Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Fiedler’s argument was that a leader’s effectiveness is dependent on two forces: situational favourableness and his/her own style.

For Fiedler, there were three factors determining the favourableness of a situation;

  • How much trust, respect and confidence exists between leader and team?
  • How clearly the task is outlined and the creative freedom given by the leader?
  • How much the team accepts the leader’s instruction and power?

The second force was style, which fall into two styles; task-orientated and relationship-orientated.

Task-orientated: Leaders have a strong bias towards getting the job done without considering their bond with their followers.  They can, of course, run the risk of failing to deliver if they do not engage enough with the people around them.

Relationship-orientated: Leaders care about emotional engagement with the team, but sometimes to the detriment of the task and results.

Fiedler found that task-orientated leaders are most effective when the situation they are facing is either extremely favourable or extremely unfavourable.  In other words, when there is enormous trust and respect and the task is crystal-clear. It is also the same for the opposite; when trust and respect has gone and the task is undefined, the atmosphere becomes anarchic or even rebellious.  Relationship-orientated leaders are at their best in more middle-of-the-road, less extreme circumstances.  That is, either moderately favourable or moderately unfavourable situations.

Fielder, F, E. (1964). A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press. 1964.