This model postulates that the effectiveness of leadership style depends on situational favorableness, i.e., the ease or difficulty with which the leader can influence his subordinates.
Situational favorableness, according to Fiedler, depends on three factors: Leader-member relations, task structure and position power.
Fiedler divides each factor into 2 categories leading to an eight fold classification. According to Fiedler, leader-member relations can be good or poor. They are good if the leader is respected and accepted by his group. They are poor if his group distrusts and rejects him.
Similarly, the task can be highly structured or unstructured. The task is highly structured if it is clearly outlined and highly unstructured, if it is vague. Last, the leader’s position power may be high or low. The leader’s position power is high if he has the power to hire and fire, promote and transfer, increase or decrease salaries. It is low, if he has no such power.
A good leader-member relations, highly structured task, and high position power-represents a very favorable situation for the leader, one in which it should be easy to influence subordinates. The opposite extreme is a leader’s nightmare. Other situations fall in between these two extremes.
Favorable Situation for Leader <————-> Unfavorable situation for Leader
Fiedler found that the task oriented or the authoritarian leader was most effective in extreme situations, i.e., both when the situation was very favorable and very unfavorable. An effective leader’s task-oriented behavior in very unfavorable situation was perhaps due to his fear that his being relationship-oriented in such situation would be interpreted as total abdication of leadership. But when the situations were moderately favorable or unfavorable the best leadership style was employee-or relationship-oriented.
What has made this study unique is the instrument which Fiedler devised for determining the leadership orientation of a person. Fiedler measured the leadership orientation of a person by what he called the least preferred coworker (LPC) score. He first asked each respondent to think of all coworkers he had ever had. The respondent was then asked to describe the one person he was least able to work with, that is , the person he least preferred as a coworker.
According to Fiedler, one important limitation of his model is that it is applicable only to interacting groups in which the task requires close supervision among group members. It is not applicable to co-acting groups, such as sales teams or bowling teams in which the performance of each member is added together to yield a group score.