The first comprehensive contingency model for leadership was developed by Fred Fiedler. The Fiedler contingency model proposes that effective group performance depends on the proper match between the leader’s style and the degree to which the situation gives control to the leader.
Identifying Leadership Style:
Fiedler believes a key factor in leadership success is the individual’s basic leadership style. So he begins by trying to find out what that basic style is. Fiedler created the least preferred coworkers (LPC) questionnaire for this purpose; it purports to measure whether a person is task or relationship oriented. The LPC questionnaire contains sets of 16 contrasting adjectives (such as pleasant – unpleasant, efficient-inefficient, open- guarded, supportive-hostile). It asks respondents to think of all the co-workers they have ever had and to describe the one person they last enjoyed working with by rating that person on a scale of 1 to 8 for each of the 16 sets of contrasting adjectives. Fiedler believes that based on the respondents answers to this LPC questionnaire he can determine their basic leadership style. If the least preferred coworkers is described in relatively positive terms (a high LPC score), then the respondent is primary interested in good personal relations with his coworkers. That is, if you essentially describe the person you are least able to work with in favorable terms Fiedler would label you relationship-oriented. In contrast, if the least preferred coworkers are seen in relatively unfavorable terms (allow LPC score) the respondent is primarily interested in productivity and thus would be labeled task oriented. About 16 percent of respondents score in the middle range. Such individuals cannot be classified as either relationship oriented or task oriented and thus fall outside the theory’s predictions. The rest of our discussion therefore relates to the 84 percent who score in either the high or low range of the LPC.
Fiedler assumes that an individual’s leadership style is fixed. As we will show, this is important measure it remains that if a situation requires a task oriented leader and the person in that leadership position is relationship position oriented either the situation has to be modified or the leader replaced of optimal effectiveness is to be achieved.
Defining the Situation:
After an individual’s basic leadership style has been assessed through the LPC, it is necessary to match the leader with the situation. Fiedler has identified three contingency dimensions that, he argues define the key situational factors that determine leadership effectiveness. These are leader-members relations, task structure and position power. They are defined as follows:
1. Leader member relations: The degree of confidence, trust and respect members have in their leader.
2. Task structure : The degree to which the job alignments to the procedures (that is, structured or unstructured)
3. Position power: The degree of influence a leader has over power variables such as hiring, firing, discipline, promotions and salary increases.
The next step is to evaluate the situation in terms of these three contingency variables. Leadership member relations are either good or poor, task structure is either high or low and position power is either strong or weak.
Fiedler states the better the leader-member relations the more highly structured the job, and the stronger the position power, the more control the leader has. For example, a very favorable situation in which the leader would have a great deal of control might involve a payroll manager who is well respected and whose employees have confidence in her (good leader-member relations), for which the activities to be done such as wage computation, check writing report filing are specific and clear (high task structure), and the job provides considerable freedom of her to reward and punish her employees (strong position power). However, an unfavorable situation might be the disliked by the chairperson. In this job the leader has very little control.