SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP In analyzing leadership at the organizational level of analysis, the effectiveness of the different leadership styles must be combined with different organizational factors to assess their effect effectiveness. At this level of analysis, the study of leadership has given rise to contingency theories of leadership or situational leadership theories. Four situational leadership theories have received the primary attention: Paul Hersey’s and Ken Blanchard’s situational leadership model, Fred Fiedler’s contingency theory of leadership, Robert Houses path-goal theory of leadership, and Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton’s normative decision-making model of leadership.
Situational Leadership Model Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed a situational leadership model that combined three variables: (1) the amount of guidance and direction (task behavior) a leader gives; (2) the amount of emotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides; and (3) the readiness level (maturity) that follows, exhibit in performing a specific task or function.27 The focus of this model is o~ the relationship between the leaders and followers, and the maturity of the followers is viewed as the most important situational variable influencing loader behaviors.
Maturity is defined as the ability and willingness of people to take responsibility for directing their own behavior as it relates to the specific task being performed. An individual or group may demonstrate maturity on some tasks and immaturity on others. Effective leadership requires that the leader’s task behaviors and relationship behaviors must change to match the maturity of the group.
The maturity of followers varies along a continuum and is determined by two components: job maturity (ability) and psychological maturity (willingness). Job maturity refers to the ability to do something and is a function of the follower’s knowledge and skills. Psychological maturity refers to the willingness or motivation to do something and is a function of the followers commitment and confidence. The appropriate combination of task and relationship behaviors for (oar different levels of follower maturity are shown in Exhibit 16.4. The bell-shaped curve is called a “prescriptive” curve because it shows the appropriate leadership style directly above the corresponding level of maturity. Four potential leadership styles are created by combining different amounts of task and relationship behaviors.
S1: Telling. Provide specific instructions and closely supervise performance. This style is suited for followers of low maturity who are unable and unwilling.
52: Selling. Explain your decisions and provide opportunity for clarification. This style is appropriate for followers who are willing but unable.
Research on leadership behaviors has identified two essential roles that leaders fill. One role consists of
Leader activities that focus on task accomplishment and includes such behaviors as identifying the task at hand, deciding boy, it should be done, setting goals and objectives, delegating assignments, providing feedback, and supervising performance.
The other role consists of leader behaviors that focus on interpersonal relationships and includes such behaviors as creating a vision of the organization, communicating that vision to each member, inspiring and motivating people, evaluating and rewarding performance, providing personal support and encouragement, and creating a friendly atmosphere.
These two roles represent essential functions of a successful group: both the task structuring activities and the interpersonal relationship activities must be performed by someone. It is possible For the appointed leader to perform both functions, but other group members can also perform either or both functions.
Effective group leaders are probably those who can sense which leadership roles are not being adequately performed and either perform them then,-selves or delegate then, to other group members. Although these leadership roles are important to the effective functioning of a group, they do not necessarily need to be performed by the formally appointed leader. Indeed the most effective groups may occur ‘when the leadership rotes are ‘widely shared by many group members.
S3:Participating. Share ideas and facilitate in making decisions. This style is suited
for followers who are able but unwilling.
S4: Delegating. Turn over responsibility for decisions and implementation. This
style is appropriate for followers who are able and willing.
Hersey and Blanchard have developed instruments for measuring maturity to determine the appropriate leadership style, and they have applied their teacher-student relationships and parent-child relationships. Support for their theory is provided by the experiences of managers who have used it and a small number of research studies. They also have used this model to reinterpret and understand the inconsistent findings in other leadership studies.
Contingency Theory of Leadership The most popular and extensively researched situational theory of leadership was first proposed by Fred Piedler during the 1960s. Fiedler’s model claims that group performance depends on the interaction of the leader style and the favorableness of the situation. Fiedlers major contributions consist of(l) identifying the leadership orientation of the leader and developing a way to measure it, and (2) identifying three situational factors influencing leadership and developing a method of measuring them
Leader orientation. Fiedler’s definition of the leader’s orientation emerged largely from earlier studies in which leaders were classified as either relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Relationship-oriented leaders look at others as coworkers and see close interpersonal relations as a requirement for accomplishing the task. Task-oriented leaders show a strong emotional reaction against people with whom they have difficulty working. If they are forced to make a choice between getting the job done or worrying about interpersonal relations, they choose the task first and worry about interpersonal relations later. Following earlier research, Fiedler suggested that individuals could be placed along one continuum characterized by two basic leader orientations:
relationship-oriented versus task-oriented.
LPC scale. Leadership orientation is measured by the least preferred coworker (LPC) scale, as illustrated in Exhibit 16.5. Individuals are asked to think of a person with whom they have worked who they least preferred as a coworker, and describe this person using sixteen scales. When the responses arc summed, an individual with a favorable description of the least preferred coworker would have a high LPC score, suggesting a relationship-oriented leader. An unfavorable description of the least preferred coworker would result in a low score, suggesting a task-oriented leader.
Difficulty in interpreting the LPC scores has been a problem for Fiedler’s contingency theory. The LPC scale is not related to any of the well-known personality measures. In spite of uncertainty about what exactly it measures, however, the evidence indicates that it is a reliable measure of something, and Fiedler concludes that “there can be little doubt that we are dealing with a very important aspect of personality.” A review of 25 years of research using th~3 LPC scale concluded that high LPC leaders are primarily relationship-oriented while low LPC leaders are primarily task-oriented consistent with Fiedler's claims.’ In general, a low LPC leader is more directive, more structuring, more goal-oriented, and more concerned with efficiency. A high LPC leader is more considerate, more human relations oriented, more participative, and more sensitive to the feelings of others.
Situational favorableness. Fiedler’s model claims that whether a high LPC leader or low LPC leader will be more effective depends upon the favorableness of the situation. In some situations, a high LPC leader is most effective, while a unenthusiastic low LPC leader is more effective in other situations. Fiedler claimed that the favorableness of the situation is determined by three variables: (1) whether the relationships between the leader and the members are good or poor. (2) whether the task is relatively structured or unstructured, and (3) whether the power position of the leader is relatively strong or weak.
In studies testing the model, Fiedler and his colleagues developed instruments to measure each of these three situational variables.” Of the three situational variables, the leader-member relations variable was considered to be the most important for determining the favorableness of the situation. Leader-member relations were measured using a simple questionnaire with ten scales on which the leader was asked to describe the group. This instrument was called a “group atmosphere scale” and two sample items are shown here.
The second most important situational variable was the task structure which was evaluated by judges who examined four aspects of the task structure.
Coal clarity: the degree to which the requirements of the job are clearly stated and known by the people performing then,
Coal-path multiplicity: the degree to which the problems encounter in the job can be solved by a variety of procedures.
Decision verifiability: the degree to which the correctness of the solutions or decisions can be demonstrated and ascertained.
Decision specificity: the degree to which there is generally more than one correct solution involved in performing the task.
In a highly structured task, goals are very clear, there is on! y one correct procedure for performing the task, the correctness of the decisions can be immediately verified, and there is only one correct solution. Obviously, a highly structured task does not require leaders to provide additional structure.
The third situational variable was the power position of the leader. This factor was measured by a series of questions asking whether the leaders could recommend rewards or promotions, whether they could assign tasks and evaluate performance, and whether they had been given official titles by the organization to differentiate them from subordinates.
By determining whether a group is high or low on each of the three situational factors, Fiedler classified each group into one of eight categories, which ranged along a scale from extremely favorable situations to extremely unfavorable situations for the leader. A highly favorable situation consisted of good leader-member relations, a highly structured task, and a strong power position, as illustrated in Exhibit 16.6. On the other hand, an extremely unfavorable situation existed when the leader-member relations were poor, the task was unstructured, and the leader possessed a weak power position.
Group effectiveness. Fiedler examined the relationship between the leaders' LPC score and the effectiveness of the group in a variety of situations. The results indicated that a high LPC leader was most effective when the situation was moderately favorable. If the situation was extremely favorable or unfavorable, however, the low LPC leaders tended to have the most effective groups. These relationships are illustrated in Exhibit 16.7.
Although these results may look rather complex and difficult to understand, they seem plausible after a brief consideration. Relationship-oriented leaders (high LPC) tend to excel in situations of intermediate favorableness where concern for the group members is apparently a necessary prerequisite for motivating them to perform well. In these situations, people want to have leaders who care about them. Task-oriented leaders (low LPC), however, are more effective when the situation is either very favorable or very unfavorable. In a highly favorable situation, the personal needs of members are apparently already satisfied and what is needed is a task-oriented leader to get the job done. In an extremely unfavorable situation, however, satisfying individual needs is probably impossible. A task-oriented leader who simply focuses on getting the work done is more effective than a relationship-oriented leader who spends time fruitlessly trying to build good relationships in an impossible situation.
Fiedler's theory has some interesting implications for the selection and training of leaders in organizations. Candidates for leadership positions should be evaluated to assess their basic orientations, and they should be placed in jobs consistent with their leadership orientation. The favorableness of a situation should be assessed before assigning a leader to that position. Leaders who are struggling may need to be placed in a different situation, or their current situation may need to be changed.
When leaders are not successful, it is tempting to suggest that they need to change their leadership orientation. Fiedler does not recommend this approach, however, and argues that the basic leadership orientation of an individual is a relatively stable personality characteristic that cannot be easily changed. Rather than changing the leader to fit the situation, Fiedler recommends changing the situation to fit the leader through what he calls job engineering. Job engineering consists of changing one of the situational factors to increase or decrease the favorability of the situation. For example, the task structure and power position can be effectively changed through job redesign programs or changes in personnel policies.
The validity of Fiedler's contingency theory has been examined in numerous studies. Although most of the studies have been supportive, there have been enough contradictory findings for the model to remain somewhat controversial among leadership scholars. The most serious controversy about Fiedler's model concerns the LPC scale. Although the theory seems to predict leader effectiveness, the ambiguity over what the LPC score is actually measuring is disturbing.
Path-Goal Model Another situational leadership theory is the path-goal model developed primarily by Robert House. This model is fairly well known because it is based upon a popular theory of motivation — expectancy theory. The path-goal model explains how leaders can facilitate task performance by showing subordinates how their performance can be instrumental in achieving desired rewards. Expectancy theory explains how an individual’s attitudes and behavior are influenced by the relationships between effort and performance (goal paths) and the valence of the rewards (goal attractiveness). Therefore, individuals are satisfied and productive when they see a strong relationship between their effort and performance and when their performance results in highly valued rewards. The path-goal model claims that the most effective leaders are those who help subordinates folio’s the path to receiving valued rewards.
Essentially, the model explains what leaders should do to influence the perceptions of subordinates about their work, the personal goals of subordinates, and the various paths to goal attainment. The model claims that leader behavior is motivating and satisfying to the extent that it clarifies the paths to the goals and increases goal attainment,
Leader behaviors. The path-goal model suggests that leadership consists of two basic functions. The first function is path clarification: the leader helps subordinates understand which behaviors are necessary to accomplish the tasks. The second function is to increase the number of rewards available to subordinates by being supportive and paying attention to their personal needs. To perform these functions, leaders may adopt a variety of leadership styles. Four distinct leadership styles are explained in the model:
1. Directive leadership: tells subordinates what is expected of them and provides specific guidance, standards, and schedules of work.
2. Supportive leadership: treats subordinates as equals and shows concern for their well-being, status, and personal needs; attempts to develop pleasant interpersonal relationships among group members.
3. Achievement-oriented leadership: sets challenging goals expects sub-ordinates to perform at their highest level, and continually seeks improvement in performance.
4. Participative leadership: consults with subordinates and uses their suggestions and ideas in decision making. Unlike Fiedler's model, which suggested that leadership style was resistant to change, the path-goal model suggests that these four styles can be performed by the same manager at different times and in different situations. In other words, the path-goal theory suggests that if a directive leader discovers the situation has changed and now requires a participative leader, it is possible. For the leader to change. The appropriate leadership style depends on the situation. Although the path-goal model does not explain how to identify the appropriate leadership leader style, the model does present a list of situational factors that need to be considered.
Situational factors. Two types of situational factors are proposed—the characteristics of the follower and environmental factors. Three characteristics of the followers have been identified as significant variables determining the appropriate leadership style:
Locus of control: As explained in chapter 3, locus of control refers to the individual’s belief concerning the determinants of reward. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe their rewards are based on their own efforts, while those with an external locus of control believe their rewards are controlled by external forces. Internals prefer a participative leadership style while externals are generally more satisfied oh are with a directive leadership style.
Authoritarianism: Authoritarianism refers to an individual’s willing to accept the influence of others. High authoritarian followers tend to be less receptive to a participative leadership style and more responsive to directive leadership.
3. Abilities: The ability and experience of the followers will influence leader whether they are able to work more successfully with an achievement oriented leader who sets challenging goals and expects high performance, or a supportive leader who is willing to patiently encourage and instruct them. The path-goal model identifies three environmental factors moderating the effects of leadership styles: (1) the nature of the task, (2) the formal authority system within the organization, and (3) the group norms and dynamics. These environmental factors can influence the effectiveness of different leadership styles in a variety of ways. A highly structured task, for example, may reduce the need for a directive leader and even make a directive leader’s attempt to provide additional structure seem unwarranted and unwanted. However, a directive leader would be more likely to succeed than a participative leader if the organization had a highly formal authority structure that followed a strict chain of command. Likewise, a concern for the personal needs of subordinates by a supportive leader may seem superficial and unnecessary in a highly cohesive work group. The basic elements of the path-goal model of leadership axe illustrated in Exhibit 16J. This model shows how leadership styles interact with follower - characteristics and environmental factors to influence the personal perceptions and motivation of the followers. The perceptions of the followers concerning the situation and the followers’ level of motivation determine their job satisfaction, performance, and acceptance of the leader.
Some simplified applications of the path-goat model are shown in Exhibit 16.9. In the first two situations, subordinates have an ambiguous job or they feel insufficiently rewarded. Both situations call for a directive leader who explains the job and helps subordinates know how to get rewarded for performing it. The next two situations, boring work and a lack of self-confidence call for a support leader. Repetitive jobs are not as boring if a supportive leader helps subordinates see that their work is meaningful and significant. Likewise, a supportive leader can help subordinates feel greater self-confidence by coaching them and praising their accomplishments. In situation 5, subordinates are not challenged by the task. An achievement-oriented leader will set high goals and emphasize the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards from more effort. Finally, situation 6 involves a task that is unstructured and poorly defined, calling for participative leadership. By participating in the decision making, subordinates help to create an effective solution to the problem and, as a result of their involvement, feel committed to making it work.
Research on the path-goal model. The relationships specified by the path-goal model have been examined in a modest number of empirical studies. This research has tested the theory’s predictions concerning the moderators of leadership effectiveness to determine whether the situational variables interacted with the leadership styles in the predicted manner. The evidence seems to indicate that the model does quite well in predicting how the situational variables and leader styles combine to influence individual satisfaction and group morale? However, the model has not been-shown to be a good predictor of individual or group performance. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage in trying to’ validate the model empirically is that it contains too many variables and tries to explain too much. An experiment testing the full pat-goal model is difficult because too many variables have not been clearly identified and instruments -have not been developed to measure them. Nevertheless, the available studies tend to support the model, although they suggest that it understates the complexity of the situation. Furthermore, the research suggests that other variables, such as conflict and structure, also need to be incorporated into it.
Perhaps the major contribution of the path-goal model is that it provides a method for viewing leadership in terms of the rewards and punishments administered by the leader. The path-goal model explains why a particular style works best because of the reward contingencies determined by the environment and the leader's capacity to administer rewards and punishments. As more research accumulates, this type of explanation will have practical applications for those interested in the leadership process.
Normative Decision-Making Model of Leadership
Another situational leadership theory is the nonnative decision-making model formulated by Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton? It is considered both a decision making model and a theory of leadership since it explains how leaders should make decisions. This model tends to equate leadership with decision making, suggesting that making decisions is one of the most important functions a leader performs.
The normative decision-making model is a contingency theory of leadership since it assumes that no single leadership style is appropriate for all situations. Instead, leaders must develop a repertoire of leadership styles and adopt the style that is most appropriate to the situation. This model also disagrees with Fiedler by suggesting that leaders can use a variety of decision making strategies.
Knowing whether to involve others in the decision making process or whether to make the decision alone is an important leadership issue that dependant upon several considerations. Leaders need to know when to consult others and when consultation is a waste of time. Briefly stated, Vroom and Yetton’s classic model identifies five decision-making styles along with a series of diagnostic questions to determine which style is most appropriate. These normative decision-making model diagnostic questions are arranged sequentially in the form of a decision tree to help managers select the appropriate leadership style.
Decision making (leadership) styles of leaders. The Vroom-Yetton model identifies five decision making styles: two types of autocratic decision making (AL and Aft), two types of consultative decision making (CI and CII), and a group decision making style (GIL). These five styles are defined as follows: