed by Fred Fiedler (1922–), one of the leading scientists who helped his field move from the research of traits and personal characteristics of leaders to leadership styles and behaviours. Fiedler introduced the contingency modeling of leadership in 1967 in his A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness book.

Two factorsEdit

While many scholars assumed that there was one best style of leadership, Fiedler’s contingency model postulates that the leader’s effectiveness is based on ‘situational contingency’, that is a result of interaction of two factors, known as leadership style and situational favourableness (later called situational control). More than 400 studies have since investigated this relationship.

Least preferred co-worker (LPC)Edit

The leadership style is the consistent system of interactions that takes place between a leader and work group. According to Fiedler this depends on the personality of the leader, thus, fixed and measured by –what he calls- the least preferred co-worker (LPC) scale, an instrument for measuring an individual’s leadership orientation. The LPC scale asks a leader to think of all the persons with whom he or she has ever worked, and then to describe the one person with whom he or she worked the least well with. From a scale of 1 through 8, leader are asked to describe this person on a series of bipolar scales such as those shown below:

Unfriendly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Friendly
Uncooperative 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Cooperative
Hostile 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Supportive
.... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ....
Guarded 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Open

The responses to these scales (usually 18-25 in total) are summed and averaged: a high LPC score suggests that the leader has a human relations orientation, while a low LPC score indicates a task orientation. Fiedler assumes that everybody's least preferred coworker in fact is on average about equally unpleasant. But people who are indeed relationship motivated, tend to describe their least preferred coworkers in a more positive manner, e.g., more pleasant and more efficient. Therefore, they receive higher LPC scores. People who are task motivated, on the other hand, tend to rate their least preferred coworkers in a more negative manner. Therefore, they receive lower LPC scores. So, the Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale is actually not about the least preferred worker at all, instead, it is about the person who takes the test; it is about that person's motivation type. This is so, because, individuals who rate their least preferred coworker in relatively favorable light on these scales derive satisfaction out of interpersonal relationship, and those who rate the coworker in a relatively unfavorable light get satisfaction out of successful task performance. This method reveals an individual's emotional reaction to people with whom he or she cannot work. Critics point out, that this is not always an accurate measurement.

Situational favourablenessEdit

According to Fiedler, there is no ideal leader. Both low-LPC (task-oriented) and high-LPC (relationship-oriented) leaders can be effective if their leadership orientation fits the situation. The contingency theory allows for predicting the characteristics of the appropriate situations for effectiveness. Three situational components determine the favourableness or situational control:

  1. Leader-Member Relations, referring to the degree of mutual trust, respect and confidence between the leader and the subordinates.
  2. Task Structure, referring to the degree to which the task at hand is low in multiplicity and high in verifiability, specificity, and clarity.
  3. Leader Position Power, referring to the power inherent in the leader's position itself.

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 low-LPC leaders are more effective in extremely favourable or unfavourable situations, whereas high-LPC leaders perform best in situations with intermediate favourability.

Leader-Situation Match and Mismatch Edit

Since personality is relatively stable, the contingency model suggests that improving effectiveness requires changing the situation to fit the leader. This is called "job engineering". The organization or the leader may increase or decrease task structure and position power, also training and group development may improve leader–member relations. In his 1976 book Improving Leadership Effectiveness: The Leader Match ConceptLeader Fiedler (with Martin Chemers and Linda Mahar) offers a self paced leadership training programm designed to help leaders alter the favourableness of the situation, or situational control.

ExamplesEdit

  • Task-oriented leadership would be advisable in natural disaster, like a flood or fire. In and uncertain situation the leader-member relations are usually poor, the task is unstructured, and the position power is weak. The one who emerges as a leader to direct the group's activity usually does not know any of his or her subordinates personally. The task-oriented leader who gets things accomplished proves to be the most successful. If the leader is considerate (relationship-oriented), he or she may waste so much time in the disaster, which may lead things to get out of control and lives might get lost.
  • Blue-collar workers generally want to know exactly what they are supposed to do. Therefore it is usually highly structured. The leader's position power is strong if management backs his or her decision. Finally, even though the leader may not be relationship-oriented, leader-member relations may be extremely strong if he or she is able to gain promotions and salary increases for subordinates. Under these situations is the task-oriented style of leadership is preferred over the (considerate) relationship-oriented style.
  • The considerate style of leadership can be appropriate in an environment, when the situation is moderately favorable or certain. For example, when (1) leader-member relations are good, (2) the task is unstructured, and (3) position power is weak. Situations like this exists with research scientists, who do not like superiors to structure the task for them. They prefer to follow their own creative leads in order to solve problems. In a situation like this a considerate style of leadership is preferred over the task-oriented style.

Opposing viewsEdit

  • Researchers often find that Fiedler's contingency theory falls short on flexibility.
  • They also noticed that LPC scores can fail to reflect the personality traits it is supposed to reflect.
  • Fiedler’s contingency theory has drawn criticism because it implies that the only alternative for an unalterable mismatch between leader orientation and an unfavourable situation is changing the leader.
  • The model’s validity has also been disputed, despite many supportive tests (Bass 1990).
  • Other criticisms concern the methodology of measuring leadership style through the LPC inventory and the nature of the supporting evidence (Ashour 1973; Schriesheim and Kerr 1977a, 1977b; Vecchio 1977, 1983). Fiedler and his associates have provided decades of research to support and refine the contingency theory.
  • Cognitive resource theory (CRT) modifies Fiedler’s basic contingency model by adding traits of the leader (Fiedler and Garcia 1987). CRT tries to identify the conditions under which leaders and group members will use their intellectual resources, skills and knowledge effectively. While it has been generally assumed that more intelligent and more experienced leaders will perform better than those with less intelligence and experience, this assumption is not supported by Fiedler’s research.

SummaryEdit

To Fiedler, stress is a key determinant of leader effectiveness (Fiedler and Garcia 1987; Fiedler et al. 1994), and a distinction is made between stress related to the leader’s superior, and stress related to subordinates or the situation itself. In stressful situations, leaders dwell on the stressful relations with others and cannot focus their intellectual abilities on the job. Thus, intelligence is more effective and used more often in stress-free situations. Fiedler has found that experience impairs performance in low-stress conditions but contributes to performance under high-stress conditions. As with other situational factors, for stressful situations Fiedler recommends altering or engineering the leadership situation to capitalize on the leader’s strengths. Despite of all the criticism, Fiedler's contingency theory is an important theory because it established a brand new perspective for the study of leadership. Many approaches after Fiedler's theory have adopted the contingency perspective.

Sources and BibliographyEdit

  • Ashour, A.S. (1973) ‘The Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness: An Evaluation’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 9(3): 339–55.
  • Bass, B.M. (1990) ‘Leader March’, a Handbook of Leadership, New York: The Free Press, 494–510, 651–2, 840–41.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1958) Leader Attitudes and Group Effectiveness, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1967) A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness, New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1971) Leadership, New York: General Learning Press.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1981) Leader Attitudes and Group Effectiveness, Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1992) ‘Life in a Pretzel-shaped Universe’, in A.G. Bedeian (ed.), Management Laureates: A Collection of Autobiographical Essays, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, vol. 1, 301–34.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1994) Leadership Experience and Leadership Performance, Alexandria, VA: US Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1997) Directory of the American Psychological Association, Chicago: St James Press, 419.
  • Fiedler, F.E. and Chemers, M.M. (1974) Leadership and Effective Management, Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co.
  • Fiedler, F.E. and Garcia, J.E. (1987) New Approaches to Leadership, Cognitive Resources and Organizational Performance, New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Fiedler, F.E., Chemers, M.M. and Mahar, L. (1976) Improving Leadership Effectiveness: The Leader Match Concept, New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Fiedler, F.E., Garcia, J.E. and Lewis, C.T. (1986) People Management, and Productivity, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Fiedler, F.E., Gibson, F.W. and Barrett, K.M. (1993) ‘Stress, Babble, and the Utilization of the Leader’s Intellectual Abilities’, Leadership Quarterly 4(2): 189–208.
  • Fiedler, F.E., Godfrey, E.P. and Hall, D.M. (1959) Boards, Management and Company Success, Danville, IL: Interstate Publishers.
  • Hooijberg, R. and Choi, J. (1999) ‘From Austria to the United States and from Evaluating Therapists to Developing Cognitive Resources Theory: An Interview with Fred Fiedler’, Leadership Quarterly 10(4): 653–66.
  • King, B., Streufert, S. and Fiedler, F.E. (1978) Managerial Control and Organizational Democracy, Washington, DC: V.H. Winston and Sons.
  • Schriesheim, C.A. and Kerr, S. (1977a) ‘Theories and Measures of Leadership’, in J.G. Hunt, and L.L. Larson (eds), Leadership: The Cutting Edge, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 9–45.
  • Fiedler, F.E. 1977b) ‘R.I.P LPC: A Response to Fiedler’, in J.G. Hunt, and L.L. Larson (eds), Leadership: The Cutting Edge, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 51–6.
  • Vecchio, R.P. (1977) ‘An Empirical Examination of the Validity of Fiedler’s Model of Leadership Effectiveness’, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 19: 180–206.
  • Fiedler, F.E. (1983) ‘Assessing the Validity of Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness: A Closer look at Strube and Garcia’, Psychological Bulletin 93: 404–8.


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