Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership Simplified

Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership holds that people become leaders not only because of their qualities but also because of various situational factors and the interactions between group members and the leader.

This model also explains a relationship between leadership style and the favorableness of a situation.

Fiedler described situational favorableness in terms of three dimensions—the leader and member relationship, the degree of task structure and the leader’s position power.

If the three dimensions are high, the situation can be said to be favorable. If the three dimensions are low, the situation in combination with leadership style determines effectiveness.

Human relations-oriented manager/leader is effective in the intermediate range of favorableness. In the very favorable and very unfavorable situation task-oriented leadership is effective.

This theory is criticized for its deficiencies like narrow focus on a single leader trait (task or relations orientations), ambiguity in measurement of terms of the model, and lack of explanatory process.

Fiedler proposed a new theory based on empirical research, which is called the cognitive resource theory.

He identified the situations under which the leader’s cognitive resources namely intelligence, experience and technical expertise contribute to group performance.