The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Contingency Theory of Leadership

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On January 6, Nate Pucci, the Student Program Assistant for the Rockefeller Center, gave a presentation on the contingency theory of leadership. According to Nate, important leadership is contingent on one’s leadership style and situational favorableness. Some leaders are task-oriented while others are people focused. Nate believes that understanding your own leadership style is vital to adapting leadership strategies to various situations. He analyzed how Trump used his high-LPC leadership style in the days leading up to the Jan 6 riots. High-LPC leaders perform best when leader-member relations are high, task structure is low, one’s physical position of power is low.

I really enjoyed Nate’s presentation because it took what I already knew but presented it from a different perspective that I hadn’t considered. Usually, it seems like many people believe that there is a “correct” style of leadership but Nate takes a step back and says, “it depends.” Nate’s presentation also helps the fellows when you connect it back to the MBTI test we took. For example, more introverted leaders may find themselves to be low-LPC leaders and are more task-oriented. As a result, they can use strategies that favor low-LPC leadership styles. This connection between our MBTI test results and the contingency theory of leadership tells the Fellows that we can adapt to changing situations and that there isn’t a “right” answer to leadership.

When asked who their role model leader is, the Fellows would give a variety of different answers. Since Nate used Trump as an example of a high-LPC leader, the Fellows have the opportunity to think about their own role model leaders and analyze whether they are high-LPC or low-LPC. Fellows may even find out that while they are low-LPC, their role model leader is high-LPC. This discovery can encourage fellows to look for a new role model or critically analyze what they liked about the opposite leadership style and how they can adapt it to their own personality.


-Written by Yilin Huo, Class of 2022 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences