Contingency Variables and Predictions

Environmental factors determine the type of leader behavior required as a complement if follower outcomes are to be maximized, while personal characteristics of the employee determine how the environment and leader behavior are interpreted. So the theory proposes that leader behavior will be ineffective when it is redundant with sources of environmental structure or incongruent with employee characteristics. For example, the following are illustrations of predictions based on path goal theory.

Directive leadership leads to greater satisfaction when tasks are ambiguous or stressful than they are highly structures and well laid out.

Supportive leadership results in high employee performance and satisfaction when employees are performing structured tasks.

Directive leadership is likely to be perceived as redundant among employees with high perceived ability or with considerable experience.

Employees with an internal locus of control will be more satisfied with a participative style.

Achievement oriented leadership will increase employees’ expectancies that effort will lead to high performances when tasks are ambiguously structured.

Evaluation: Due to its complexity, testing path-goal theory has not proven to be easy. A review of the evidence suggests mixed support. These results suggests that either effective leadership does not rest in the removal of roadblocks and pitfalls to employee path instrumentalities as path goal theories propose or that the nature of these hindrances is not in accord with the proposition of the theories. Another review concluded that the lack of support was socking and disappointing. These conclusions have been challenged by others who argue that adequate tests of the theory have yet to be conducted. Thus, it is safe that the jury is still out regarding the validity of path goal theory. Because it is so complex to test that may remain the case for some time to come.

Leader Participation Model:

Victor Vroom and Philips Yetton developed a leader participation model that related leadership behavior and participation in decision making. Recognizing that task structure has varying demands for routine and non-routine activities, these researchers argued that leader behavior must adjust to reflect the task structure. Vroom and Yetton’s model was normative – it provided a sequential set of rules that should be followed in determining the form and amount of participation in decision making, as determined by different types of situations. The model was a decision tree incorporating seven contingencies whose relevance could be identified by making yes or no choices and five alternative leadership styles. The revised model retains the same five alternative leadership styles – from the leaders making the decision completely alone to sharing the problem with the group and developing a consensus decision – but adds a set of problem types and expands the contingency variables to 12. The 12 contingency variables are listed.

Research testing both the original and revised leader participation models has not been encouraging although the revised model rates higher in effectiveness. Criticism has tended to focus on variables that have been omitted and on the model’s overall complexity. Other contingency theories demonstrate that stress, intelligence, and experience are important situational variables. Yet the leader participation model fails to include them. But more important, at least from a practical point of view, is the fact that the model is far too complicated for the typical manager to use on regular basis. A computer program was developed to guide managers through all the decision branches in the revised model, it’s not very realistic to expect practicing managers to consider 12 contingency variables, eight problem types, and five leadership styles in trying to select to select the appropriate decision process for a specific problem.

We obviously haven’t done justice in this discussion to the model’s sophistication. So what can you gain from this brief review? Additional insights into relevant contingency variables. Vroom and his associates have provided us with some specific, empirically supported contingency variables that you should consider when choosing your leadership style.