Leadership: Leadership and Contingent Characteristics Essay

Submitted By Mdharma1
Words: 1871
Pages: 8

Charismatic Individuals or Contingent Characteristics?


The world is a place of infinite combinations of different life situations. Each person is a unique entity in one way and other and when this person involves himself in a particular challenge, the whole scenario becomes unique. Overtime, these scenarios can become common however the trickiest part of human behaviour is its ability to react or respond when it encounters a unique challenge for the first time (Rittel & Webber calls this as a wicked problem). In this respect, I would like to argue that ‘one size fits all’ principle is not suitable for leadership styles and the leader has to tailor his/her style in relation to the different contexts he is involved. I would also like to argue that over time, the experience and the knowledge the leader gains through his contingent leadership styles make him a Charismatic individual in the longer run.


First of all, leadership is nothing to do with age, title, position or education. It is about doing the right things. The two-minute short video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPeeZ6viNgY clearly demonstrates this argument wherein a little boy who got stuck in traffic in India tries to clear the obstruction on the road even though clearing the obstruction is beyond his capability when everyone else in the road doesn’t bother to do anything. However after seeing this little boy’s attempt to clear the obstruction, the whole crowd follows his lead. Now the question is, WHAT MADE THE CROWD TO FOLLOW THE LITTLE BOY’S LEAD? Broadly speaking, the basic ingredients of this boy’s leadership are:-

• Ability to craft a right response in the event of a change. Ralph Waldo Emerson beautifully quotes ‘Between stimulus and response is our greatest power - the freedom to choose’. Making use of this freedom to choose the right response to a given stimulus in a given time and space to get the best results is the most striking factor of leadership. The right response is so powerful such that it brings clarity, focus and direction in the midst of chaos, uncertainty and ambiguity

• Initiative to implement that response. Leading by example rather just commanding the crowd through instructions

• Courage and self confidence to take that initiative

• Ability to inspire and influence others and turn them into followers

Keeping the above characteristics as a basis let me explain the various leadership styles.


• Use Kramer’s intimidation technique1 to exert porcupine power and get the task done

o In different contexts, interestingly, leaders use anger intentionally to protect themselves from others. There is a short story2 to explain this contingent behaviour. There was a snake that caused trouble and killed many people. One day a sage passed its way and the snake recognizing the divine personality, worshipped him and the sage advised the snake to love the fellow beings and not to harm others. After few days, the sage happened to cross the same path again and shocked to find the snake broken and wounded. When enquired, the snake replied that people wounded with stones for showing love onto them. Then the sage told that he asked to love others but didn’t advise to ‘express’ the love. The sage added that it should have hissed and driven the people who intended to wound. So it is with a leader!

• Later building relationship and exchanging ideas highlight ‘Participating’ behaviour which is part of Situational Leadership® theory1

• The combination of ‘Initiating structure’ to get the job done and ‘Consideration’ of his ideas and challenges highlight the Ohio State leadership theory1

• As per the multiple linkage model3, the participation can be termed as a ‘mediating variable’ and motivation can be termed as a ‘situational variable’

Political Tendency:-

Another significant contingent characteristic of a