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Fiedler’s Contingency Theory and Leadership


The issue of effective leadership has been an area of intense interest for researchers on a global level. At the same time, health care is a particular industry, which is currently undergoing major changes on a structural level. New philosophies are developed and implemented as the focus of health service delivery shifts toward its recipient. Periods of change require strong leaders and an effective management model. However, there exist several prominent theories, which makes it difficult to select the correct one from a greater variety. Each setting, including the health care system, is characterized by its particular feature, which is why it is important to find an appropriate model. Fielder’s Contingency Theory is one of the approaches to leadership, which can be examined in the context of health care organizations.

Fiedler’s Contingency Theory

It is widely believed that the style of leadership can determine the organization’s performance or the lack thereof. Fielder’s Contingency Theory was devised in the 1960s as a result of his research in the field of social psychology (South University, n.d.). According to the general idea of this theory, leadership success is determined by leadership style and the situation in which it is applied (Popp & Hadwich, 2018). In other words, the point of Fielder’s Contingency Theory is that the leadership style must correspond to the circumstances, which are present in each particular situation. Therefore, it is not possible to discern a universal management model applicable across settings. Three major variables exist within the Contingency Theory, which are leader-member relations, task structure, and the leader’s position of power. Accordingly, a combination of all three aspects directly influences the characteristics of the leadership situation, thus defining the suitable leadership model. Salihu (2019) notes that this theory presents some disadvantages, as it demands continuous changes in one’s leadership style, which can be difficult in changeable, complex settings. Therefore, the Contingency Theory adheres to its principle of non-universality.

Leadership Style Choice

As suggested by the Contingency Theory, each manager can demonstrate a particular leadership style. Each person has different traits, which influence their approach to management. This fact, along with the existing variety of leadership methods, leads to a great diversity of personal approaches to management. At the same time, leadership styles also vary within the experience of one person, as they evolve and adapt to new circumstances. Fielder’s Contingency Theory suggests that the course of leadership and its success are determined by a set of personal and environmental factors (Salihu, 2019). However, the conditions of a given setting are rarely static. Today’s professional landscape is highly changeable, which includes the rapidly evolving sphere of health care delivery and nursing, in particular. This idea indicates that good managers alter their leadership styles under the influence of external changes to remain effective. This process comprises a combination of personal and environmental factors within the framework of the Contingency Theory. People change as their experience and expertise grow, whereas the environment also introduces new factors.

Leadership Qualities and Their Role

As discussed above, there are multiple leadership styles and models, which are applied in corresponding situations. Nevertheless, despite the variety and changeability of factors, some of them remain relevant across the majority of settings. First of all, effective communication techniques are recognized as a matter of paramount importance for the leaders of the 21st century. Employees must clearly understand their objectives while having the opportunity to voice their opinions. Therefore, today’s effective leaders are capable of ensuring a stable exchange of information within their organizations. Dynamic listening is a critical component of this process, being a feature all good leaders must possess. If employees feel that they are heard, their motivation will increase, allowing the organization to improve its performance. Finally, conflicts are inevitable in a large team of diverse people, which is why a good manager must remain prepared for such a development. Conflict resolution is an essential skill in all areas, and it gains additional importance in the sphere of health care. In this case, conflicts may emerge between personnel and patients, as well as within interprofessional teams.

Fiedler’s Contingency Theory and the Case of John

The importance of the qualities described above within the framework of Fielder’s Contingency Theory reveals itself in the proposed practical scenario. John was unable to fulfill his duty as the chair of the task force aiming at reducing the Emergency Room waiting time. However, effective implementation of the Contingency Theory is capable of improving the outcome of his work. As suggested by this model, John must consider both external and internal factors of the situation. In the proposed scenario, effective communication between the hospital’s units becomes the key component of success. During the meeting, it became evident that Dr. Smith was unable to understand John and Mary, being focused on his own department’s concerns. The task force must enable all its participants to speak on equal terms, exchange opinions, and propose viable solutions. John’s duty will be to demonstrate the obvious advantage of the proposed system to all parties involved. As there is a certain level of misunderstanding, his conflict resolution skills will also play an important role.


In conclusion, Fielder’s Contingency Theory implies that the correct leadership style in each particular situation depends entirely on its characteristics. There is always a complex combination of internal and external factors, which should determine the plan of action. Personal traits gain additional value in many settings, and some of them are particularly important. Effective communication must be ensured to enable the proper functioning of interprofessional teams in health care. If every element of the system is considered and all conflicts are resolved inappropriate manner, it will be possible to attain considerable results via effective management solutions.


South University. (n.d.). The Contingency Theory. Web.

Popp, M., & Hadwich, K. (2018). Examining the effects of employees’ behaviour by transferring a leadership contingency theory to the service context. SMR – Journal of Service Management Research, 2(3), 44–62. Web.

Salihu, M. J. (2019). A conceptual analysis of the leadership theories and proposed leadership framework in higher education. Asian Journal of Education and Social Studies, 5(4), 1–6. Web.

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