Situational/Contingency Model Overview

‘Situational’ (or ‘Contingency’) leadership models are based on the idea that the leader’s actions should vary according to the circumstances he or she is facing – in other words leadership methods change according to the ‘situation’ in which the leader is leading. This category includes most notably: Kurt Lewin’s Three Styles model; Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum model; the Fiedler Contingency model; House’s Path-Goal theory; Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® model; and Bolman and Deal’s Four-Frame model.

These leadership models are based on the important assumption that; there is no single ideal approach to leading because circumstances vary. Thus, effective leaders change their behaviour according to the situation.

There are many models that offer a framework for flexing one’s behaviour according to the context or challenge one is facing as a leader. In particular we will be covering Lewin’s 3 Style Model, Fielder’s Contingency Model, House’s Path Goal Theory, Bolman and Deal’s Four-Frame Model and Tannenaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Behaviour Continuum.

Situational, or Contingency, theories are all about matching leadership behaviour to circumstances, or the experience, commitment and confidence of followers.

The core principle behind these models is that leaders are able to change their behaviour however, it should be noted that many are restricted by hidden limiting beliefs and old habits that persist despite training.

Situational Leadership works well one-to-one, but less well in one-to-many circumstances.