Contingency Theory in the Workplace

As I wrap up my second week working for the Office of the Nassau County Comptroller I have begun to draw parallels between my work environment and some of the theories I studied in my Theories and Models class with Dr. Von Rueden. One of the theories which I believe most aptly applies to my specific workplace environment is the contingency theory.

Developed by Fred Fiedler, the contingency theory states that different types of leader excel in different situations based on their personality and distinct leadership style. Fiedler identified two distinct categories of leaders which can be effective leaders in different scenarios based off of their management style and personality. According to Fiedler, leaders can be categorized as either relationship-oriented leaders or task-oriented leaders. Depending on factors such as positional power, task structure, and leader-member relations, different types of leaders will have different levels of favorableness given their style of leadership.

In my office, I have found that depending on the department, a different type of leader will be more effective. For example, in the Policy and Public Information department, a more relationship-oriented leader is more successful because there are very high task structure and leader-member relations, and more often than not High LPC leaders perform better under these circumstances.

In my own department, because of the large variations in what is required of my boss based on the task at hand, he often has to adjust his style based on the nature of the project we are working on. While Fielder does not address the possibility of a leader possessing aspects of both categories of leaders in his theory, it is foolish to believe every leader falls into exactly one of these categories, and there is obviously a necessity for overlap if this theory is going to be applied to the real world. I personally believe that at heart, my boss is task-oriented, but he without a doubt possesses the personal skills to excel in a High LPC favorable environment if needed. Depending on the project, he will provide more or less personal help as he sees fit, and so far I have greatly admired his ability to take unfavorable situations and adjust his style of leadership to help his team perform.