Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
The Contingency Theory of Leadership Effectiveness is one of the most comprehensive theories of leadership today. The theory postulates that leadership effectiveness is contingent upon the combination of leadership style and situational favorableness. Leader style is measured by the Esteem for Least-Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale. A high LPC score is interpreted as reflecting a relation-oriented leader, while a low LPC score reflects a task-oriented leader. Situational favorableness is determined by three variables: leader-member relations, task structure, and position power.
Recent studies have challenged the reliability and validity of the theory. This study is a critical analysis of the methodological and conceptual structure of the theory. Leadership theories prior to the Contingency Theory are also briefly reviewed in order to understand the latter within the historical context. Data are obtained from secondary sources. Cross-references are used to validate the data.
The following are the main conclusions of the study:
- A low LPC score can be more logically interpreted as reflecting a relation-oriented leader, instead of a task-oriented leader.
- A high LPC score is undefined.
- An alternative instrument is needed to measure leadership style. Possibly two instruments are needed - one for task-orientation, and one for relation-orientation.
- Leader-member relations should be measured strictly by the sociometric method.
- More research is needed to determine whether position power and task structure are actually situational variables. If they are found to be constants, they should be excluded from the theory as variables.
- Empirical research is needed to validate the arrangement of the three situational variables in terms of favorableness.
- There needs to be a consensus of the criteria of effectiveness.
Overall, the author found the theory rather ambiguous and with questionable operationalizations, instrumental reliability and generalizability. Various modifications, however, can possibly refine the theory and improve its validity.
Looking at the theory from the historical perspective, the author questions whether the study of leadership today repeats the methodological path of Great Han Theory. It is quite possible that the whole history of the study of leadership is a big "semantic merry-go-round."
Suen, Hoi Kin, "An Appraisal of the Contingency Theory of Leadership Effectiveness: A Methodological Analysis" (1977). Masters Theses. 3356.