Fiedler was the proponent of the LPC theory of leadership. It suggests that a leader’s effectiveness depends on the situation and incorporates both the leader’s personality and the complexities of the situation. Initially, this theory was called the contingency theory of leadership.
‘LPC’ stands for ‘least-preferred co-worker‘. This theory suggests that leaders may be effective in one situation institution but not in another and goes on to explain the reasons for this discrepancy as well as identifies leader-situation matches that could lead to effective performance.
Fiedler et al described two basic personality traits of leadership, viz., ‘ask motivation and relationship motivation. The situational context was conceptualized in terms of its favourableness for the leader. Fiddler asserted “•at task versus relationship motivation were grounded in personality in such say that is constant for every leader.
Fiedler prepared the Least-preferred Coworker Scale (LPC) to measure the degree of task or relationship motivation of a leader. In this scale, the respondents (i.e., leaders) are asked to think of all the persons with whom they have worked and then to select their LPC.
They are then required to describe this LPC on sixteen attributes on an eight-point scale. Fiedler intended that high-LPC leaders are basically more concerned with interpersonal relations, whereas low-LPC leaders are more concerned with task-related issues.
It must be noted that respondents who describe their LPC in relatively positive terms receive a high LPC score and those who use relatively negative terms receive a low LPC score.
He identified the following three factors that determine the extent of favourableness of the situation:
(i) Leader-member relations refers to the personal relationship between subordinates and their leader, the extent to which subordinates trust, respect and have confidence in their leader, and vice versa.
(ii) Task structure also indicates situational favourableness. A structured task is simple, routine, easily understood and unambiguous. Such tasks are presumed to be more favourable because the leader need not be closely involved in defining activities of the subordinates and can devote time to other issues.
An unstructured task is one that is non-routine, complex and ambiguous. The leader is required to guide and direct subordinates involved in such tasks which makes it more unfavourable.
(iii) Leader position power refers to the power inherent in the leadership role. A leader’s position power is high if he/she can assign work, reward and punish employees, recommend them for promotion, i.e., many decisions are under the leader s control.
The LPC theory predicts that if leader-member relations are poor, the task is unstructured and leader position power is low, a task-oriented leader is effective. It also predicts that if leader-member relations are good, the task is structured and leader position power is high, a task-oriented loafer will be effective. For all those situations of intermediate favourableness, a person-oriented leadership is suggested for high group Performance.
Fiedler’s theory was criticized as it was not always supported empirically and it was found that his assumptions about the inflexibility of leadership behaviour were unrealistic.