Contingency leadership theory

Critical Evaluation of a Contingency Leadership Theory Contingency means that one thing depends (i. e., is contingent) upon another thing (Naoum, 2001). Applied to leadership, it means that a leader may be effective in one situation, and not effective when the situation changes (Borkowski, 2009). The effectiveness of a leader depends upon the leader’s traits, the followers’ attributes (needs, maturity, training), and the situation itself including the task, organization, and environment (Daft, 2008).
The difference between contingency leadership theory and the traditional leadership traits theory is that contingency depends also on the followers and the organizational environment. Shepard & Hougland (1977) calls this the “ complex man” and “ complex organization” dilemma. How workers feel about their jobs depends partly on the compatibility of job requirements with their personal attributes acquired even before they came to the organization. The complexity lies in the wide differences among individuals and their orientation. Arguably, individuals adjust to their jobs over time, but this is tempered by organizational complexities that may negatively rather than positively induce job satisfaction and productivity.
The present globalized environment dominated by multinationals introduces many other external elements not considered by Shepard and Hougland. Contingency theory provides an excuse for poor performance by citing supposedly unforeseeable risks (Noor & Tichacek, 2009). Multinational corporations also call for the global leader to consider cultural disparities in conducting international business operations (Shin, Heath & Lee, 2011). Greater employee expectations also call for the leader to be charismatic and accommodating (Kirkhaug, 2010) at the risk of virtual mutiny.
Adding to the complexity is the clamour to develop a contingency model of governance (Ansell & Gash (2008) in compliance with corporate social responsibility demands. These developments increase the uncertainties faced by the organizational leaders who are increasingly called to render judgment calls to meet progressively more complex situations (Tichy & Bennis, 2007). These numerous and sometimes conflicting expectations that make contingency leadership difficult but at the same time necessary. They also make an objective assessment of leadership effectiveness that much more untenable.
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