Contingency Models of Leadership

Illustrative of an interactional perspective is Fred Fiedler’s (1967) contingency model of leadership. Fiedler argued that a key difference among leaders is whether they are primarily task oriented (single-mindedly focused on the job) or relations oriented (concerned about the feelings of employees). The amount of control that a leader has determines which type of leadership is more effec- tive. Leaders enjoy high situational control when they have good relations with their staff, a position of power, and a clearly structured task. In contrast, leaders exhibit low situational control when they have poor relations with their staff, lim- ited power, and a task that is not clearly defined.


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these personal and situational components, studies of various work groups suggest that task-oriented leaders are most effective in clear-cut situations that are either low or high in control and that relations-oriented leaders perform better in situations that afford a moderate degree of control. In low-control situations, groups need guidance, which task-oriented leaders provide by staying focused on the job. In high-control situations, where con- ditions are already favorable, these same leaders maintain a relaxed, low pro- file. Relations-oriented leaders are different. They offer too little guidance in low-control situations, and they meddle too much in high-control situations. In ambiguous situations, however, relations-oriented leaders—precisely because of their open, participative, social style—motivate workers to solve problems in creative ways.

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