Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Susan was feeling overwhelmed. She was relatively new to her leadership position, and she desperately wanted to be successful in her new role. In her search for resources, she had found a seemingly endless and confusing array of books and training workshops that seemed to promise to equip her to rule the world in 30-90 days.
One facility insisted there were at least sixteen dimensions to good leadership; another author posited that there were a minimum of twenty-one irrefutable laws which must be followed. She ached for some reasonably simple and understandable conceptual model of leadership skills upon which she could begin to build her knowledge base.
Fear not, Susan, help is on the way! Starting in the late 40’s and going into the 60’s a series of groundbreaking leadership studies were conducted which have subsequently been called the Ohio State Leadership Studies. The primary focus of the studies was to determine the relationship between effective leader behavior and subordinate satisfaction and performance.
When the dust from all the statistical analyses had settled, the researchers had discovered that there were only two major types of effective leader behavior:
1) Consideration—demonstrating genuine concern for the ideas and feelings of subordinates, and
2) Initiating Structure—structuring subordinates’ activities for the purpose of attaining goals
If you think about human nature a bit, these two types of leader behavior make perfect sense. To begin with, as the person with more power in the situation you can’t realistically expect folks to care about you and your goals you until you show them that you care about them and their goals. How about that, after all this time the Golden Rule still works!
Once this is in place you need to insure that a) the overall goals of your organization or team (e.g. vision, mission, strategic objectives, etc.) and b) each subordinate’s individual goals toward attaining those organizational goals are clear and unambiguous. This way folks know where to focus their efforts rather than running aimlessly amok and bumping into each other.
Some other interesting outcomes from the Ohio State Studies are:
1) Leader consideration given in response to good performance increases the likelihood of future good performance (remember good old positive feedback?)
2) More initiating structure behavior will increase subordinate performance when the goals are unclear, but will not affect performance if the goals are already clear (be sure goals are clear, but don’t be a nag)
3) A leader who is high in consideration can initiate more structure without a decline in employee satisfaction than a leader who is low in consideration (there are more credits in subordinates’ emotional bank accounts to draw upon)
1. Be sure your subordinates have no doubt that you genuinely care about them and their goals if you want them to care about you and your goals.
2. Be sure that a) the goals of your organization and b) each individual’s goals within your organization are clear and unambiguous.
3. Never try to remember sixteen or twenty-one things at one time; you will hurt yourself.
Copyright Terry Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.