Fiedler's Contingency Theory

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Fiedler’s Contingency Theory
Fiedler’s Contingency Theory shows the relationship between the leader’s orientation or style and
group performance under differing situational conditions. The theory is based on determining the
orientation of the leader (relationship or task), the elements of the situation (leader-member rela-
tions, task structure, and leader position power), and the leader orientation that was found to be
most effective as the situation changed from low to moderate to high control.
Fiedler found that task oriented leaders were more effective in low and moderate control situations
and relationship oriented managers were more effective in moderate control situations.

of the leader

between the

orientation and the
of the leader

Increasing favorableness to leader
Good Poor
Task structure
Structured Unstructured Structured Unstructured
Leader position
Strong Weak Strong Weak Strong Weak Strong Weak
High control
Low control
control situation

Contingency Theory Definitions
Situational Elements
Leader-member relations: The regard with which the leader and the group members hold one another deter-
mines, in part, the ability of the leader to influence the group and the conditions under which he or she can do
so. A leader who is accepted by the group members is in a more favorable situation than one who is not.

Task structure: Factors that determine task structure are 1.) can a decision be demonstrated as correct, 2.)
are the requirements of the task understood by everyone, 3.) is there more than one way to accomplish the
task, and 4.) is there more than one correct solution. If the group’s task is unstructured, and if the leader is no
more knowledgeable that the group about how to accomplish the task, the situation is unfavorable.

Leader position power: Position power is determined at its most basic level by the rewards and punishments
which the leader officially has at his or her disposal for either rewarding or punishing the group members on
the basis of performance. The more power the leader has, the more favorable the situation.
Leader Orientation
Relationship Orientated: (LPC score of 73 and above) Generally, high LPC leaders are more concerned
with personal relations, more sensitive to the feelings of others, and better off at heading off conflict. They use
their good relations with the group to get the job done. They are better able to deal with the complex issues in
making decisions.

In high control situations, they tend to become bored and are no longer challenged. They may seek
approval from their superiors ignoring their subordinates, or they may try to reorganize the task. As a result,
they often become inconsiderate toward their subordinates, more punishing, and more concerned with per-
formance of the task.

In moderate control situations, they focus on group relations. They reduce the anxiety and tension of
group members, and thus reduce conflict. They handle creative decision making groups well. They see this
situation as challenging and interesting and perform well in it.

In low control situations, they become absorbed in obtaining group support often at the expense of the
task. Under extremely stressful situations, they may also withdraw from the leadership role, failing to direct the
group’s work.

Task Oriented: (LPC score of 64 and below) Generally, low LPC leaders are more concerned with the task,
and less dependent on group support. They tend to be eager and impatient to get on with the work. They
quickly organize the job and have a no-nonsense attitude about getting the work done.

In moderate control situations, they tend to be anxious and less effective. This situation is often char-
acterized by group conflict, which low LPC leaders do not like to handle. They become absorbed in the task
and pay little attention to personal relations in the group. They tend to be insensitive to the feelings of their
group members, and the group resents the lack of concern.

In high control situations, they tend to relax and to develop pleasant relations with subordinates. They
are easy to get along with. As the work gets done, they do not interfere with the group or expect interference
from their superiors.

In low control situations, they devote themselves to their challenging task. They organize and drive
the group to task completion. They also tend to control the group tightly and maintain strict discipline. Group
members often respect low LPC leaders for enabling them to reach the group’s goals in difficult situations.

LPC scores between 65 and 72: If your score fall into this borderline area, you must carefully analyze your
leadership style as you learn more about the relationship oriented and task oriented styles.

Note: There is no single leadership style that is effective in all situations. Rather, certain leadership styles are
better suited for some situations than for others. Fiedler found that the effectiveness of the leader is
“contingent” upon the orientation of the leader and the favorableness of the situation.