Piecing Together Task vs. Relational Leadership

When considering behavioral leadership theories there was one I noticed very often during my internship. Blake and Mouton’s Task vs Relational Leadership Grid theory. This theory came to mind early on in my internship after a skype call with Secretary Betsy DeVos. I asked her “How would you describe your leadership style and has it changed since working remotely?” Her response emphasized working with her team and building strong relationships. This prompted me to reflect upon the grid theory and apply it to my experience this summer. 

As the Grid Theory suggests, leadership is fluid and a leader can be a combination of task and relationship-oriented. In fact, the most effective leaders are. Task focussed leaders hold high concerns for the tasks of the organization, while relationship-oriented leaders pay higher attention to the progress of their followers. I found it interesting that Secretary DeVos specifically said she was relationship-oriented as if she has studied this theory before. Which she may have! After hearing this and then observing the office and employees I find that she leaves a good impression on those with whom she works. Further supporting the idea that she may lean more towards a relationship-oriented leader. 

Another way I observed task vs. relational leadership this summer was through Skype calls. I found that in calls for project meetings you could learn a lot about the people you were working with. For example, if they had their camera and were chatting before the meeting started, this showed their care for relationships with their followers. However, if their camera was off and they were muted until it was time to discuss the project, I implied they were more task-oriented. Although skype calls do not allow you to fully understand one’s leadership style it was all I was able to work with to observe. 

Along with Skype calls I considered email interactions as well as collaborative efforts on projects to contribute to my understanding of leaders’ task vs relational leadership styles. I suspect that since working remotely those leaders who are more relational may find it difficult to connect with their followers, while task-oriented leaders may be extremely efficient and working very well.

In conclusion, it was interesting to piece together my understanding of task vs relational leadership through a remote internship. I had to become rather creative, but it was a fun challenge!