Fiedler's Contingency Theory of Leadership
by Patrich Antoine
Managerial leadership has influenced organizational activities in many ways. These influences include motivating subordinates, budgeting scarce resources, and serving as a source of communication. Over the years researchers have emphasized the influences of leadership on the activities of subordinates. These emphasis by researchers led to theories about leadership. "The first and perhaps most popular, situational theory to be advanced was the ‘Contingency Theory of Leadership Effectiveness' developed by Fred E. Fiedler" (Bedeian, Glueck 504). This theory explains that group performance is a result of interaction of two factors. These factors are known as leadership style and situational favorableness. These two factors will be discussed along with other aspects of Fiedler's theory. "In Fiedler's model, leadership effectiveness is the result of interaction between the style of the leader and the characteristics of the environment in which the leader works" (Gray, Starke 264). The first major factor in Fiedler's theory is known as the leadership style. This is the consistent system of interaction that takes place between a leader and work group. "According to Fiedler, an individual's leadership style depends upon his or her personality and is, thus, fixed" (Bedeian, Gleuck 504). In order to classify leadership styles, Fiedlers has developed an index called the least-preferred coworker (LPC) scale. 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. This person can be someone form the past or someone he or she is currently working 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
Guarded 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Open
The responses to these scales (usually sixteen 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's logic is that individuals who rate their least preferred coworker in relatively favorable light on these scales derive satisfaction out of interpersonal relationship; those who rate the coworker in a relatively unfavorable light get satisfaction out of successful task performance" (Gray, Starke 264). This method reveals an individual's emotional reaction to people with whom he or she cannot work. It is also stressed that is not always an accurate measurement. "According to Fiedler, the effectiveness of a leader is determined by the degree of match between a dominant trait of the leader and the favorableness of the situation for the leader.... The dominant trait is a personality factor causing the leader to either relationship-oriented or task-orientated" (Dunham 365). Leaders who describe their preferred coworker in favorable terms, with a high LPC, are purported to derive major satisfaction from establishing close relationships with felow workers. High LPC leaders are said to be relationship-orientated. These leaders see that good interpersonal relations as a requirement for task accomplishment. Leaders who describe their least preferred coworker unfavorable terms, with a low LPC, are derived major satisfaction by successfully completing a task. These leaders are said to be task-orientated. They are more concerned with successful task accomplishment and worry about interpersonal relations later. The second major factor in Fiedler's theory is known as situational favorableness or environmental variable. This basically is defined as the degree a situation enables a leader to exert influence over a group. Fiedler then extends his analysis by focusing on three key situational factors, which are leader-member, task...
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