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Foundations: Situation Focus
Theories around situational leadership.
Terms in this set (41)
Contingency Theory - Background
. Certain leader styles are best suited for specific situations to optimize performance from followers.
(a) Yukl (2009) and others (Bass, 1985; Daft, 19xx) consider "Contingency Theories of Leadership" to be a broad category, including the following types of Leadership: Path-Goal Theory, Situational Leadership, LPC Contingency Theory, and Adaptive Leadership (e.g. Heifetz).
(b) Northouse (2013) classifies these separately, including a separate category for the following: LPC (Least Preferred Co-Worker) Contingency Theory
(c) Hughes (2015) suggested that contingency theories focus on the situation, which drive follower characteristics and leadership behaviors.
Contingency Theories - Key Idea
Contingency theory is a leader match theory; it tries to match leaders to appropriate situations.
(a) Called contingency because it suggests that a leader's effectiveness depends on how well the leader style fits the context
(b) Contingency theory stresses that leaders are not effective in all situations.
(c) Contingency Leadership is a synthesis of the trait approach and the situationalist view as it seeks to determine situational variables mediating the interaction between leadership behavior and situations resulting in effectiveness or "situational favorableness." Therefore, leader behavior is contingent on the situation. Only the leader possessing particular qualities will arise due to the specific situational circumstances requiring specific leadership abilities.
The "situation" has three levels of abstraction
the task level, the organizational level, and the environmental level (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2015).
Situation Level: Task
: the degree to which a job provides an individual with some control over what he does and how he does it. Autonomy often covaries with technical expertise. Job satisfaction and responsibility often increase when autonomy increases (Hackman & Oldham, 1980).
: the degree to which a person accomplishing a task received information about performance from performing the task itself. (House & Dressler, 1974).
: degree to which tasks require coordination and synchronization for work groups or teams to accomplish desired goals.
: even though complex, there are expert solutions to them (Heifetz, 1994).
: problems that cannot be solved using currently existing resources and ways of thinking. It's the nature of such problems that it can be quite difficult even reaching a common definition of what the problem really is. Adaptive problems can only be solved by changing the system itself. (Heifetz, 1994)
. Adaptive problems involve people's values, and finding solutions to problems that involve others' values requires the active engagement of their hearts and minds - not the leader's (Heifetz, 1994).
Situation Level: Organization
Formal: level of authority
. Concerns one's legitimate power giving one's relationship in an organizational hierarchy. (Luthans, 1985)
Formal: Organization structure
. The way an organization's activities are coordinated and controlled.
Horizontal complexity, Vertical complexity, Spatial complexity, Formalization and Centralization.
. the system of shared backgrounds, norms, values, or beliefs among members of a group (Schein, 1990).
: inward focus and stability/ control. Formal, SOP, efficiency.
: external, competitive, results-oriented.
: internal, cohesive, strong values, high participation, relationships.
: external, flexible, adapt to their ever changing environment - creativity & entrepreneurship
. Concerns members' subjective reactions to the organization (Bass, 1990).
Situation Level: Environment
• PESTEL provides a bird's eye view of the whole environment from many different angles that one wants to check and keep a track of while contemplating on a certain idea/plan.
• the importance of each of the factors may be different to different kinds of industries.
Situation Level: Leadership Challenge
(a) Leaders need to work within the context of the situation (task, organization, and environment) and be able to handle a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA).
(b) Heifetz (1994) said follower expect leaders provide direction, protect, and order in terms of norms, roles and conflict.
(c) Heifetz (2006) also described the thorny leadership challenge that followers generally want their leaders to be experts having all the answers (recall adaptive problems do not have expert solutions). He said "When you attain a position of significant authority, people inevitably expect you to treat adaptive challenges as if they were technical - tor provide for them a remedy that will restore equilibrium with the least amount of pain and in the shortest amount of time" (p.4).
1) Least Preferred Leadership model (Fieldler, 1967)
2) Normative decision model (Vroom & Yelton, 1973)
3) Leadership substitutes (Kerr & Jermier, 1978)
Least Preferred Coworker - Key Idea
. Fred Fiedler's Leadership Effectiveness Model was introduced in 1967 that identified three major situational variables that determine whether a given situation is favorable to leaders.
: (Fielder, 1964, 1967)
• Contingency theory is a leader-match theory (Fiedler & Chemers, 1974)-Tries to match leaders to appropriate situations
• Leader's effectiveness depends on how well the leader's style fits the context
• Fiedler's generalizations about which styles of leadership are best and worst are based on empirically grounded generalizations
- Effective leadership is contingent on matching a leader's style to the right setting
based on:-Leadership Styles-Situational Variables.
Least Preferred Coworker - Components & Styles
: the level of trust and confidence a team has in its leader. The more trust and influence places a leader in a more favorable situation.
: the type of task, either clear and structures or vague and unstructured. The latter create a less favorable situation.
Power and Authority
: the amount of power a leader directs toward the follower(s). The more power, the more favorable is the situation to the leader.
: Fielder developed the Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale to describe a leader on two categories (relational and task).
Task-motivated (Low LPCs)
-Leaders are concerned primarily with reaching a goal
Relationship-motivated (High LPCs)
- Leaders are concerned with developing close interpersonal relationships.
Least Preferred Coworker - Model
Least Preferred Coworker - Explanation of Ineffectiveness
Reasons for leader mismatch ineffectiveness:
• LPC style doesn't match a particular situation; stress and anxiety result
• Under stress, leader reverts to less mature coping style learned in earlier development
• Leader's less mature coping style results in poor decision making and consequently negative work outcomes
Least Preferred Coworker - Strengths
1. Supported by
2. Moves away from universal leadership
Reduces the pressure on the leader
Least Preferred Coworker - Criticisms
1. No clear articulation of
why certain leadership styles fit certain situations
2. Questions on the LPC's
Lack of guidance
for organizations, especially with mismatch.
Normative decision model - Key Ideas
. Vroom's model predicts the effectiveness of decision-making procedures. Specifically, Vroom's model takes into account the situation and the importance of the decision to determine which of Vroom's five decision-making methods will be most effective
: (Vroom and Yetton, 1973; Vroom and Jago, 1988)
: Suggests that the leader can either choose to be autocratic, consultative, or group-oriented when making decisions.
1. Autocratic decision-making involves unilateral decision-making by the leader with little to no follower information.
2. Consultative decision-making involves the leader interacting with individual followers or groups of followers to obtain information to make a decision.
3. Group-oriented decision-making involves the leader interacting with individual followers or groups of followers in such a way that the group considers the information and makes a decision, when making decisions depending on the specific situation presented.
Normative decision model - Five Models
Autocratic - A-1 (Decide)
: The leader makes the decision or solves the problem alone and announces his/her decision to the group. The leader may gather information from members of the group.
Consult - A-II (Individually)
: The leader approaches group members individually and presents them with the problem. The leader records the group member's suggestions and makes a decision, deciding whether or not to use the information provided by group members.
Consult - C-I (Group)
: The leader holds a group meeting where he/she presents the problem to the group as a whole. All members are asked to contribute and make suggestions during the meeting. The leader makes his/her decision alone, choosing which information obtained from the group meeting to use or discard.
Group- C-II (Facilitate)
: The leader holds a group meeting where he/she presents the problem to the group as a whole. This differs from consulting approach as the leader ensures that his/her opinions are not given any more weight than those of the group. The decision is made by group consensus, and not solely by the leader.
Group- G-II (Delegate)
: The leader does not actively participate in the decision-making process. Instead, the leader provides resources (e.g., information about the problem) and encouragement.
Normative decision model - Explanation
Normative decision model - S/C
1. Vroom and Yetton (1973) took the earlier generalized situational theories that noted how situational factors cause almost unpredictable leader behavior and reduced this to a more limited set of behaviors.
2. The 'normative' aspect of the model is that it was defined more by rational logic than by long observation.
3. The model is most likely to work when there is clear and accessible opinions about the decision quality importance and decision acceptance factors. However these are not always known with any significant confidence
Leadership substitutes - Key Idea
: States that there are aspects of the situation that can reduce the importance of leadership. This may provide an explanation for the lack of stronger empirical support for a relationship between leader traits or leader behaviors and subordinates' satisfaction and performance.
: Kerr & Jermier, 1978.
1. substitutes (an aspect of the situation that leads employees to behave in the same way that a leader would get them to behave and;
2. neutralizers (a neutralizer is something that lessens the effect of something else). If substitutes for leadership work, then leaders would not be required.
Leadership substitutes - Model
: ensures employees understand their roles, know how to do the work, motivate employees, and provide for job satisfaction.
1. subordinate: experience, training, skills, knowledge.
2. task: job simplicity, repetition, feedback, interesting (generates satisfaction)
3. organization: policies, procedures, rewards, punishments.
• Removing neutralizes and substitutes will improve individual leader effectiveness.
• More research is needed. Leadership may be important for inspiring people to greater efforts regardless of the situation.
: has provided insights into how employees might be motivated to work hard (give greater effort) by means other than through the formal leader. Influence leaders provide could also come, in part, from work design, reward systems, peer leadership, and self-management. The leader is only one source of influence on employee efforts and behavior.
Leadership substitutes - Strengths
1. Empirical support. Contingency theory has been tested by many researchers and found to be a valid and reliable approach to explaining how to achieve effective leadership.
2. Broadened understanding. Contingency theory has broadened the scope of leadership understanding from a focus on a single, best type of leadership (e.g., trait approach) to emphasizing the importance of a leader's style and the demands of different situations.
3. Predictive. Because Contingency theory is predictive, it provides relevant information regarding the type of leadership that is most likely to be effective in particular contexts.
4. Not an all-or-nothing approach. Contingency theory contends that leaders should not expect to be effective in every situation; thus companies should strive to place leaders in optimal situations according to their leadership style.
5. Leadership profiles. Contingency theory supplies data on leadership styles that could be useful to organizations in developing leadership profiles for human resource planning.
Leadership substitutes - Criticisms
1. Fails to fully explain why leaders with particular leadership styles are more effective in some situations than others
2. Criticism of LPC scale validity as it does not correlate well with other standard leadership measures
3. Cumbersome to use in real-world settings
4. Fails to adequately explain what should be done about a leader/situation mismatch in the workplace
1) Situational leadership model (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969)
2) Path-goal theory (House, 1971; House & Mitchell, 1974).
Situational leadership model - Key Idea
: situational leadership focuses on leadership in situations. The premise of the theory is that different situations demand different kinds of leadership. Leaders need to be adaptive based on the situation.
: Developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969a) and based on Reddin's (1967) 3-D management style theory.
(a) Leaders match their style to the competence and commitment of subordinates
(b) Focuses on leadership in situations
(c) Emphasizes adapting style - different situations demand different kinds of leadership.
Situational leadership model - Summary
(a) The situational approach is constructed around the idea that employees move forward and backward along the developmental continuum which represents the relative competence and commitment of the subordinates.
(b) For leaders to be effective, it is essential that they determine where subordinates are of the developmental continuum and adapt their leadership style so they directly match their style to that developmental level. (Northouse, 2012, p. 103).
Situational leadership model - Description
1. Leaders match their style to the competence and commitment of subordinates
2. Focuses on leadership in situations
3. Emphasizes adapting style - different situations demand different kinds of leadership
4. Used extensively in organizational leadership training and development
5. Comprised of both a Directive (task) dimension & Supportive (relationship) dimension:-Each dimension must be applied appropriately in a given situation-Leaders evaluate employees to assess their competence and commitment to perform a given task
6. Centered on the idea subordinates vacillate along the developmental continuum of competence and commitment
7. Leader effectiveness depends on --assessing subordinate's developmental position, and -adapting his/her leadership style to match subordinate developmental level
8.Some people list this under the broad category of "Contingency Theories of Leadership" because of its focus on adaptive leadership based on the situation.
Situational leadership model - Explanation: Leadership Styles
- behavior patterns of a person who attempts to influence others.
: high directive, low supportive style
: high directive and high supportive style
: high supportive, but low directive style
: low supportive, and low directive style.
Situational leadership model - Explanation: Development Levels
of Subordinates - the degree to which a subordinate has the necessary competence and commitment for a specific task or activity.
Four development Levels:
(a) D1 employees are low in confidence in high and commitment. they are new to a task. E.g., new to a task
(b) D2 employees are described as having some confidence, but low commitment. They have started to learn a job, but they also have lost some the initial motivation.
(c) D3 represents employees who have moderate to high confidence, but may lack commitment
(d) D4: before employees are the highest in development, having both a high degree of confidence and a high degree of commitment.
Situational leadership model - Model
Situational leadership model - Assumptions & Implications
1. Employees move forward and backward along the developmental continuum, which represents relative competence and commitment of subordinates.
2. Leaders can "easily" assess their subordinates' development style based on competence and commitment.
. to achieve optimal leadership effectiveness, the leader must:
1. Determine where subordinates are on the developmental continuum;
2. Adapt their behavior styles so they directly match their style to that of the developmental need.
3. There are prescribed leadership styles to follow.
Situational leadership model - Strengths
Situational leadership is perceived as providing a credible model for training employees to become effective leaders.
. Situational leadership is a straightforward approach that is easily understood and applied in a variety of settings.
. Situational leadership clearly outlines what you should and should not do in various settings.
. Situational leadership stresses that effective leaders are those who can change their style based on task requirements and subordinate needs.
Differential follower treatment
. Situational leadership is based on the premise that leaders need to treat each subordinate according to his/her unique needs.
Situational leadership model - Criticisms
Lack of an empirical foundation
raises theoretical considerations regarding the validity of the approach
2. Further research is required to determine
how commitment and competence are conceptualized
for each developmental level
3. Conceptualization of commitment itself is very unclear
/Replication studies fail to support basic prescriptions of situational leadership model.
Unclear how effective
the leadership style matches subordinate development levels.
Does not account for certain demographic characteristics
and their influence on the model.
Does not address the issue of one-to-one versus group leadership
in organizational settings
leadership questionnaires force respondents
to describe leadership style in terms of specific parameters (i.e., direct, coach, support, delegate) rather than in terms of other leadership behavior
Path-Goal Theory - Key Idea
: path goal theory emphasizes the relationship between the leader style and the characteristics of the subordinates in the work setting
"For the leader, the challenge is to use a leadership style that best meets subordinates motivational needs. This is done by choosing behaviors that complement or supplement what is missing in the work setting" (House, 1971, p. 137).
: House (1971)
Path-Goal Theory - Description
as...Path-goal theory centers on how leaders motivate subordinates to accomplish designated goals
the relationship between...the leaders style, the characteristics of the subordinates, &the work setting
- To enhance employee performance and satisfaction by focusing on employee motivation
(based on Expectancy Theory) - Subordinates will be motivated if they believe:
• they are capable of performing their work
• that their efforts will result in a certain outcome
• that the payoffs for doing their work are worthwhile.
The leader must Use a Leadership Style that best meets subordinates motivational needs*.
Path-Goal Theory - Motivation
Leadership generates motivation when...
(a) It increases the number and kinds of payoffs subordinates receive from their work
(b) Makes the path to the goal clear and easy to travel through with coaching and direction
(c) Removes obstacles and roadblocks to attaining the goal
(d) Makes the work itself more personally satisfying.
Path-Goal Theory - Model
Path-Goal Theory - Components
: gives subordinates instructions about the task, including was expected of them, how it is to be done, and the timeline for when it should be completed.)
: provides nurturance.
: provides involvement.
: challenges subordinates to perform work at the highest level possible and with a high standard of excellence).
Path-Goal Theory - Leader Behavior Model
Path-Goal Theory - Strengths
Useful theoretical framework.
Path-goal theory is a useful theoretical framework for understanding how various leadership behaviors affect the satisfaction of subordinates and their work performance.
. Path-goal theory attempts to integrate the motivation principles of expectancy theory into a theory of leadership.
. Path-goal theory provides a practical model that underscores and highlights the important ways leaders help subordinates.
behavior and worker motivation.
Path-Goal Theory - Criticisms
1. Interpreting the meaning of the theory can be
confusing because it is so complex
and incorporates so many different aspects of leadership; consequently, it is difficult to implement.
2. Empirical research studies have demonstrated only
for path-goal theory.
3. It fails to adequately explain the
4. The path-goal theory approach treats leadership as a
in which the leader affects the subordinate.
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