Fiedler’s contingency model: what is it and what is it for?

Leadership style refers to how a leader influences his followers and how he works to achieve his goals. There are different theoretical models of leadership within social and organizational psychology.

The first is Fiedler’s contingency model, a model that argues that group productivity depends on leadership style and control of the situation. In this article, we will analyze the components of the model and explain how it works.

Fiedler’s contingency model: what is it?

Fiedler’s contingency model, also called leadership effectiveness theoryThis is a model that can be found within social psychology and organizations. Its creator was Fred E. Fiedler, a leading researcher in social and organizational psychology of the twentieth century born in Vienna (Austria).

This model speaks of leadership within organizations and proposes that the productivity of the group depends on two variables: the leadership style of the leader and the control of the situation.

Situation control refers to a leader confident and confident that the task can be accomplished. It is based on three dimensions, which we will see later: the reliable relations of the leader with the members, that the task is structured and the supervision and the capacity of reinforcement / punishment by the leader (that is to say the power) .


Widely, What does Fiedler’s model offer and what does it consist of?

The Fiedler contingency model aims to describe how high group productivity (i.e. results) is achieved, through leadership (the way the leader “leads”), the characteristics of the leader and the leader. situation in question.

In his model, Fiedler offers two types of leadership, as we will see later: one more people-oriented (socio-emotional) and another more productivity-oriented (task).. The model further argues that the leader’s ability to influence his followers will depend, among other things, on the propensity of the situation in question.


The purpose of this model was to predict the effectiveness of different types of leadership. For this, it was first necessary to correctly identify the leadership style of the leader and the situation within the organization. If these two variables were matched correctly, according to Fiedler, the results were assured.

Fiedler believed that a person’s leadership style was fairly fixed, difficult to change, but not impossible. This thinking led him to reflect on what has already been said, and it may be a good idea to match the different styles of leadership with the most favorable situations to achieve results (leader effectiveness), and this is Fiedler’s contingency model.


Fiedler’s contingency model offers two components that interact with each other, resulting in group productivity as the end result.. This productivity is linked to the results obtained by the group within the organization.

Thus, the components mentioned in Fiedler’s contingency model are as follows.

1. Leadership style of the leader

Leadership style refers to how the leader achieves his goals and the goals of his group. It concerns how you treat workers (or followers) and how you achieve (or not) what is on offer..

Fiedler, in his contingency model, speaks of two types of leaders or leadership: the task-motivated leader (task leader) and the interpersonal motivational leader (socio-emotional leader).

The task leader will focus, as his own name suggests, on the tasks of the group, that is, the performance and results achieved by the task leader. This leader aims to increase the group’s productivity by working directly through it.

Instead, the socio-emotional leader will focus on promoting satisfactory relationships between workers, in order to increase the performance of the group. Later, we will see what relation the type of leader has with the control of the situation (the second component of Fiedler’s contingency model).

2. Situation control

As we move forward, the second element of Fiedler’s contingency model is situation control, which it has to do with the degree of control of the situation. This variable has two poles in a continuum: the “low” pole and the “high” pole. The label “moderate” appears in the middle of the continuum.

The greater the control of the situation, the more confident the leader is that the task in question is being performed correctly.

Situational control, in turn, depends on three other variables or dimensions (necessary to analyze situational control):

2.1. Reliable relations with members

This variable refers to how the leader relates to group members. It is linked to loyalty, mutual aid and, ultimately, the quality of the relations between the leader and his followers. If these relationships are good, it will have a positive impact on the effectiveness and power of the leader.

2.2. Degree of structuring of the task

For the control of the situation to be high, the task must be well structured. More precisely, this variable indicates whether the tasks are well defined or not; it also has to do with the objectives and the working procedures.

2.3. Supervision and reinforcement / punishment capacity

Finally, there must be supervision by the leader vis-à-vis the members of the group, and in addition he must have a good capacity to offer reinforcements (rewards) and punishments according to the results (group productivity).

This third dimension also alludes to the power that the leader has in his position. This power is legitimate. The following relationship was also found: The power of high officials makes it easier to influence the leader, but the power of low ranking officials makes it difficult.

Relationship between components

But, How does the leader influence the task or the socio-emotional situation, and the control of the situation is low, moderate or high in the effectiveness of the leader? Let’s explain these interactions.

Fiedler’s contingency model offers a kind of graph, which explains the possibilities of relation between the two preceding components. There are 6 possibilities, which stem from both types of leadership.

1. Socio-emotional leader

When the leader is socio-emotional (focused on interpersonal relationships), three situations can arise:

  • Let the situation be under control: then the effectiveness will be minimal.
  • That the situational control be moderate: then the effectiveness will be maximum.
  • This situational control is high: then the effectiveness will be minimal.

2. Project manager

Conversely, when the leader is on task (focused on production), three situations can also occur:

  • Let the situation be under control: then the efficiency will be maximum.
  • Let situational control be moderate: then the effectiveness will be minimal.
  • That situational control is high: then the efficiency will be maximum.

final thought

Fiedler’s contingency model does not in fact have sufficient empirical support to support this in research.. However, it is considered an important role model within organizational psychology, which continues to be transmitted and taught.

Indeed, it provides a number of comprehensive and well-argued theories regarding leadership, leader effectiveness and group productivity. In addition, it integrates elements of the environment (situation), and not only characteristics of the leader (leadership style, personality, etc.), to explain the effectiveness of the latter and its repercussions on the results.

Bibliographical references:

  • Hogg, M. (2010). Social psychology. Vaughan Graham M. Panamericana. Posted by Panamericana.

  • Palaci, F. (2005). Organizational psychology. Spain: Pearson education. “They are more effective in moderately favorable situations (some are favorable and others unfavorable).”

  • . Stoner, J. (1998). Administration (sixth edition). Mexico: Hispano-American Prentice Hall.

Leave a Comment