Situational leadership suggests appropriate leaders’ behaviors in different situations; whereas, contingency leadership highlights the importance to apply the appropriate leadership styles according to the situation (Northouse, 2013). This paper analyses the application of contingency and situational theories. Furthermore, it discusses the effects of both situational and contingency factors on leadership styles and effectiveness, stating the strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, it suggests solutions to overcome the weaknesses.
Situational leadership is comprised of both directive and supportive aspects. Directive behavior is a one-way communication from the leaders while supportive behaviors involve communication from both leaders and followers. Situational Leadership II (SLII) classifies leadership approaches into directing (S1), coaching (S2), supporting (S3), and delegating (S4) depending on the followers’ development level (Northouse, 2013). S1 is high directive—low supportive and goal-orientated. S2 is highly directive and supportive and leaders make the final decision while considering the followers’ feedback. S3 enhances the followers’ task-related skills with a high supportive—low directive approach as followers are given control to make daily decisions while leaders remain available to support. S4 is low supportive—low directive as leaders give the followers full control and refrain from unnecessary interference. Development levels are divided into D1 (low competence, high commitment), D2 (moderate competence, low commitment), D3 (moderate to high competency, lack of commitment), and D4 (highly committed and competence). Effective leaders evaluate the followers’ competencies and commitment and take the appropriate approaches (Northouse, 2013).
SLII is widely-recognized due to its practicality, easy-application, and intuitive-sensibility. SLII clearly set the appropriate leadership action to enhance its effectiveness while emphasizing leadership flexibility (Graeff, 1983) and encouraging leaders to help followers on enhancing their skills and confidence (Yukl, 1998). However, there are not enough strong findings to support and explain the standings of situational approach, resulting the unclear conceptualization of development levels’ formation with competencies and commitment. Demographic factors are also underestimated (Singh et. al, 2012) and different settings of application are not considered. Furthermore, questionnaires used for situational leadership measurement are biased as the best answers have been preset (Graeff, 1983).
Contingency leadership highlights the importance of matching leadership style with the situational demands. In contingency theories, leadership styles are either task-motivated or relationship-motivated. Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale is used to measure leader styles (Northouse, 2013). Highly task-motivated leaders are low LPCs, socio-independent leaders are middle LPCs, while relationship-motivated, high LPCs. Leader-member relations, position power, and task structure are the situational measurements. Low LPCs are effective in extreme situations while high LPCs, moderate situations. This highly- supported approach highlights that leaders are not effective in all situation and it broadens leadership understanding. It is predictive as it provides useful leadership information. However, neither the complex link between styles and situations nor the situational engineering method is clearly explained, and it is not user-friendly. Furthermore, its validity is questionable as it is heavily relying on LPC scale.
In conclusion, leadership is closely related to behavior, situation, and communication (?ebeian, 2012). The appropriate leadership style is very important as leaders create organizational cultural (Boddy, 2014). A flexible leadership style can contribute to higher organizational effectiveness as situation is constantly changing along with the influential factors (Kunz & Linder, 2012). Although mixed leadership behaviors can overcome leadership limitations, leadership starts with understanding the limitations before challenging them (Korzynski, 2014).