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Contingency Theories and Situational Leadership Theory Essay (Article)

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Updated: Dec 12th, 2019

Abstract

There are many theories on what defines successful leadership and contingency and situational leadership are among them. These two theories are almost similar but the contingency leadership theory is not about whether or not a style should be adapted to external factors but rather how different factors can interact in unexpected ways to shape the outcome.

Definitions

Situational leadership theory is based on the interaction between the dimensions of task behavior and relationship behavior as well as follower readiness/maturity in performing a certain task. Followers are the most critical factor in leadership proceedings and as followers differ, so does the suitable method of management. Contingency theories of leadership hold that there is no one best way of leadership and that an organizational/ leadership style that is effective in some situations may not be successful in others (Fiedler, 1964).

Introduction

Fiedler (1964), states that the success of a leader in a given situation isn’t up to the skills that the leader has, but rather how those skills line up with factors outside of him or her. This means that it isn’t just having a skilled leader that leads to success, but rather it is having a leader who can solve the right problems in the right way and at the right time.

Discussion

Edward (2004) in his article states that “although situation and contingency mandates managers to take into account such things as the experience of employees, the time available to make a decision, and the type of work that is to be done; they leave the employees uncertain on how they will be treated”.

The employees also feel left out in decisions making and not fully informed by their manager. To further support Edward’s arguments, Yuki (1981); in his study indicates that concept of task relevant maturity e.g. job maturity that is notable in both theories is conceptionally ambiguous and hence poses serious flaws to these theories.

However, in a research done by scholars such as Graeff (1983) indicates that; “the situational nature of leadership brings forth the concept that one style of management cannot possibly fit all situations”.

Edward (2004) in his article also recalls that the recognition of the subordinate as the most important asset in an organization is a determinant of appropriate leader’s behavior by both the contingency and situational leadership theories.

In his study, Edward (2004), states that “the degree to which subordinates like or trust the leader, the degree to which the task is structured and the formal authority possessed by the leader are key determinants of the leadership situation”. To add on Vroom and Yetton (1973) indicate that, “the effectiveness of a decision made by a leader depends upon a number of aspects of the situation”.

Hersey and Blanchard (1977), explains that the leadership method one employs should be dependent on the situation and that before one selects a leadership style to use, they must first understand the situation and the importance of the possible outcomes.

However, Edward (2004) reiterates that the leadership brand needs to apply across the entire organization and at all times and should not involve what is often called “situational leadership” as this will result to confusion and alienate people in an organization.

Conclusion

Although the two leadership theories have their setbacks, I feel that their main strengths should not be ignored. For example, the situation approach shows leaders what to do and when to do it and contingency approach is valuable for its ability to deal with diverse situations requiring the exercise of leadership. Generally Edward’s article highlights very important approaches that leaders should use to usefully manage their organization and employees.

References

Edward, E. L (2004) Leading A Virtuous-Spiral Organization. Leader To Leader, No.32.

Fiedler, F. E. (1964) A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol.1). 149-190.

Graeff, C.L. (1981) Some theoretical issues that undermine the utility of the Hersey-Blanchard situation leadership theory: A critical view. Relationship between theory, research and practice. 19th Annual Southern Management Meeting. Atlanta, 204-206.

Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K.H. (1982) Management of organization behavior: Utilizing human resources. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc

Vroom, V.H. and Yetton, P.W. (1973) Leadership and decision-making. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press

Yuki, G.A. (1981) Leadership in organizations. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Contingency Theories and Situational Leadership Theory'. 12 December.

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