Contingency Theories of Leadership


Contingency According to Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, (2004: pp. 101-124), there are a number of internal and external m constraints that influence decision in groups or organizations. However, it become difficult for one to determine the right approach because it approaches has its limitations. On the other hand, Northouse, (2007) argues that each arrangement has its own effectiveness. The right approach may not be as effective as the other peaches. One has to realize to optimize the opportunities that exists in every groups situations. There are four main contingency theories that have been presented and the model may all be applicable in a group situation. Based on the argument of Arvey, et al, (2006: pp. 1-20). For an organization to realize the best outcome, it has to match its internal features to the overall demand of the external environments. Additionaly, McCaffery, (2004) posited that the development of the internal features in any leadership is actually contingent upon the rate of change and the amount of uncertainty in the external environment.

The effectiveness of the four contingency theories

In order to determine the right contingency theory in a groups context, it is important to analyze the effectiveness, and practicability of each theory in a contemporary organization (Guastello, 2007; Zaccaro, Gulick, & Khare, 2008).

Fiedler’s contingency model

The key contingency theories include fielder contingency model (the situational contingency). Fielder’s model is based on the assumption that group performance is actually dependent on two major factors- task motivation, and relationship motivation. Additionaly, the model is also based on the situational favorableness and this is the assumption upon which the effectiveness of the model is hinged. The problem is how to determine the role of situation favorableness in any decision situation. However, it is also important to note that there are a number of situational variables in this that affect the situation favorableness. For example, the least preferred coworker (LPC) score and the overall effectiveness of the leader is dependent on the leader’s approach to relationship (Van, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008: pp. 182-196; Hackman & Johnson, 2009). The leader has high LPC scores; it means that the leader is not strict. N the other hand, low LPC core indicates that the leader is strict. In this case, knowing the LPC score of a leader can help determine the effectiveness of his leadership style ands so the effectiveness f the group. A high LPC score means that the leader is considerate and supportive of the group’s activities, but this is only effective in situation where one relationship is primary tom task objectives. On the other hand, low LPC score indicates that the leader is task oriented and so is the group when it comes to task performance. The implication of the high and low LPC scores is that groups can only be effective if the leader optimizes his leadership skills. Both task performance and relationship management are important for group leadership. However, a leader need to know how to mix to two based on their assessment of situations (Van Vugt, & Ahuja, 2011; Forsyth, 2009).

Situational variables

The main situational variables that determine the relationship between the LPC scores and the overall leader effectiveness include variable s such as the relationship between the group’s leader and the group members, the position power, as well as the task structure. The leader-member relationship in this case refers to the support and loyalty of the subordinates to their leader. However, it is important to understand that the relationship must be both friendly and cooperative. On the other hand, the position power is determined by the ability of the leader to evaluate the performance of the subordinates and either reward or punish subordinates. Finally, the situation favorableness in any group or organization is determined by the task structures refer to the features of any task. For example, task structures determine the procedures put in place for handling task. These may be either standardized or situational. The task features include detailed description of the task, the task objective as well as the task performance process. All they are determine the level of control a leader has and thus the group effectiveness.

To conclude, the proposition of this theory is that a group can only be effective if the leader has more control and influence, and the job is highly structured. However, this theory is very weak and the limitation includes inadequate information at about how a leader can improve his leadership effectiveness. In as much as this theory has been instrumental to the development of new contingency theories of leadership, it is still limited in scope because it only focuses on changing the situation and not the leadership effectiveness (Lutans, 2011; Mayo, &, Nohria, 2005)

Vroom-Yetton decision model

The other hand, the vroom, Yetton and Jago proposed the normative decision model based upon the argument that the leadership style should be based on the situation. This argument influences the decision in any grouse context, For example, the argument was that the problems can only be solved using the indication that is already available and this must come from the group. In this case, the leader chairs a groups meeting as they discuss and decides on the problems. One of the key problems that most groups face especially in organization is that each group is departmentalized and each department is confronted by different stimuli and external demands. When an organization is departmentalized, it become quite challenging. Therefore, the argument of Vroom, &, Jago, (1995: pp. 169–181) that each group or subunit must be formed with different structural features is valid. One of the main advantages of the vroom and Yates decision model is that it allows intergroup autonomy where each group has different levels of formalization and structures. Kim, &, Yukl, (1995: pp. 361–377), argues that each group should be differentiated based on the general demand and complexity.

Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

The proposition of the path goals theory is that supportive leadership can only be effective when the task is unfavorable and stressful because a supportive leader can motivate the subordinates to improve their efforts increase the subordinate satisfaction. In any group situation, it is the duty of the leader to lower anxiety related to a task and lowers unpleasant aspect of the group’s task. Even though House, (2006: pp. 323–352) argues that in case a task is enjoyable, then supportive leadership may not be effective. Kerr, &, Jermier, (1978: pp. 375–403) states that the employee will be intrinsically motivated as opposed to extrinsically motivated by their leader. The path goal theory therefore argues that a leader should understand the task factures and determine how to change his leadership styles based on the task. The path goals theory provides a number of situations that can restrain the effectiveness of the leader behavior. The path goal theory argues that in case where the task is not well structured that directive leadership can help improve employee satisfaction as it helps eliminate the role ambiguity related with the task, or the situation. Role ambiguity lowers the employee expectancy, and increases the overall employee job satisfaction and to an extent, increases their effort. Additionally, Fielder, (1986: pp. 532–545), argues that a leader can also increase employee performance by reducing the role ambiguity and introducing rewards. Nevertheless, Hersey, &, Blanchard, (1996: pp. 26–34) supported that leaders or employers should, strengthen the association between the expected work behaviors and the kind of rewards. For example, the group’s leader can promptly reward employees.

Generally, the theory posits that a leader can easily influence the behaviors of his employees and this extends to the satisfaction as well as subordinates performance. However, this can only be achieved if a leader is motivated to help the employee achieve specific task objectives. For example, a leader cans rewards employee, by an extent restructure the rewards system, clarifying the task objectives, and provide the necessary support and resources (Lussier, & Achua, 2010; Miltenberger, 2004; Berdahl, & Anderson, 2005: pp. 45-57). On the other hand, the subordinates should gain satisfaction through changing their work behaviors and achieving performance success. The leaders should motivate their subordinates to be goal oriented at work because attaining goals increases employee satisfaction. One of the key mediating factors that contribute to leadership success is the leader behavior. However, a leader can create and even sustain employee motivation and satisfaction by providing the subordinates with a supportive leadership. A leader should also provide the employees with direct leadership by making sure the employees are clear about the job requirements. Additionaly, Bono, & Ilies, 2006: pp. 317-334) states that a good leader should also try to allow consultative leadership in which the employees also participate in decision-making. Never the less, it is important to note that achievement oriented leadership has become an important approach to group management. Therefore, a leader needs to employ achievement-oriented leadership in which the employees are giving specific goals to achieve. The leader should specify the task requirement and insist on operational excellence.

Conceptual weaknesses of the theory include the fact that the path goal theory is weak because is mixed supportive leadership and task leadership. It is also important to note that there is a significant positive correlation between supportive leaders and employee satisfaction. Additionally this theory borrows too much from expectancy theory (Foti, & Hauenstein, 2007: pp. 347-355).

Cognitive Resource Theory

The focus of the theory is the correlation between cognitive resources and group performance. Cognitive resource in this case means the group leaders intelligence and leadership experience. In many contemporary organizations, leader selection is based on intelligence and experience. Therefore, for a leader to be effective, he must be able to balance intelligence and experience, and at the same time use directive leadership to support his subordinates. He must also be able to use has leadership start it has to manage interpersonal stress and manage groups task. However, while this theory is not commonly used, it is one the most effective and realistic contingency theory of leadership because leadership stress has always influenced the relationship between the performance of the subordinates and he leader intelligence. For example, under stress, the quality of leader decision falls, because stress compromises information processing and by extension stress affects decision-making. Additionally, this also strains the relationship between the leader and the subordinates (Gerhart, 1999).Therefore, Lorsch, &, Morse, (1970) argues that less experienced leader may not management stress effectively as compared to the experienced leaders because experience helps impure leadership quality and thus decision quality. The main assumption is that experience deader are likely to use intelligence when the stress is low, and experience when stress is high. For optimal groups performance, a leader must therefore use both intelligence and experience and this is more practical in groups situations when a leader is required to be directive, and the employees or groups members need guidance to perform optimally (Jingsong, & Yuan, 2009: pp. 16-38; Williams, 2012).

According to Daft, (2014), intelligence is likely to be used by the directive leaders as opposed to the nondirective leader. However, in as much as intelligent leader can make better decisions, they still need to have experience to manage subordinates when they are faced with complex task. In the view of the above decision, it is clear that the Cognitive Resource Theory can be used effectively in the modern organization, which is faced with moral leadership and sustainable success. Moral leadership that requires the leader must maintain higher moral and ethical standards. It is also important to note that in a contemporary organization, the most important factor to consider is defines and establish a sense of mission, and responsibility. Finally, the aspect of gender in leadership is becoming a common theme in organization as the need for positive working relationship becomes important. In view of the decision, the cognitive resource theory can help a leader maximize its team task performance and leader- subordinate relationship


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