Contingency Theory Of Leadership – Its Traits, Advantages, Models

Many people believe that great leaders are born by birth. They are born with leadership qualities or made into a leader either by themselves or by someone else. But, what if some situation arises where these leadership qualities fail? Or, what if the task attributed to him is challenging that has to be handled differently & can’t be managed with his leadership qualities alone?

Here flees the behavioral theory of leadership & the trait theory of leadership & enters the contingency theory of leadership. But, what are its attributes, advantages & disadvantages?

What if any team member is somewhat different from the others and has to be dealt with differently?

Contingency Theory of Leadership – An Overview

Contingency leadership theory, also recognized as the situational approach, is a sort of leadership theory founded on the idea that a company’s management is done by its various leaders having different leadership qualities. Still, the performance of these leaders does not solely depend on their qualities. Various circumstances or situations, at many times, affects their performances.

Not only that, these circumstances or situations can even be challenging for them. But, the leaders have to beat those challenges or concerns by applying some strategies or adjusting themselves to those situations. Such leaders who are capable of doing this can only bring success to their organizations & are influential leaders.

All management is practically situational & hence, all managerial decisions get affected by a given situation’s contingencies. Various environmental factors result in contingencies. The task of a manager is to take into account all these contingencies while making the organization-affecting decisions.

The contingency theory of leadership surmises that any institution is an open scheme & complementary sub-units create it. Also, you will find the individual sub-unit behavior contingent upon environmental contingencies, be it internal or external. The structural transformations or designs and an organization’s control systems react to environmental contingencies & leadership styles.

Contingency Leadership Theory – Example

Let us go through an example of this theory. Suppose a manager encounters a problem with an employee as he comes late to the office every day. According to the Contingency approach, the manager can proceed with a written protocol concerning this situation, with only a single option of giving the employee notice regarding it.

Main Characteristics Of Contingency Approach –


The decision of management is contingent on the situation that happened.


This theory enables the managers to improve their diagnostic skills & in this way, makes them prepared for environmental changes.

Information & communication:

theory enables the managers to formulate a communication system that satisfactorily deals with any change in the environment.

Non-universality of the management theory:

There is not only one best route for doing anything.


As per this theory, the policies & practices followed by the managers have to be adjusted to the changing environment so that they can become effective.

Human relations:

The theory says that there must be enough human relationships skills in the managers of an organization to adapt themselves to changes.

Primary Contributors To Theory Of Contingency:

  • Burns & Stalker
  • John Woodward
  • J.W. Lorsch&P.R.Lawrence

The Models Of Contingency Leadership:

Fiedler’s Theory Of Contingency:

The idea of this theory is that the leader’s style determines if he is effective or not. It all depends on whether the leader can control the situation. The leader must maintain strong leader-member relations & present the assignments with objectives & procedures outlined. They should give either punishments or rewards to others when required.

Situational Theory Of Leadership:

Hershey & Blanchard’s situational theory of leadership concentrates on the leader’s leadership style and the maturity of the people who are being led. According to this theory, a successful leader must adopt various leadership techniques to fit the group’s maturity level when required or when such a situation arises.

Path-Goal Theory Of Leadership:

This leadership theory marries two well-known theories & they are the goal-setting theory & expectancy theory. The idea of this theory is that leaders who are genuinely effective assists people in their direction, reaching their expectations. They give their subordinates every kind of support & knowledge required to make them fulfill their goals.

Decision-Making Theory Of Leadership:

This leadership theory is also called the Vroom-Yetton-Jago model of leadership for decision making. The idea behind this model is that influential leaders can size up any situation, analyze it & determine the amount of support that the group is needed to bestow towards the endeavor, adjusting their chosen style of leadership.

Upsides Of Contingency Theory of Leadership:

  • This theory gives a pragmatic view of both an organization’s management & the organization itself.
  • This theory rejects the universal existence of principles.
  • It shows that managers are situation-oriented & do not follow the stereotyped views.
  • This theory entrusts itself to a management style that is both productive & inventive.

Downsides Of Contingency Theory of Leadership:

  • This theory doesn’t comprise a theoretical base.
  • The executive’s responsibility is immense; that is, he is needed to be knowledgeable about every kind of alternative strategy or action for handling any situation, which is not always possible.
  • This theory states nothing about the courses of action.
  • Several factors influence a situation & it is very much troublesome to discover all these factors & act on them.

Wrapping Up –

There are several other theories of leadership. The contingency theory is the most accepted theory among all. However, it does not explain a practical approach. We hope this would have been able to explain essential elements of the theory.

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