Contingency vs. Situational Leadership Theory

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 1
Words: 362
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

There are quite a few practices in leadership theory that differ qualitatively in approach. This essay compares two of these practices, namely contingency theory, and situational leadership. The first theory recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all way to achieve the desired outcome, but instead, the experienced leader acts in each case based on an agenda (IET, 2020). The components of such leadership, according to Fielder, are the model of the relationship between supervisor and subordinate, the clarity of task setting, and the measure of power. Thus, the general core of situational theory boils down to the fact that a particular leader will only be most effective in managing the aspects that best suit him or her. Similar assertions hold true for situational leadership, which is based on the recognition of the need to consider the situation when managing (IET, 2021).

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Adaptability and flexibility, along with the manager’s ability to critically evaluate the agenda, are properties of such leadership. It is recognized that the most influential leaders are those who are able to adjust to the environment. It is easy to see that both theories described above discuss the impossibility of the existence of a perfect leader and recognize the necessity of taking the situation into account. However, the main difference between the two systems of views lies in their essence.

If contingency theory describes the importance of the correspondence between the leader and the situation, situational leadership discusses the importance of adapting to a specific environment. Notably, the disadvantages of both philosophies include the potential for confusion in the organization since there is no fixed leadership system as such. In addition, a strong focus on the situation inhibits investment in the long term in favor of solving short-term problems.

Both situational and contingent leadership are important management tactics. In social work, it is always necessary to remain open-minded and sensitive to the context of each person in need. Individuality and inclusiveness are ethical principles of such work. For this reason, the choice toward situation-specific leadership techniques seems justified. The same management techniques can work on people differently, which means that situational or contingent leadership are reliable tools in the social worker’s arsenal.


IET. (2020). Understanding the contingency theory of leadership. Indeed. Web.

IET. (2021). What is situational leadership? Definitions, pros, cons and examplesIndeed. Web.