Contingency Leadership and Path-Goal Theories

Contingency theory is the idea that effective leadership is wholly dependent on how and what methods are chosen during situations. It is along the lines of situational leadership in some regards. However, the difference is that contingency theory includes looking at the relationships between the leader and the co-worker. (Moniz Jr, 2010).  It is essentially the relationship between a leader's actions and the situation rather than adapting the leader's style to the situation. (Piyu, 2019).

In other words, this theory posits that the leadership's style does not really change, but the situations around them do. To be effective, the leader must be placed into the situations that suit their leadership styles the best. For example, an organization has two leaders in a specific department. One leader is geared more towards relationship styles of leadership, while the other is more of a task-oriented person. Their department needs to implement changes to improve customer service. The task-oriented leader would not be suited for situations requiring teams' development, improving relationships, and conflict management. Thus, when the teams need to be developed, communication established, and cohesion is encouraged, the relationship-oriented leader is better suited. No leaders need to change their leadership style, but they are placed into situations where they fit best.

However, it should be noted that the Contingency theory does have weaknesses that make it more challenging to sustain over time. Organizations may not have enough leaders with varying styles to continually switch out as situations occur on a daily basis. Sometimes situations will require a different leadership style once the problem is mitigated. For example, an auto mechanic shop is failing, and some significant changes are needed to get it back on track. Due to the situation's dire needs, a task-oriented leader is brought in to get the organization into shape. Once it is situated and has improved, it makes no sense to maintain the task-oriented style because that is handled. The next part would be to maintain morale, communications, relationships, etc. This would require the finesses of a relationship-oriented leader. The company, however, does not have a relationship-oriented leader available. This can present problems in the long run when the leadership style conflicts with the situation's needs.

To understand why authentic leadership is vital to the contingency theory, we need to understand authentic leadership. Matt Gavin explains how leaders exhibit authenticity in their leadership roles. They have certain principles, morals, and integrity such as self-insight and improvement, self-discipline, commitment to goals or missions, and they encompass inspiration when morale or motivation is low. (Gavin, 2019). While these are characteristics an authentic leader may display, there are other aspects that Dr. Ronald E Riggio points out. Riggio states that not only are authentic leaders insightful, but they also must be transparent, fair, and always willing to be ethically moral. (Riggio, 2014).

What authenticity means for the contingency theory is that to lead people - whether by relationship or task-oriented styles – they must trust the leader enough to follow them. If the people who are being guided on a specific path do not trust that they are being led in the proper direction, they will most likely have resistance to change or leadership. In the contingency theory, if the leader-member relations are low in suitable favorableness, then the chances are the influence will be low.

The contingency theory and situational theory were compared earlier on in this writing, but now we will compare the Path-Goal theory and contingency theory. We already discovered that the contingency theory believes that leaders are set in their ways and do not change their styles; therefore, they must be matched to the situations they are best suited for. According to Paul Anderson (2016), the path-goal theory is the method and means of how leadership motivates and leads people to achieve goals or accomplishments such as educational, personal, and career goals. (Anderson, 2016). This means that to guide people in achieving goals, the leader will have to develop and employ various leadership skills, strategies, and behaviors customized to every situation. The path-goal theory states that every case needs a different style of behavior to carry out the goals. Anderson (2016) continues to explain the four most common behavioral styles are "directive leadership, supportive leadership, participative leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership." (Anderson, 2016). While the contingency theory would employ a leader that exhibits these traits and place that leader into the situation best suited to them, the path-goal theory is different. In path-goal, the leaders learn different leadership styles and adjust which they use depending on their situation.

The path-goal theory and situational leadership appear quite similar in that they both concede that the leadership style must adapt or change based on the situation. However, the path-goal theory posits that the effects of the situation on both the leader and the employees are considered. Path-Goal Employer Services (PGES) explains that in a situation where the task is vague, unclear, or ambiguous, a directive leadership style would be more suitable than a supportive style. (PGES, 2019).




1 Comment

  1. on April 4, 2022 at 12:49 am

    Very nice write-up. I definitely appreciate this site. Thanks!

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