The rivalry of Ohio State and Michigan goes well beyond the sports fields – it extends into the classroom, and in this particular example, into leadership research. Both schools conducted study on what qualities comprise a leader. They both compiled huge, long lists of the behaviors a leader could show, and began to try to categorize those behaviors into categories. And, both schools narrowed it down to two categories, coined by Ohio State as “Personal Consideration” and “Initiating Structure.” These terms are now largely referred
to as Concern for People and Concern for Product, as seen on Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid. Essentially, these studies showed that leader behaviors can either be directed at developing relationships and showing concern for followers, or be directed towards reaching an end goal, to accomplishing the task. Michigan initially stipulated that those two behaviors were indirectly linked, meaning if a leader was good at one, they were bad at the other. They were wrong, and eventually adapted to see these items as separate, so that a leader could be good at one and not the other, be good at both, or be bad at both. That basic premise is what leads to Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid.
While this leadership theory does not relate itself perfectly to effective leadership, it starts taking a step in that direction. If a leader has both concern for the product and concern for the people it is considered the optimal leadership style. The leader who cares only for production and not for the individuals involved is considered a drill sergeant. The leader who cares only about the people, and not about the organization’s effectiveness is called a “country club” leader. Those who lack concern for both product and people is referred to as impoverished.
This does relate to football quite well – a coach like Bill Belichick would very much be considered a drill sergeant. A coach like Tony Dungy might be considered a bit more of a balanced leader. And, those coaches who only care about the players, and not about the outcome, and more well suited to younger levels of football, where the stakes aren’t quite as high and individual empathy is more important.
I would highly encourage anyone interested in leadership theory to look up Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid, and read through their questionnaire on determining concern for product and concern for people.
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.