Umass Amherst – School of Management 697PP: Perspectives on Leadership
Summer 2007 Discussion #2
Read the short case on Small Dog Electronics on page 7 of your textbook [Adam’s Edit: Art and Science of Leadership (4th Edition) by Afsaneh Nahavandi].Also read the very short [Adam’s Edit: Fast Company] article in the module folder about an extraordinary leader, Sriram Ayer, a businessman who left his comfortable job to pursue social priorities following the tsunami disaster in Asia in 2005. These two exemplars are very brief but they raise a number of themes that are raised in the first chapter, including what is a leader, leadership and social responsibility, the roles of a leader, culture and leadership, leadership and management, and does leadership make a difference. Reflect on these two exemplars through the different theories and concepts you are offered in the chapter, and post your reflections in the discussion. How do the different theories view these examples? How do the examples compare and contrast? What’s your own view?
Although Sriram Ayer and Small Dog Electronics appear to use multiple leadership theories and methods successfully, there appears to be one in particular which is relied upon heavily by both. In both cases, Sriram and the Mayers encourage their followers to accomplish certain goals by creating examples and reducing obstacles to their success. For Sriram, when he quit his job to purse philanthropic goals, he showed other professionals that it is possible to help those who are disadvantaged. Sriram clearly states his goals; once when he encourages professionals to partner with poor children to help them learn and rise above their initial circumstances, and again when he sets a specific target for improving personal hygiene in rural India by focusing his followers on a set number of toilets per person.
Small Dog also utilizes the path-goal theory; their goal is to have satisfied (and hopefully repeat) customers and the Mayers realize that they must first have satisfied employees. By creating a working environment in which the Mayers may succeed, and then pursuing employees who fit into that environment, the Mayers create a workplace where everyone is familiar with each other and trusts one another (hence the 1% turnover rate). I’m sure we’ve experienced inferior service, whether at a restaurant, bank, post office or similar place where person to person contact is required, cause by a grump employee. In a way, the Mayers considered their employees to also be their customers, and in this manner created an example for their employees on how to be successful, the Mayers earned a Healthy Workplace award, which showed their employees how satisfaction, whether for the employee or customer, can breed success.
Personally, I’ve experienced leaders who state a goal very clearly but then fail to show us the path to that goal. The methodology on how to achieve success is just as important as knowing what success is. Along with showing how to achieve certain goals, Ayer and the Mayers also inspired their followers to actually go down that path. With Small Dog, the numbers speak for themselves, and I believe once the employees acknowledged they enjoyed their workplace, they then worked as hard as possible to ensure that workplace remained financially viable by pleasing their employees.
For Ayer’s followers, I’m sure they heard many stories from him on how much happier he felt by helping people rather than just focusing on a career. There are constantly articles being published on how modern employees find their careers hollow and wish they had more meaning in their lives. Ayer shows disenfranchised employees that happiness may or may not be found in the workplace, but can be found outside of it by helping people.