Umass Amherst – School of Management 697PP: Perspectives on Leadership
The subject of our discussion this week will be individual traits and qualities as they affect organizational leadership. Please read and carefully consider the two short cases, “The Caring Dictator,” about Jack Hartnett of Sonic rollerskating franchises (p. 59 ), and “Pernille Spiers-Lopez Assembles a Winning Team at IKEA” (p. 100) [Adam’s Edit: Art and Science of Leadership (4th Edition) by Afsaneh Nahavandi].]. These two top executives have what appear to be very different leadership approaches, and your assignment is to compare and contrast them on the basis of the individual dimensions covered in the chapters and assessments 3-1 to 3-7. Are they really different? Is one person superior to the other? Why or why not? What could you say about organizational effectiveness in relation to leadership? Secondly, put yourself in the equation. Based on your responses to the self-assessments you completed, how would you fit in either or both of these CEO’s shoes? Does one or the other organization remind you of any places you have worked? How so?
The descriptions in the text highlight many differences between Jack Hartnett and Pernille Spiers-Lopez, the chief executive officers of Sonic and IKEA, respectively. Pernille is focused on her family life outside of IKEA, whereas Jack encourages his corporation to be like a family. Both of them are bringing emphasis to the family structure. Jack has a very inner locus of control, where he attempts to control everything and believes his actions create results. Meanwhile, Pernille encourages her co-workers to structure their work lives so that they have time to focus on their family and social lives outside of work. Pernille however exhibits a looser locus of control almost out of necessity. When she was treated for an extreme stress reaction, that medical crisis showed her she can’t control everything. Yet, she still struggles with giving up too much power and is encouraged by her employees to take it easy and relax. The inmates are running the prison! It’s almost selfish on Pernille’s part to re-structure an entire organization because of a personal issue in her individual life! It’s good for Pernille, obviously, and the employees seem to enjoy this organic structure, where personal health and a positive personal life is encouraged and recognized as crucial to the corporation’s performance.
Jack encourages a similar concept, and for similar reasons. He, however, encourages his employees to integrate their personal lives with their work lives and often steps into family business to help sort it out. It seems his employees believe or trust that Jack is a smart individual who knows what he’s doing. They obviously respect his opinion to not revolt when he injects himself into an employees personal issues. With Pernille, the perception of knowledge procures itself from her experience with a medical crisis directly related to work issues. Her employees, obviously, do not want to end up in a similar situation, and probably would have told her a lot sooner to relax and focus on her personal mental and physical he lath if their opinion was valued, allowed and encouraged.
Objectively, both companies are performing well. Although IKEA is a private company so we can’t access their financial reports, but I see from Sonic’s financial statements that they are profitable (Google Finance section for Sonic). For the first quarter of this year they reported a 3.86% net profit margin, and 11.35% for the 2006 year. Too many times, in leadership theory and general concepts and theories, we focus too much on one or two methods which have proven to be successful. Jack may lead Sonic in an authoritative style, but that does not necessarily mean a different style wouldn’t work just as well. Same goes for Pernille with IKEA. The most important aspect, in my mind, is for these leaders to analyze themselves (so they must be at least competent self-monitors) and acknowledge their respective traits and preferences; then the leaders should also analyze their corporate environment and ensure their personal characteristics can fit in with the corporate environment.
Personally, the best indicator of which of these executives is superior would require an analysis of employee satisfaction and financial performance. A healthy hybrid of the two is optimal, as employees would surely be most satisfied with receiving a paycheck for no work (I know I would, work one job for the benefit of two by getting a “second job”) but would obviously crumble quickly. On the other hand, a corporation purely interested in making profit will also crumble as employees simply leave or revolt against the ridiculous expectations.
While taking the assessments, I found there were several questions where I knew the “correct” answer but could certainly make a case for the “wrong” answer too. For instance, the text and assessments place positive value on high self-monitoring, but I believe a low self-monitor could be just as successful. Someone who doesn’t care about themselves and instead devote themselves have effected some of the most positive social changes and benefits. A Gandhi, who goes through a hunger strike, is aware of himself, but is also throwing his health to the wind for the greater good. The “tank man” in Tiananmen Square could have been run over by a tank, yet he didn’t care and had to find out why these evil acts were happening. These examples are extreme, and I suppose the point I’m making is the situation has a large impact on leadership performance and how we will act.
With these assessments, I find that rather than completely agreeing with a statement or fitting into one category, I can see both sides of the argument and feel there are portions of some answers I find are mixed together in my personal style. A test is simply an evaluation of how you feel and think about certain topics, at that moment. My personal opinion is that assessments and tests simply aren’t a very good method of evaluating a person, as there are several factors that the test simply cannot recognize.