Essay On A Critical Evaluation Of Contingency Leadership Theories

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Leadership, Theory, Leader, Relationships, Style, Adulthood, Business, Contingency

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/13

1. Introduction
Leadership is an evolving concept with many scholars have propounded different theories time to time. Contingency theories relate leadership effectiveness to situational factors and interplay of leaders' traits. This paper critically examines four contingency leadership theories to present a holistic view to readers.
2. Fiedler's Model
The basic premise of contingency theories is that there is not the best way to leading, organizing, and decision-making. Instead, course of actions depend on many external and internal factors. Contingency models focus on identifying the variables that best predict the leadership style .
Fiedler's contingency theory emphasizes on the right combination of three factors, i.e., clear goals and procedures, leader-member relationship, and the leader's ability to reward and punish (Lussier and Achua, 2015). Leader's psychological disposition is the fundamental variable in the theory. Fiedler created an LPC( Least Preferred Co-worker) scale to assess the style of a leader. The outcome of LPC model states that the task-oriented leaders perform the best in both situations, high control or low control. By contrast, relationship-oriented leaders prove best performers in the situations of moderate control.
The results of the theory seem pragmatic considering the current business scenario. The LPC score can be used to identify which leadership style would suit the situation (Miner, 2007). For example, in a mechanistic environment where tasks are very well defined, a directive leadership style can suit well. There is less need to garner personal relationship and task orientation would suit to a leaders' approach in these circumstances. By contrast, a leader must focus on human relations when there is no scenario of high authority and well-charted out tasks. A leader can create the favorable environment by emphasizing relationship orientation in such cases.
Critiques have, however, argued that parameters in LPC are vague and make the theory open to interpretations. For instance, the term "supportive" may connote anything. A person may consider critical appreciation as supportive while the other may not. Succinctly, terms used in LPC were too subjective, and their characteristics were relative to the context. Fiedler himself agreed that LPC was only applicable to closely supervised groups. This statement narrows down the scope of Fiedler's idea.
Also, business environment is dynamic, and there are many scenarios where situations, as described by Fiedler, do not hold good. In organizations, task structures may not be well defined and leader's authority to reward and punishment may be limited. The theory, thus, will not apply in situations that do not fall under Fiedler' situational criteria.
Fiedler believed leadership style to be a reflection of personality that remains constant. Though he retained the scope of improvement by adjusting to the situations, the assumption of static leadership makes the theory outdated and less convincing., particularly in present day business cases where leaders can hardly afford to remain unchanged.
Despite shortcomings, Fiedler's model is significant to the leadership research as it was one of the first approaches to identify and elaborate various situations. It can be considered as laying the foundation for more refined theories subsequently.
3. LMX Theory
LMX theory views leadership as consisting of dyadic relationships between leaders and followers. Assuming interactional relationship between leaders and subordinates is the biggest strength of the Graen's approach. The vertical relationship between leaders and subordinates is a very practical approach the theory has made. In workplaces, there are many members who perform beyond the job description and open to take responsibilities. By contrast, some are just satisfied in doing what is expected of them.
The theory outlines the importance of developing relationships with subordinates and presents a shift in focus from earlier theories that accorded a passive role to followers. LMX theory, thus, carries a practical application in various organizational settings and explains why some employees receive preferential treatment and are given challenging tasks. It exhibits a positive correlation between job satisfaction and leadership style that is one of the primary focus of modern managers. A deep analysis of the theory makes it clear that LMX approach emphasizes communication between the leader and subordinates and considers it a medium through which subordinates and leaders can develop mutually beneficial relationship.
However, the theory falls short of explaining the specific criteria of creating in-groups and out-groups. It has not discussed how the relationship develops over time. It has just talked about personal characteristics and competence. In real-life scenarios, there may be more factors including personal bias that the theory has ignored. It presents a very idealistic situation that avoids business complexities. Not every leader is transparent, and it is natural to assume personal biases and perceptions of leaders. Unfortunately, LMX theory has not discussed these issues. In one sense, the theory seems to legitimize favoritism and inequality at the workplace that is likely to raise doubts in a layman's mind.
4. Hersey- Blanchard's Theory
Propounded by Paul Hersey, the theory states that successful style of leading is based on the maturity of people and task details. The theory emphasizes on two important factors, i.e., getting the tasks done( telling, selling), and developing members' ability to work independently( participating, and delegating).
The model has provided simple scales of leadership style based on maturity and competence of people. These styles are easy to understand and apply in many organizational settings. Leaders, more often than not, tend to overlook the maturity level of people while deciding leadership strategy. This approach pragmatically explains how good leading is possible by understanding the level of maturity of team members.
The theory emphasizes that leaders should be versatile and adaptable to members' situations. This approach can be used to make effective leading strategies at the workplace. Also, participative style of leadership has been highlighted that is becoming the aim of leaders these days.
However, Blanchard's approach has not considered complex factors and emergency situations. At times, leaders just can't escort on the basis of competence and maturity of people; they may have to lead irrespective of whether these factors are there or not. For instance, there may be conflicting, survival-type scenarios in a business where maturity of the people does make lesser sense. The leader has to get the task done by hook or crook. Succinctly, the approach presents an idealistic and too simple scenario thereby avoiding real-life complex business cases.
Scholars have also argued that competence and maturity are subjective concepts that are difficult to quantify. There is no scale or standard exist to measure the maturity. Thus, to decide the level of subordinates there must be a standardized process that, unfortunately, the theory has not clarified. In the case of urgency and complexities of the task, leaders may make false judgments about the team.
Another issue is dynamism and context. Business situations have become variable and willingness and competence to perform a task may change the time to time. So, it is not practical for a leader to make static initial judgments. As scales are subjective, leaders need to persistently observe the willingness and other factors; it may not be feasible given the time and cost constraints.
5. Path Goal Theory
Initially developed by Robert House and Martin Evans, path-goal theory builds extensively on expectancy and goal-setting theories. The theory emphasizes on clarifying the paths to the subordinates to facilitate their achievement. Leaders must provide necessary resources and information to obtain the goal; at the same time they must reduce the factors that may hamper subordinates' chances of goal achievement. Motivation is an important variable in this theory, and the leaders try to motivate followers to accomplish tasks and goals.
Path goal theory has generated a considerable amount of research, however empirical validation of the theory has not been proved. The theory is based on some assumptions, some of them are well supported while some are not. For instance, the theory assumes that subordinates will behave in a rational, self-serving manner. More specifically, House believed that ambiguous situations create stress among people, and they will try ways to minimize role ambiguity. These assumptions, are difficult, to assume in organizational settings with dynamic external and internal environment. Also, employees may not tend to behave in a rational way in unexpected and unforeseen challenging scenarios. The use of various variables has made the theory complex to understand and requires an elaborative analysis of parameters. Additionally, it is challenging to analyze its components in real life situations.
Scholars have also criticized it because it places more burden on leaders than followers. It has been argued that this approach may make the subordinates dependent on leadership rather than developing independent working culture among them.
However, the theory has emphasized on a variety of management styles to meet individual needs and goals. It is an expanded approach that combines the previous works of contingency, situational, and expectancy theories to present a holistic approach. Also, this is the first approach that correlated motivational factors with an effective leadership style. The theory has pragmatically highlighted the feedback as a motivational tool that leaders must consider clarifying the desired goals to the subordinates.
6. Conclusion
Contingency theories recommend that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leading. Effective leadership is dependent on various internal and external factors. All theories have merits and demerits. While LPC model is too subjective, path- goal theory assumes many variables that make the theory complex to understand. Blanchard approach is pragmatic in the sense it takes into consideration the maturity level of people. Succinctly, no theory has provided a complete way to effective leading. However, the application of a combination of contingency theories would help leaders to act efficiently in different business circumstances.

References

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Yukl (2007) Leadership in Organizations, 6th edition, New Delhi: Pearson Education India.

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