Volunteer organizations can be difficult to lead in good times but can be especially difficult in times of turmoil. For example, my church is absent paid leadership and the congregational council, and all volunteer group, is leading the church.
Evaluating the situation from a contingency theory point of view may prove beneficial. Contingency theory attempts “to match leaders to appropriate situations” and that leader “effectiveness depends on how well the leader’s style fits the context” (Northouse 2013 p. 123). Carl, the current council president is outgoing, talkative but can be very directive in his leadership style.
Let’s begin by applying the contingency model to the leader-member relations factor. My rating of this factor is good. Carl has been a long time member of the congregation and has served in this position before. He has been deeply involved in teaching youth and in community outreach. The congregation trusts and likes him and is confident in his leadership. This is why the leader-member relations were rated good. The next factor to evaluate is task structure.
Task structure is the degree by which tasks are “clear and spelled out” (Northouse 2013 p. 125). The call process the congregation is currently involved with is an infrequent task. The congregation is unfamiliar with it as are its leaders. However the larger church body has a written process to follow for congregations with vacancies. In this document the tasks are clear to move from vacancy to pastoral call and there are few alternative ways to fill the pulpit. Completion of the task is clear because a new pastor will be present. One characteristic of structure that is not met is has to do with a limited number of solutions. It is possible to find multiple good fits for the congregation depending on how long the pulpit can remain vacant. My rating of task structure is high. The final situational variable is position power.
Position power has to do with the authority to punish or provide rewards. Carl has little position power. As council president, one cannot fire someone from membership or reward someone with a special place to sit in church. Position power is the least powerful factor in determining overall situational favorability (PSUWC 2015 L6).
Evaluating the situation then results in a preferred leadership style for someone with a low to middle Least Preferred Coworker score. The leader needed in this situation should be task oriented. Carl has demonstrated just such a task orientation over the years. He continues to lead from this style and does not appear to feel any stress in the situation. Therefore the situation seems to match the leadership style of Carl. The task of filling the pulpit will be completed successfully.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2015). PSYCH 485, Module 6: Contingency and Path Theories. Retrieved from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp15/psych485/001/content/06_lesson/printlesson.html (Links to an external site.)