Fiedler Contingency Theory of Leadership

Leaders can basically be broken down into two categories. Some leaders prefer to focus on the completion of tasks. Other leaders prefer to focus on building up the relationships that are around them. No matter what the style that you prefer may be, each unique situation is suited to a specific style of leadership. The Fiedler Contingency Theory of Leadership was developed in the 1960s through the study of specific characteristics and personality traits.

Here is the determination of this theory: there is not one “best” style of leadership.

Fiedler Believed That Leadership Styles Were Fixed

The key to understanding Fiedler’s theory is to know what your personal leadership style happens to be. Fiedler believed that leadership styles were fixed and could be measured. After asking a series of questions about the type of coworker that you prefer, Fiedler developed a scale where you could determine if you preferred relationships or tasks as your primary orientation in leadership.

People who tend to prefer tasks tend to view their least preferred coworkers in a more negative light. This results in lower scores on the scale, which according to Fiedler indicated that a person’s leadership focus was on doing instead of interacting. Higher scores indicated that relationships became the focus because loyalty was a needed emphasis for the workplace.

Situations Are Also Important in Fiedler’s Theory

The Fiedler Contingency Theory of Leadership also looks at a term that is called “situational favorableness.” The kind of leader that you are is dependent on what distinct factors you focus upon as your leading others in any given situation. According to Fiedler, there are three different types of situations.

Team relations. This focuses upon the level of trust that a leader has from their team. Leaders that score high in team trust are leaders that have more influence.

Structure. Every task has a specific structure that is required for completion. The structure can be either clear or it can be vague. When task structure is unclear, then a team views the leader more unfavorably.

Power position. Leaders give different levels of power to their team. They also provide different levels of rewards and consequences. Fiedler identified leaders with more power as being seen as stronger than those who are not in powerful positions.

To apply the Fiedler Contingency Theory of Leadership, one must identify their leadership style and then identify their situation. Fiedler believed that leaders could change their responses by being able to identify what the most effective leadership style in any given situation happen to be. Even those who were tasks structured could focus on relationships if it became necessary. This means the core of Fiedler’s theory is adaptability through observation.

The Fiedler Contingency Theory of Leadership offers insights to personal preferences. By understanding those preferences, a leader can then become adaptable and be seen in a more favorable light by their team.

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