ADL Leadership: situational vs. transactional, virtual vs. in-person

I am in a unique position to directly contrast my experiences interning at ADL in person and virtually – the summer following my sophomore year I interned at ADL headquarters in New York City, and this summer I am interning at ADL virtually. While there are many differences in these experiences, one of the most prevalent is the style of leadership employed by my supervisors. When I interned in person, my supervisor used a much more transactional style of leadership – we cooperated well when in pursuit of a shared goal, but our relationship was based on the exchange of resources. For example, I had weekly meetings with my supervisor where I would update her on my progress on assigned tasks, ask for feedback, and receive new tasks. This style of leadership was effective because I was interning in the office and was able to build relationships with other team members and had resources available to me other than my direct supervisor, which allowed me to make progress on my tasks with little involvement from my supervisor. This is not the case in my virtual experience, however, and the style of leadership my supervisor this summer is using, Hersey & Blanchard’s situational leadership theory, speaks to this. Instead of having weekly meetings with my supervisor, I have daily, or even twice a day, meetings with her, allowing us to be much more collaborative in our work and for her to be much more involved in my daily tasks depending on the situation. When my supervisor is confident you can handle the task assigned, she delegates the work without much instruction, but when she assigns a task that she knows you are willing to take on but may need more directive on, she coaches you through the work. Comparing my supervisors’ styles of leadership, I become increasingly aware of how COVID-19 impacts the dynamic. When I was in the office, I was easily able to pop my head into my supervisor’s office and ask a quick question, receive feedback, or turn in an assignment, making a transactional style of leadership effective for that setup. The pandemic makes this type of relationship impossible, as every check-in must be scheduled ahead of time, and the situation must guide the type of leadership, rather than the type of leadership determining the situation.

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