Applying leadership style
Contingency theories of leadership suggest that variations in a number of situational variables determine the leadership style that is most appropriate for any specific person or group. We believe that the most important contingencies you should consider in addition to follower readiness include the degree of trust in the leader-follower relationship, ethical considerations, the objectives to be accomplished, the task characteristics, the rewards available, and the time requirements.
TRUST. People will not follow someone they do not trust. Trust provides leaders with respect and the commitment from followers that is necessary for credibility, a key characteristic of effective leaders. Leaders must possess credibility before followers accept their vision and commit themselves to specified goals.
Trust is a willingness to take risks in a relationship based on the positive expectation that another will be ethical and not act opportunistically at your expense. When people trust you, they make themselves vulnerable. People make themselves vulnerable when they disclose intimate information or rely on another person’s promises. These risks provide the opportunity for disappointment or to be taken advantage of. It is difficult to get people to follow you if they think they will be taken advantage of.
Five key dimensions underlie the concept of trust: integrity, competence, consistency, loyalty, and openness. Integrity refers to honest and truthfulness. If people don’t think you are truthful, the other dimensions of trust don’t matter. Competence encompasses technical and interpersonal knowledge and skills. People are unlikely to listen to or depend on someone whose abilities they don’t respect. Consistency relates to reliability, predictability, and good judgment in handlings situations. Inconsistency, especially between words and actions, decreases trust. Loyalty is the willingness to protect and save face for others. Openness means that someone will always tell the trust.
OBJECTIVES. Before you can begin to determine the appropriate leadership style to use, you need to clarify the specific goals and objectives you want to accomplish. The appropriate leadership style will vary according to an individual’s or a group’s readiness to achieve different objectives.
TASK CHARACTERISTICS. The degree of clarity and structure in the task that the group has been asked to accomplish also influences the best choice of leadership style. Tasks that are commonly known and specific procedures might not require much task intervention from the leader. On the other hand, unstructured tasks with no prescribed operating procedures might require leaders to help clarify and structure the work and offer hands-on coaching to help followers identify and learn the behaviors that will lead to successful task accomplishment. In all cases, a leader needs to make the paths go goal attainment and resulting rewards clear and unambiguous.
REWARDS. A leader can increase follower motivation by clarifying how followers can obtain the rewards they desire through successful task accomplishment. Because different people are motivated by different things- for example, intrinsic rewards from the work itself versus extrinsic rewards such as raises or promotions-the leader needs to talk with subordinates to learn which specific rewards they desire. Then the leader’s job is to increase personal payoffs of the rewards that the followers desire, contingent on goal achievement.
TIME. Another important element in the environment of a leader is the time available. In emergency situations, leaders do not have time to seek opinions and suggestions from followers or to use other participative styles. When immediate actions are required, task-oriented behaviors are highly relevant and will most likely be accepted, especially if the leader is trusted. If time is not a major factor in the situation, the leader has more opportunity to select from a broader range of leadership styles.
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