Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership: Matching the Leader to the Situation

Similar to Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model, Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership is a component of Contingency or Situational Approaches to Leadership. According to the concept, there is no one optimum leadership style (contrary to behavioural approaches to leadership like Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid claim). The circumstance is what determines a leader’s efficacy, thus the term “contingency theory.” But whereas Hersey and Blanchard concentrated on the traits of followers, Fiedler examined additional contextual factors to identify the best leadership style. Additionally, Fiedler thought that people’s innate leadership styles were permanent and unchangeable (easily). The best method to tackle the circumstance is to either alter the leader depending on the circumstances or alter the circumstances to fit the leader.

Situational variables

Fiedler proposed three contextual factors. These three factors when combined result in a scenario that is either favourable, somewhat favourable, or unfavourable for leaders. These elements are:

The leader-member relationship the de to which a team has faith and confidence in its leader is known as the leader-member relationship. A leader who is more respected and influential inside the group is in a better position than one who is unreliable. Fiedler categorises ties between leaders and followers as either excellent or bad.

Task Structure: This describes the kinds of tasks that are expected of followers. For instance, tasks may be precise and organised or general and unstructured. Unstructured tasks or a lack of team or leader understanding of how to complete a task create an unfavourable circumstance. Task structure is classified by Fiedler as either high or low.

Leader position power

The authority a leader has to steer the group and impose rewards or penalties are known as the leader’s position power. The scenario is more favourable the more authority a leader has. According to French and Raven’s bases of power, there are several sources of power, including coercive, expert, and referent power. According to Fiedler, a leader’s positional authority might be strong or weak.

Matching the Leader Style to the Situation

You may construct a range of leadership scenarios, ranging from extremely favourable to highly unfavourable, by combining the aforementioned situational elements (Figure 1). A favourable environment would normally be one where the leader and members get along well, the responsibilities are well-defined and organised, and the leader has a significant amount of authority. Fiedler discovered a pattern when looking at how various circumstances and leadership philosophies interacted. The two leadership philosophies that Fiedler studied are comparable to those that Blake and Mouton use. They are as follows:

Task-oriented leadership style: These leaders stress deadlines, offer clear schedules of work activities, provide instructions, spend time preparing, and guide followers toward objectives. They only want to do the task.

Relationship-focused leadership: These leaders put their followers’ needs first. They respect their opinions and emotions, build trust between them, are approachable, encourage open communication, foster cooperation, and are aware of their followers’ needs.

Task-oriented: Highly favourable or highly unfavourable situation 

According to Fiedler, the task-oriented leader succeeds best in favourable circumstances. This is due to the team’s cohesiveness, the task’s clarity and organisation, and the leader’s adequate influence over followers. The team merely requires a leader who can guide in such a circumstance. The same leadership style is seen as being more successful than a relationship-focused leader in a severely unfavourable scenario. This is due to the lack of task organisation in an unfavourable environment, which calls for a leader who can provide a lot of structure and direction. Furthermore, because there are already bad member-leader ties, the popularity of a nice relationship-focused leader won’t change.

Relationship-oriented: Moderate favourable situation

However, it is discovered that the relationship-focused leader performs better under circumstances of intermediate favorability. In these circumstances, the group’s leader may have a mediocre level of popularity, some positional authority, and supervision duties over relatively regimented chores. In this situation, interpersonal skills are crucial for achieving collective performance. According to Fiedler, a leader with excellent interpersonal abilities may create an environment that will enhance relationships between the leader and group members, clarify duties and provide more structure, as well as develop a stronger position of authority.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model In Sum

Before selecting whether to adopt a relationship- or task-oriented leadership style, Fiedler believes that leaders should consider a variety of contextual or situational considerations. If a leader can’t “match” their own leadership style to the needs of the circumstance, they have very little chance of succeeding. As a consequence, the best course of action is to either replace the leader depending on the situational circumstances (leader-member relations, task structure, and the leader’s position authority) or to alter the scenario to the leader’s liking. The suitable leadership style may be determined with the use of Fiedler’s Contingency Model. The Managerial Grid by Blake and Mouton and the Situational Leadership Model by Hersey and Blanchard are further frameworks for leadership that are helpful in this regard.

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