Contingency Leadership Theory

There are many theories on what defines successful leadership. Contingency leadership is one of them, and it is especially important in modern leadership thought. The stance we take this theory will have a huge impact on how we go about leading, and developing as leaders.

What is it?

The theory holds that the success of a leader in a given situation isn’t up to their skills that leader, but rather how those skills line up with factors outside of him or her. Proponents of that theory hold that it isn’t just having a skilled leader that leads to success, but rather it is having a leader who can solve the right problems n the right way.

This method is somewhat similar to situational leadership, though it is less about whether or not a style should be adapted to external factors but rather how different factors can interact in unexpected ways to shape the outcome.

What does it mean to you?

Proponents of this theory believe that with all the factors determining the success of a leader, it is hard to predict success. With that in mind, the leader has to be adaptable to maximize the potential of success should initial strategies not work.

You cannot change many of your inherent leadership qualities, even if you are trying to consciously cultivate good habits. What you can do is keep mindful of the interactions and factors that are affecting your ability to lead effectively, and minimize them. If you notice a positive impact on your leadership by some external factor, try to play to this strength.

That advice alone makes the contingency leadership theory a good investment.

How you can apply it:

Contingency leadership theory doesn’t give you a strategy or tool, so much as a perspective to evaluate your situations. It’s important not to take assessment of leadership skills as a judgment of character worth, and this theory helps keep that in mind.

Leaders should always be adaptable, and this is a theory that lends itself to that adaptability. If you recognize that success is a matter of having the right mix of skill and opportunity, you can evaluate what to bring to the table, and what to dismiss.


To incorporate contingency leadership into your toolbox, learn more about your own leadership style here.