Fielder’s Contingency Model

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2.2     Fielder’s Contingency Model

Having confirmed the effectiveness and shortcomings of the SWOT analysis on Ryanair’s managerial problems, it becomes necessary to test how Fielder’s Contingency Model on leadership-staff relationships can transform business.

Fielder’s Contingency theory concentrates on leadership, with the opinion that an organization’s success depends most on managers’ leadership style, relationship with subordinates, clarity of tasks, ability to motivate through rewards and punishments, and overall influence which stirs admiration, respect and loyalty among followers (Lamb., 2013).

2.2.1  How the Fielder’s Contingency Model Works

The success of Fielder’s Contingency Model relies on its recognition that one leadership style is incapable of solving management problems and managers’ effectiveness depends on changing variables. In addition, the theory suggests that organizations should utilize unique strategies in solving their leadership problems considering that different problems need custom-made solutions. Although the model is classified into “leadership style” and “situational favourableness,” its highlight is the Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC) scale through which managers categorize their workers according to the following traits: “Friendly or Unfriendly,” “Cooperative or Uncooperative,” Open or Guarded,” Supportive or Hostile” etc (Fielder., 1967).

The Style of Leadership

Fielder’s model describes leadership as either relationship-oriented or task-oriented. While task-oriented leaders concentrate on improving performance and are autocratic in nature, relationship-oriented leaders tend to rely of employees’ creativity, welfare, and teamwork to achieve organizational objectives. As shown in Appendix A, Fielder is of the opinion that leaders are differentiated by how they rate their workers. Those who offered high scores are relationship-oriented whereas those who gave low scores are task-oriented (Bass., 1990).

There are 16 variables on the LPC scale, where workers are required to identify their colleagues according to preference using the numbers 1 (minimum) to 8 (maximum). m rating) and 1 (the minimum score). Accordingly, participants are workers who must have interacted with their colleagues either as individuals or as group members during organizational activities such as training or assignments. After the relationship-based test, workers’ response to the questions are calculated to identify task-oriented or relationship-oriented leaders. According to Forsyth (2006), relationship-oriented leaders add excitement to workers’ roles, abhor discrimination of any kind, settle grievances amicably, contribute to employees’ personal lives and career growth, and offer effective solutions to organizational problems. On the contrary, their task-oriented counterparts are scored low on the LPC Scale because they are strict with task scheduling and performance, with less consideration for workers’ emotions, convenience or expectations.

Situational Favourableness

Fielder (1992) opined that the second part of his Contingency Model, “situational favourableness,” is an exercise which follows a clear understanding of the kind of leadership existing in organizations. On this backdrop, it becomes clear that when managers are in total control of situations, he/she develops confidence that instructions will be obeyed by subordinates. To enable users correctly predict characteristics of situations and boost performance, this factor is categorized into: Leader-Member Relations, Task Structure, and Leader’s Position Power.

Relationship between Leaders and Members: This highlights the importance of respect, trust and confidence between leaders and their followers. Forsyth (2006) notes that less cordial relationships cause managers to withdraw attention from workers and focus on tasks as a behaviour-control and conflict-resolution tool.

The Structure of Employee Tasks: This concentrates on the clarity of tasks and organizational structure as part of the factors influencing high performance in organizations. Unstructured, unfavourable or ambiguous tasks lead to low performance whereas tasks with clear instructions and clear goals aid attainment of goals (Vecchio., 1977).

Administrative Power of Leaders: This emphasized on the influence of leaders in administration. For example, successful leaders are those with true executive powers to plan, direct and control activities as well as offer rewards for high performance and punishments for failure. Fielder (1967) described leaders without power as “unfavourably disposed.”

As Figure 14 indicates below, Fielder’s Contingency Model offers a three-step process towards identifying leader-member relationships, the situations and type of leadership required. Importantly, the theory agrees that there is no ideal leader. Managers in organizations are either “good” or have “poor leader-member” relationships. Further, their positions of power may be described as “strong” or “weak” while task scheduling abilities are classified as “high” or “low.” Accordingly, the 8-Octant Continuum categorized leaders as “favourable” or “unfavourable” using a scale of 1 to 8.

Results between 1 to 3 fall under Low Least-Preferred Co-Worker (LPC) while those between 4 and 7 are labelled High Least-Preferred Co-Worker (LPC). Workers who scored 1-3 on the LPC Scale need managers/supervisors that focus on tasks and, on the other hand, those who are rated high are advised to work with relationship motivated leaders.

Figure 14: Fielder’s Contingency Model

Source: Fiedler (1967)

2.2.2  Benefits of Fielder’s Contingency Model

  • Useful in choosing the best leadership style for different situations.
  • Widely used by managers for decades and still strategically effective in handling management issues in organizations.
  • As a remodelled version of older leadership theories, Fielder’s theory relies on behavioural characteristics and encourages leaders to be flexible for optimal performance in changing situations (Fielder., 1958).


2.2.3  Failures of Fielder’s Contingency Model

  • Its inflexible nature makes it less effective and appealing to managers.
  • The assumption that natural leadership style is static because same is tied to managers’ personality traits makes the model rigid since leaders can choose not be influenced by their nature (Nebeker., 1974).
  • Most leaders have been unable to solve their organizational problems with the model (Northouse., 2007).
  • A possible score of 50% on the scale makes it hard to categorize leaders.