Contingency Theory of Leadership versus Path-Goal

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 1
Words: 455
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

Situational leadership theories argue that a manager’s strategy adapts to the implementation of a task in terms of complexity and structure. Becoming a leader occurs as a result of situations that can replace each other (Northouse, 2013). To achieve goals, some leaders may look at the situation and enact a certain style, or chart a path for employees. In this regard, the application of the path-goal theory of leadership developed by House and Mitchell guides managers to use different styles according to the situation. On the contrary, the contingency theory of situational leadership does not specify the methodology of team management.

Contingency theory says that there is no single best way to start a company, manage it, or make a decision. If a leader wishes to achieve effective management, the methods must be tailored to the specific circumstances faced by the organization (Hoffer, 1975). According to this theory, there is no single formula for solving all the problems that occur in the work (Basrie & Jatmikof, 2020). In comparison with the path-goal theory, the main merit of the contingency theory is that the effectiveness of a group is the result of the interaction of two factors: leadership style and situational favorableness (House, 1996). The effectiveness of a certain pattern of leader behavior depends on the requirements of the situation.

Where the contingency theory states that there is no best way to organize a corporation, House and Mitchell’s path-goal model suggests that leaders are capable of changing their behavior by exhibiting one or all styles. A leadership style that is effective in some situations may not be so successful in others (Casse & Claudel, 2011). Optimal decision-making style depends on various internal and external constraints. This model assumes several factors of the organizational environment that influence the choice of a certain leadership style: the structure and content of work, the formal system of power at the enterprise, norms, and group dynamics. For example, highly structured tasks do not require extreme directive management from the leader (Wright, 2017). At the same time, in a company with a rigid hierarchy of power, a directive leader may be more effective than a leader who seeks to attract subordinates to participate in management.

Situational leadership theories define an effective leader as a person who quickly adapts the style of setting tasks to the problematics of the situation. The leader chooses a leadership strategy according to the complexity of the task and the ways of its implementation. However, it is important to remember that it is not the results of the work of subordinates that influence the choice of a certain style by the manager. On the contrary, the chosen style contributes to an increase in the level of work performance.


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House, R. J. (1996). Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly, 7(3), 323-352. Web.

Hoffer, C. W. (1975). Toward a contingency theory of business strategy. Academy of Management Journal, 18(4), 784-810. Web.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership, theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Wright, E. S. (2017). Dialogic development in the situational leadership style. Performance Improvement, 56(9), 27-31.