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Fiedler’s Contingency Theory

The contingency theory propounded by Fred E. Fiedler asserts that leadership style depends on three elements in the work situation. These are:

(a)    Leader-member relations: This describes relationship between leader and the members. If people and the leader like each other, employee-oriented leadership style is appropriate. If they do not like each other, a friendly approach may not work. The leader adopts a task-oriented leadership style.

(b)    Task structure: Task structure defines whether the task is structured or unstructured .Structured task is divided into well-defined unites; each person knows his responsibility and accountability. In this situation, it is easy for the leader to exercise authority over fellow workers. In contrast, if the task is unstructured, goals are not well defined, ways of achieving goals are also not defined, leader and followers do not know what is to be performed by who, it becomes difficult for the leader to influence his follower.

(c)    Position power: This is the power of leader by virtue of his position. Out of different sources of power if the leader has more position power (legitimate power),it is easy for him to exercise control over  subordinates.

Leadership style :

Based on three situational variables, fielder made eight combination on the work environment. The leader-member reactions can be good or bad, the task can be structured or instructed and power of the leader can be strong or weak.

Using these eight combinations and two styles of leaders’ behavior (employee-oriented or task-protected). Fiedler concluded the following:

(a)    Task-oriented leadership style is more appropriate in extreme saturation, that is, situations where leader-member relations are good, task is structured and position power of the leader is string. (this is the favourable  situation for leaders).

Even in unfavorable situation for lasers, where leader-member relations are not good, tasks unstirred and position power of the leader is weak, autocratic or task-oriented approach to leadership is preferred.

(b)    Situations between favourable  and unfavorable, that are situations which are intermediate in favourableness, can be best tackled by employee-oriented leader.

Favourableness of a situation is defined by Feelers “the degree to which the situation enables the leader to exert influence over his group”.

Fiedler drew his conclusions on the basis of LPC Scale (Least preferred co-worker).The scale indicates the “degree to which a man describes favorably or unfavorably his least preferred co-worker”. It specifies the employees with whom leaders can least get along with. High LPC rating managers (where people rate their co-workers high or factorable) adopt employee-oriented leadership style and low  LPC rating managers (where people rate their co-workers low or in unfavorable terms) perform better when task-oriented leadership style is adopted.

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