Ohio State Model

Fundamentals of the Ohio State Leadership Studies

The Ohio State Model of Leader Behavior (also called Ohio State Leadership Studies) is a survey framework on leadership studies conducted by a group of researchers to address the question of how behavior of a leader impacts on members of group's job performanceOpens in new window, and satisfactionOpens in new window.

A series of surveys on leadership behavior was conducted by researchers at the Ohio State UniversityOpens in new window to identify specific dimensions of leader behavior. The study narrowed a list of almost 2,000 leader behaviors into a questionnaire which they developed and labeled “Leader Behavior Description QuestionnaireOpens in new window (LBDQ)”.

The questionnaire contained 150 examples of definitive leader behaviors and was administered to employees. Hundreds of employees responded to behavior examples according to the degree to which their leaders engaged in the various behaviors.

The analysis of ratings resulted in two wide-ranging categories of leader behavior types, identified as consideration and initiating structure.

Researchers have hypothesized that group performance would be maximized when a manager exhibits a leadership style that is high in both consideration and initiating structure.

When the two components of leadership are placed on separate axes and the window boxes are filled in, as the figure indicates below, four leader behavior styles result.

Ohio State model of leadership
Ohio State model of leadership.

Source: Paul Hersey, Kenneth H Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources, ed 3, (1977, p 95).

The four quadrants in the Ohio State model can be explained as follows.

  1. High structure/low consideration
    A leader primarily defines the task, explains to the group each person’s responsibility, and states when tasks should be done. One-way communication characterizes the leader’s behavior even though the low relationship behavior should be observable. The low relationship behavior is simply respect and warmth toward another and positive reinforcement after a goal is completed. No group decision making is included in this style.
  2. High structure/high consideration
    A leader balances concern for the intricacies of getting a task accomplished with a concern for the beliefs, desires, and needs of the group. The leader might define a goal, designate what needs to be done and who has specific responsibilities, and invite questions or reactions. The leader’s original plan might be altered given the followers’ reactions. In this style of leadership, the leader is still in full control but group interaction is begun.
  3. High consideration/low structure
    In this style, the leader’s primary concern is not the task and its various intricacies. Rather, concern for the process, for getting the group to work together effectively to accomplish the task. The leader still has some control over how the group accomplishes the task. In this style, for example, a leader might define the problem and ask the group members to make further decisions about how they will work together to accomplish the task.
  4. Low structure and low consideration
    In this style, the leader maintains a low profile permitting followers to function within previously defined limits. At times, the leader may be available for consultation, to give direction, or for positive reinforcement. Such interaction is not planned on a regular basis but rather occurs as the need arises. This leader behavior style is delegation because control is shifted from the leader to the followers.

Additional studies that correlated the two leader behavior types (consideration and initiating structure), and impact on followers initially demonstrated that considerate leaders had a more positive impact on employee satisfaction than did structuring leaders.

For example, when leader effectiveness was defined by voluntary turnover or amount of grievances filed by followers, considerate leaders generated less turnover and grievances. But research that utilized performance criteria, such as group and productivity, showed initiating structure behavior was rated more effective.

Other studies involving aircraft commanders and university department heads revealed that leaders rated effective by followers exhibited a high level of both consideration and initiating structure behaviors, whereas leaders rated less effective displayed low levels of both behavior styles.