Going Back to the Basics with The Ohio State Leadership Study

Melanie Escalona is the Facility Operations Manager for the Pediatric floor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Although I came in contact with Melanie almost every day over the course of my 13-week internship, I was excited to finally be able to sit down and learn more about her duties and responsibilities. During our conversation, Melanie’s leadership style immediately reminded me of the Ohio State Leadership Study, which was one of the first theories that was discussed in class.

The Ohio State Leadership Study (1945) focuses on behavioral aspects that determine leaders and leadership, rather than traits. The researchers found that the two main dimensions are leadership behavior were task and relationship. A task-oriented leader is focused on initiating structure, which includes, defining roles and communication patterns, planning, scheduling, and assigning responsibilities, etc. A leader that is relational is focused on showing consideration such as, being understanding, showing trust and respect, being friendly and engaging, etc. Ultimately, a good leader is able to gauge the current situation and determine the leadership style that works best in each atmosphere. Therefore, a leader is a combination of task and relationship behaviors in order to create a leader-follower dimension.

During my interview with Melanie Escalona, she revealed the leader-follower relationship she instills as a result of how she incorporates the two dimensions found in the Ohio State Leadership Study. Melanie emphasized that she works in a small team, which consists of only two direct reports. Melanie also mentioned, “the dynamic right now is very team oriented, a lot of delegating to my staff”. This demonstrates that Melanie trusts and respects that her staff is capable of completing work to her standards. She also describes her team as ‘tight’, which suggests that she views that more like friends than followers. She does mention that it is important to distinguish between professional and friendly encounters. For example, Melanie discusses that she prefers to address issues ‘head-on’ and ‘in the moment’ and during these moments she puts on her ‘manager hat’. Melanie reveals a perfect moment of intersection between task and relationship oriented. She demonstrates relational behaviors in this moment because she is trying to address issues with her team in mind. This allows for her team to develop and grow because she is using the issues as a teaching moment rather than scolding or reprimanding them. This demonstrates that Melanie has great consideration for the team. Furthermore, Melanie discusses that her role requires immense attention to detail and quick results. The nature of her work requires that she is task oriented and focused on accomplishing goals.

Melanie and her team’s main focus is to keep the pediatric floor running smoothly and within compliance of the organization, therefore she values quick turnarounds and precise work. Additionally, she cares about her team and demonstrates a desire to help them grow and succeed.