Leadership Cases
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Leadership Cases


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My name is Michael Collins. When I was named Southwest Regional Manager of Creighton Auto Parts, a major parts sales and service corporation, I saw the transition period before and immediately following my appointment as an exciting new opportunity. With a degree in automotive engineering and several years' experience in parts manufacturing (design and plant management), I came to the new position with strong industry connections and a keen eye for trends and product innovation.

During the initial stages of the transition, I met with the outgoing regional manager, receiving his input about ongoing business issues, how current services tallied with the corporation's short and long-term goals, and what he saw as the strengths and weaknesses of the various stores and personnel within the region. While some of these meetings took place at his office, I wanted to avoid the appearance of depending on 'the old man' for guidance, so I scheduled most of our meetings off-site to provide more opportunities for frank discussion covering procedures, products and services, and individual stakeholders from employees and board members to suppliers and customers.

In addition, I spent a great deal of time making my own assessments. I knew my company honeymoon period would be limited. My vision and my implementation program had to be clear with well-defined strategies. As a first step, I sent a lengthy e-mail message to all key players on my new leadership team both as introduction and as a prelude to establishing my vision and transition program.

I traveled around the region meeting with the store managers on my regional team, as well as holding informal meetings with front-line employees. In so doing, I was surprised to tap into the rumor mill and find individuals who were eager to talk openly about their goals, ideas, opinions, and complaints. My questions to front-line workers, in particular, had both positive and negative aspects. I questioned them about their length of service, what they liked most about the company, what areas they thought could be improved, how they rated the culture—things like that. I discovered that for most of them, this was more than just a job. Many had worked for the company for a number of years and had a great deal of pride in the company, as well as a deep sense of responsibility toward their customers.

However, I found this portion of my on-site visits the most intrusive on my time, and in many cases I regretted the amount of time I spent listening to workers. I wondered if the advance warning of my visit allowed too much time for people to prepare their answers. I wondered how many were genuine in their responses and how many were just trying to hold on to their jobs. Worse, I found myself hostage to those who wanted to rant on and on about workplace issues, their training, their bosses, even their customers. I talked to a few customers and didn't get much from that either. As I proceeded through the on-site visits, I found myself growing impatient, increasingly checking my watch to see how soon I should leave for the next appointment on a packed schedule. I admit I expected more from this portion of the transition than I received. However, once I committed to this, I felt obligated to see it through.

More rewarding was the time spent with the marketing staff exploring customer satisfaction levels. In focusing on customers, I zeroed in on three research areas: customer complaints, area demographics, and the compounding customer—those return customers who generate additional sales among their friends and family. Why do customers come? What makes them return? What are their personal 'hot buttons'—needs or breaking points in dealing with service industries? Our market research showed large segments of our population in four areas: under 30, over 60, Hispanics, and women. We also saw an increasing number of unemployed and under-employed do-it-yourself customers trying to keep the family vehicle going just a little longer. I personally love analyzing market data.

My question for regional service, sales, and marketing was 'how are we reaching and retaining these segments of the population?' Do advertising, Web sites, direct mailing, coupon campaigns, and other marketing strategies match these demographics? For example, are we providing and training Spanish-language sales and service experts and consumer information? With large segments of young people, senior citizens, the unemployed, and single moms, wouldn't these large segments of the population offer fabulous compounding opportunities with focused marketing and price breaks?

As I take the reins, I am excited about the marketing challenges and opportunities ahead. I am an idea guy, a hands-on manager whose ideal is the Renaissance man capable of doing many things very well. I like to surround myself with similar kinds of people. I generate ideas and expect follow-up and accountability. The leadership model I embrace sets the bar high for me and for everyone who works for me. I look forward to injecting a new vision and new standards of service throughout the region.

a) What do you see as Michael Collins's leadership traits? Which of these traits do you consider a strength? A weakness? Explain.     

b) What do you think of Michael Collins's approach to leading the region? How might an understanding of individualized leadership be useful to Collins with respect to his relationship with marketing versus store personnel?              


When Lee Keiko returned from a quick lunch, she scanned her e-mail inbox for the message she had been dreading. She found it, labeled 'high priority,' among a dozen other e-mails and sank back in her chair as she mentally prepared to open it. Keiko felt a tightening in her stomach as she clicked on the message and braced herself for the assault she had grown to expect from Barry Carver, her boss at Environmental Designs International (EDI), a rapidly growing 'green' company that specializes in retrofitting commercial buildings to improve their energy efficiency.

The primary clients of EDI are owners of skyscrapers who renovate their buildings to reduce energy use and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, a contributor to global warming. Within these towering skyscrapers, the largest energy guzzlers are lighting, cooling, and heating. Owners of New York City's Empire State Building expect to reduce the skyscraper's energy use by the year 2016 at an annual savings of after this 78-year-old building is retrofitted.

Keiko had expected Carver's scathing e-mail and knew he would lambaste her and her team for missing last Friday's deadline for submitting a proposal to retrofit a Chicago skyscraper to meet new federal green standards. Keiko had warned Carver of the possible delay in completing the proposal due to changing federal regulations for energy efficiency. It was truly out of her hands. She had even consulted with the client to alert them of the delay, and they had agreed to an extended deadline.

Nevertheless, Carver was angry about the delay and fired off an e-mail that was brusque and insensitive. 'I depend on you to meet deadlines and work effectively with regulatory agencies. Your ineptness may cost us this important project,' he exclaimed in his e-mail to Keiko. 'Why aren't you as committed to this project as I am? I can't do this alone,' he stated. This was one more example of how Carver often made life miserable for his subordinates, verbally attacking them to get results. Carver had also started alienating his peers. During a recent meeting to discuss the replacement of thousands of windows in the Chicago skyscraper, Carver embarrassed a colleague by accusing him of selecting a vendor without doing a price comparison among vendors. 'How can I value your recommendation, Troy, if you fail to do your homework? I need new prices by Friday!' shouted Carver.

Carver was a highly skilled architect and responsible for managing a team of designers in EDI's Chicago office. Although his abrupt personality had helped him climb the corporate ladder, his intimidating communication style was beginning to create problems and hamper his ability to get results. Carver learned in his performance review that his work relationships were suffering and the complaints about him were increasing. Even his long-time peers were avoiding him as much as possible and finding ways to work around him.

Sensitive to the growing animosity toward him, Carver began to reconsider how he interacted with his staff and peers. He felt motivated to begin using some of the tools he had recently learned in the executive education course he had just completed. During one of the skills-assessment activities, Carver learned that he could get better results by communicating more gently, building consensus, and working in a more team-oriented manner. Further, he realized he had to find ways to handle his anger and frustration when dealing with federal regulatory agencies and the inevitable delays that hampered progress on big construction projects. As he thought about the skills assessment, Carver wondered if he could soften his image and perhaps even be considered for a senior management position he was eyeing in EDI's Los Angeles office.

a) 'At the senior management level, you get hired for competence. You get fired for ' In your opinion, is this statement true or false? How does it relate to Barry Carver and his current leadership style?

b) Identify the behaviors described in this case that were damaging to Barry Carver's work What negative consequences did these behaviors have on his peers and subordinates? How realistic is it that Carver (or anyone) can change his own leadership skills?


Leela Patel was standing by her machine, as she had for eight hours of each working day for the past six years. Leela was happy; she had many friends among the women at the food processing plant. Most of them were of Indian origin like herself, although Asian women formed less than a fifth of the female workforce. Leela was a member of a team of five women that reported to supervisor Bill Evans.

Leela saw Evans approaching now, accompanied by Jamie Watkins, the shop steward. 'Hello, Leela; we've come to explain something to you,' Evans began. 'You must have heard about the accident last month when one of the girls caught a bangle in the machine and cut her wrist. Well, the Safety Committee has decided that no one will be allowed to wear any bangles, engagement rings, earrings, or necklaces at work—only wedding rings, and wristwatches will be allowed. So I'm afraid you'll have to remove your bangles.' Leela, as was her custom, was wearing three bangles—one steel, one plastic, and one gold. All the married Asian women wore bangles, and many of the English girls had also begun wearing them. Leela explained that she was a Hindu wife and the bangles were important to her religion.

'Don't make a fuss, Leela,' Evans said between clenched teeth. 'I've already had to shout at Hansa Patel and Mira Desai. Why can't you all be like Meena Shah? She didn't mind taking her bangles off; neither did the English girls.' Leela could see that Evans was very angry, so, almost in tears, she removed the bangles. When the two had moved off, however, she replaced the gold bangle and carried on with her work.

Within two or three days, the plant manager, Sam Jones, noticed that all the Asian women were wearing their bangles again—some, in fact, were wearing more than ever before. 'I'm staggered by the response that this simple, common-sense restriction on the wearing of jewelry has brought,' Jones remarked to the regional race relations employment advisor. 'I have had several deputations from the Asian women protesting the ban, not to mention visits by individuals on the instruction of their husbands. In addition, I've just had a letter from something called the Asian Advisory Committee, asking that the ban be lifted until we meet with their representatives. The strength of this discontent has prompted me to talk to you. Jewelry constitutes both a safety and a hygiene hazard on this site, so it must be removed. And I'm afraid if I talk to this Asian Committee, they'll turn out to be a bunch of militants who'll cause all sorts of trouble. At the same time, we can't afford any work stoppages. What do you suggest?'

Several days later, the advisor had arranged for Mr. Singh from the local Council for Community Relations to talk to Jones and other managers. Singh explained that in his opinion there were no obstacles arising from religious observance that prevented implementation of the ban on bangles. However, he pointed out, the bangles do have a custom base that is stronger than the English tradition base for wedding rings. 'The bangles are a mark not only of marriage but of the esteem in which a wife is held by her husband. The more bangles and the greater their value, the higher her esteem and the greater her social standing. The tradition also has religious overtones, since the wearing of bangles by the wife demonstrates that each recognizes the other as 'worthy' in terms of the fulfillment of their religious obligations. This position is further complicated in that women remove their bangles if they are widowed, and some fear that the removal of the bangles may lead to their husbands' deaths.'

a) What is your initial reaction to this story? Why do you think you had this reaction?            

b) Based on this limited information, how would you rate this organization in terms of developing leadership diversity? If you were a top executive at this company, how would you handle this problem?



What do you see as Michael Collins's leadership traits? Which of these traits do you consider strength and weakness? Explain.

Leader is a person who helps others as well as themselves to do the right thing by developing inspiring visions and promoting innovation. With the right vision of a leader the team or the whole organization knows the direction in which they are required to move. It is very important for a leader to possess leadership as well as management skills in order to lead (Mind Tools, 2018). Leaders have the ability to give shape to the success of the organization. Various strategies and techniques are used by the leaders in order to maintain a balance between the different resources of the organization including the human resources. A leader with the help of selection of appropriate leadership style can manage this balance efficiently. In order to become a successful leader it is important to have traits like self-management, thinking strategically, effective communication skills, delegation of authority and responsibility, team building, etc. (Patel, 2017). Michael Collins is the regional manager of the Creighton Auto Parts and in order to undertake his activities in an efficient manner Michael has used his leadership skills in an effective manner. Some of the important leadership skills that are present in Michael include having clear vision, facilitating innovation, effective communication, team building, directly dealing with the workers, and communicating with different departments of the company. One of the most important leadership skills that he possesses is that he believes in developing vision in order to guide the company and its employees towards success. Other strength of his leadership skill is his desire towards continuously reaching for innovation and new trends in the company and its products. The desire to know more by communicating with every employee and departments of the company also reflects strength of his leadership skill. Though, it can be said that Michael lacks in strategy making. This is so because while communicating with the personnel of the company he failed strategies regarding who needs to be contacted and what relevant information's are required. Because of this he ended up wasting a lot of time in listening to the workers. Hence, this is one of the major weaknesses of Michael's leadership skills.


What do you think of Michael Collins's approach to leading the region? How might an understanding of individualized leadership be useful to Collins with respect to his relationship with marketing versus store personnel?

In order to lead the region Michael adopted individualized leadership approach. Under the individualized approach a leader is said to be successful when he is able to secure a satisfying performance level from the subordinate. This is usually achieved when the superior provides support to the subordinate to achieve his self-worth (Daft, 2014). Under individualized leadership style the leader goes for building one to one relationship with his subordinates in which the leader invests in his subordinates for some output from the subordinate (Smet, Lavoie, & Hioe, 2012). Individualized leadership is considered to be one of the most dynamic leadership styles and it is also believed that this style can do wonders if used properly and effectively (Du, Swaen, Lindgreen, & Sen, 2013). Michael adopted this approach to develop one to one relationship with the store personnel as well as with the marketing team of the company. The right understanding of individualized leadership will help Collin in many different ways. Like this approach towards the marketing team will help Collin to know about their customers' needs and demands and which factor satisfies them the most. It will help in knowing who the main target group of the company are and which demographic area are still untouched by the products of the company. Accordingly the company can make strategies to target those groups and increase their market share and sales directly increasing the financial performance of the company. The use of this individualized approach with store personnel will help Collin to find out about the employees and their viewpoint towards the organization. This approach will also help in understanding the positives and negatives of the personnel and accordingly they can be used by Collin during the time of team building and delegating the responsibility. This approach also helps in knowing the individual employee's contribution of the employees towards the organization. This realization will help the subordinates to feel satisfied will also make them feel that their self-worth is being realized. Hence, it can be said that this approach can help Collin in many different ways and will help him to know about the company, its employees and its customers and accordingly he can take steps to fulfil the goals and objectives of the company, provide job satisfaction to his employees, and provide maximum satisfaction to its customers.

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