Matching Leaders and Situations

Task-oriented leaders tend to perform better in situations that were very favorable to them and in situations that were very unfavorable. With knowledge of an individual’s LPC and an assessment of the three contingency variables, the Fiedler model proposes matching them up to achieve maximum leadership effectiveness. It was predicted that when faced with certain category situations, task-oriented leaders perform better. Relationship-oriented leaders, however, perform better in moderately favorable situations. There are eight situations identified and these eight situations are toned down to three. Task oriented leaders perform best in situations of high and low control, while relationship-oriented leaders perform best in moderate control situations.

You would seek to match leaders and situations. Individuals’ LPC scores would determine the type of situation for which they were best suited. That “situation” would be defined by evaluating the three contingency factors of leader member relations, task structure, and position power. But remember an individual’s leadership style as being fixed. Therefore, there are really only two ways in which to improve leader effectiveness.

First, you can change the leader to fit the situation as in a baseball game, a manager can put a right handed pitcher or a left handed pitcher into the game, depending on the situational characteristics of the hitter. So, for example if a group situation rates as highly unfavorable but is currently led by a relationship-oriented manager, the group performance could be improved by replacing that manager with one who is task oriented. The second alternative would be to change the situation to fit the leader. That could be done by restructuring tasks or increasing or decreasing the power that the leader has to control factors such as salary increases, promotions, and disciplinary actions.

Evaluation: As a whole, reviews of the major studies that tested that overall validity lead to a generally positive conclusion. That is, there is considerable evidence to support at least substantial parts of the model. If predictions from the model use only three categories rather than the original eight, there is ample evidence to support. But there are problems with the LPC and the practical use of the model that need to be addressed. For instance, the logic underlying the LPC is not well understood and studies have shown that respondents’ LPC scores are not stable. Also, the contingency variables are complex and difficult for practitioners to assess. It’s often difficult in practice to determine how good the leader-member relations are, how structured the task is, and how much position and power the leader has.

It’s Experience That Counts:

The belief in the value of experience as a predictor of leadership effectiveness is very strong and widespread. Unfortunately, experience alone is generally a poor predictor of leadership.

Organizations carefully screen outside candidates or senior management positions on the basis of their experience. Similarly, organizations usually require several years of experience at one managerial level before a person can be considered for promotion. For that matter have you ever filled out an employment application that didn’t ask about previous experience or job history? Clearly, management believes that experience counts. But the evidence doesn’t support this view. Studies of military, research and development teams, shop supervisors, post office administrators and school principals tell us that experienced managers tend to be no more effective than the managers with little experience.

One flaw in the experience counts logic is the assumptions that length of time on a job is actually a measure of experience. This says nothing about the quality of experience. The fact that one person has 20 years’ experience while another has 2 years’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the former has led 10 times as many meaningful experiences. Many a times 20 years of experience is nothing more than 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. In even the most complex jobs, real learning typically ends after about 2 years. By then, almost all new and unique situations have been experienced. So one problem with trying to link experience is with leadership effectiveness is not paying attention to the quality and diversity of the experience.

A second problem is that there is variability between situations that influence the transferability or relevance of experience. Situations in which experience is obtained is rarely comparable to new situations. Jobs differ, organizational cultures differ, follower characteristics differ, and so on. So another reason that leadership experience isn’t strongly related to leadership performance is undoubtedly due to variability of situations.