We have all seen The Lion King at some point in our lives, if not I am sorry, as it is a great story. I remember watching it for the first time when I was 5 at the theater, I cried a lot. The story is mainly about a young lion cub named Simba that is born into a den of lions that reigns over all wildlife within a large area (minus the shadows). Young Simba is thrown into his world exalted as the future king of The Pride Lands and is expected to take up the throne after his father. We all remember how Simba’s uncle, Scar, has different plans and wants to be the next on the throne. So Scar exacts his plan into action and becomes the new king after Simba’s father, Mufasa, perishes and Scar makes Simba run away. Years later Simba is confronted by an old friend and is told about how horrible of a leader Scar is and the he should come back to take over The Pride Lands. Simba then tries to find out if he really is the leader that is needed and is given some great wisdom from Rafiki, an old spunky baboon that is full of wisdom. It is believed that Rafiki can see more about Simba than Simba saw himself and informs Simba that based upon his sight he believes Simba has what it takes. How often does this play out in the corporate world, and how well?
Sometimes, an individual becomes a leader, not from choice but out of situation and necessity. Some seem to be able to fall into the position and do quite well, maybe they were born for the role (hint hint), but others do not. Some start of rocky and blossom, some start of great and then plummet to the bottom. How, can you determine if these individuals will be best suited for the role? To determine the effectiveness of someone as a potential leader one could use both the Situational Approach and the Contingency Theory.
“The contingency theory is similar to situation theory in that there is an assumption that no simple way is always right. Situation theory, however, focuses more on the behaviors that the leader should use. The contingency theory takes a broader view that includes contingent factors about leader capability and also includes other variables within the situation.” (Encyclopedia of Management, 2009)
Several factors of the Contingency Approach are: (Encyclopedia of Management, 2009):
The size of the organization
How the firm adapts itself to its environment
Differences among resources and operations activities
Assumption of managers about employees
Technologies being used
In the case of personal experience I have worked for a very large call center in Maryland. Over the 3+ years I have worked here I have seen many people, some friends, become supervisors and managers. I find it most interesting watching someone with no ambition to be a leader suddenly placed into a position of authority. Many would think its a sink or swim kind of moment, but that’s not true. One case in particular stands out in regards to my current manager. She was a team lead and she was wonderful at her job, she was one of the best leads I have ever had the pleasure to work under. She was attentive, knowledgeable, and very friendly. Shortly after working in the current department she received the news that she was going to have to assume department manager. She was naturally very nervous as she wasn’t sure if she was right for the job, but upper management said she would do great considering her history as a team lead. They couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Much like Simba this team lead was given the “lay of the land” and she could only see a small part at one time. My team lead was all for participation but not very upfront enough to tell someone what to do. At first she was optimistic and things seemed okay, but as time went on her smile was worn away into chaotic eyes and a tired face. She had never been in a management position that also entailed the administrative aspect of an entire department of IT professionals. Those of us below her began to notice discrepancies in our pay checks from hours not being keyed on time or correctly. Individuals that requires specific admin access to various software systems seemed to never get the higher level access, all because this team lead would overlook many things. There is something that could have helped her drastically in her transition to management. Upper management assumed that because she was very good at her current position that she would be great in a slightly different position with much more responsibility. If the Contingency Approach had been applied it may have played out that this team lead was not the right fit.
The Contingency Approach is a lot like the Situational Approach in that it looks to study how specific types of leadership or best for which role (PSU WC, 2016, 5.2 p.13) This manager never had her skills, traits, power, authority, and employee relations studied and analyzed. Because of this an unfair treatment to both her and ourselves occurred which caused many to lose out on pay or vacation time or even faith in this manager’s ability, when they had been high before. With even trying to determine if she would be a proper fit for the elevated position they tossed her in and she has had quite the time adjusting to her newest role. If even a brief study of my team lead’s past would have been conducted they would have know that someone else would have been the right fit.
“Contingency Approach to Management.” Encyclopedia of Management. 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3273100055.htm
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2016). Lesson 6: Contingency and path theories: Part 2: Path-Goal Theory. PSYCH485: Leadership in work settings. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp16/psych485/001/content/06_lesson/04_topic/02_page.html.