Critically review Fred Fiedler’s theory of leadership.
Fred Fiedler’s main premise behind his theory of leadership states that a person’s leadership style is fixed, and cannot be changed. He suggests that in order to maximise performance, the leader must fit the situation, or vice versa. In order to identify the suitability of the leader to the situation, both must be assessed and then matched. To ‘measure’ the person, Fiedler created the Least Preferred Co-worker questionnaire in which he asks candidates to think about a person that they least enjoyed working with, and then rate them on a scale from one to eight for opposite adjectives. Fiedler proposed that if a person described their co-worker in relatively positive terms, they were ‘relationship oriented’ but if they were described in less complimentary terms they were categorized as ‘task oriented’ – these people were more interested in producing work than making social connections.
There are a few flaws to acknowledge with the first stage of the process. Firstly, it is possible that people overlooked their differences with their least preferred worker in order to complete the task. Thus, someone who put a lot of effort into forming relationships with dissimilar co-workers is considered ‘relationship oriented’ when their underlying motive was executing the task efficiently. Secondly, the test does not account for people who are in neither category, which begs the question, does this mean they cannot be good leaders? It seems that the theory suggests that people that both get on with others and care about output are not effective leaders. Furthermore, different opinions of a person’s least preferred worker can change over time, for example, a certain candidate meets another co-worker the following month that is a lot more irksome than the person the candidate was thinking about during the time of the questionnaire. This would mean that if they were to take it again, there is a higher chance that their...
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