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Leadership Case Studies

Here is a sample of three case studies from the book, Leadership Case Studies, that are most instructive and impactful to developing leadership skills.

Leadership Case Studies

For the past 30 years, I have conducted seminars and workshops and taught college classes on leadership.

I used a variety of teaching aids including books, articles, case studies, role-plays, and videos.

I recently created a book, Leadership Case Studies that includes some of the case studies and role-plays that I found to be most instructive and impactful.

Here is a sample of three case studies.

Peter Weaver Case Study

Peter Weaver doesn’t like to follow the crowd. He thinks groupthink is a common problem in many organizations. This former director of marketing for a consumer products company believes differences of opinion should be heard and appreciated. As Weaver states, “I have always believed I should speak for what I believe to be true.”

He demonstrated his belief in being direct and candid throughout his career. On one occasion, he was assigned to market Paul’s spaghetti-sauce products. During the brand review, the company president said, “Our spaghetti sauce is losing out to price-cutting competitors. We need to cut our prices!”

Peter found the courage to say he disagreed with the president. He then explained the product line needed more variety and a larger advertising budget. Prices should not be cut. The president accepted Weaver’s reasoning. Later, his supervisor approached him and said, “I wanted to say that, but I just didn’t have the courage to challenge the president.”

On another occasion, the president sent Weaver and 16 other executives to a weeklong seminar on strategic planning. Weaver soon concluded the consultants were off base and going down the wrong path. Between sessions, most of the other executives indicated they didn’t think the consultants were on the right path. The consultants heard about the dissent and dramatically asked participants whether they were in or out. Those who said “Out” had to leave immediately.

As the consultants went around the room, every executive who privately grumbled about the session said “In.” Weaver was fourth from last. When it was his turn, he said “Out” and left the room.

All leaders spend time in reflection and self-examination to identify what they truly believe and value. Their beliefs are tested and fine-tuned over time. True leaders can tell you, without hesitation, what they believe and why. They don’t need a teleprompter to remind them of their core beliefs. And, they find the courage to speak up even when they know others will disagree.

  • What leadership traits did Weaver exhibit?
  • If you were in Weaver’s shoes, what would you have done?
  • Where does courage come from?
  • List your three most important values.

Dealing with a Crisis Case Study

Assume you are the VP of Sales and Marketing for a large insurance company. Once a year your company rewards and recognizes the top 100 sales agents by taking them to a luxury resort for a four-day conference. Business presentation meetings are held during the morning. Afternoons are free time. Agents and spouses can choose from an assortment of activities including golf, tennis, boating, fishing, shopping, swimming, etc.

On day 2 at 3:00 p.m., you are at the gym working out on the treadmill, when you see Sue your administrative assistant rushing towards you. She says, “I need to talk to you immediately.”

You get off the treadmill and say, “What’s up?” Sue states, “We’ve had a tragedy. Several agents went boating and swimming at the lake. Randy, our agent from California died while swimming.”

(Background information – Randy is 28 years old. His wife did not come on the trip. She is home in California with their three children).

  • Explain what you would communicate to the following people.
  • Your Human Resources Department
  • The local police
  • The attendees at the conference (Would you continue the conference?)
  • How will you notify Randy’s wife?
  • If Randy’s wife and a few family members want to visit the location of Randy’s death, what would you do?
  • What are some “guiding principles” that leaders need to follow in a crisis situation?

 Arsenic and Old Lace Case Study

Review the YouTube video, “ I’ll show them who is boss Arsenic and Old Lace.”   

Background Information

The Vernon Road Bleaching and Dyeing Company is a British lace dyeing business. It was purchased in bankruptcy by the father/son team of Henry and Richard Chaplin. Richard has been acting as “Managing Director” which is the same as a general manager or president of a company.

The company has had 50-to-150 employees with 35-to-100 being shop floor, production employees. The company produces and sells various dyed fabrics to the garment industry.

Gerry Robinson is a consultant who was asked to help transform methods of conducting business to save the company.

Jeff is the factory manager.

  • What are Richard’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
  • What could Richard have done to make the problems of quality and unhappy customers more visible to the workforce?
  • What do you think Richard’s top three priorities should be for the next 12 months?
  • What could Richard have done to motivate the workforce?
  • Evaluate Jeff’s approach and effectiveness as a leader.

The book contains 16 case studies, four role-plays, and six articles. I hope you find some of the content useful and helpful in your efforts to teach leadership.

Click for additional leadership case studies and resources .


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How to Make Different Business Leadership Styles Work (With Case Studies)

Several thought leaders have referred to 2020 as the year of great reset. But if you want to be really strict about it, most of the biggest business shifts started way back at the onset of the 21st century. 

Traditional business leaders who are banking on traditional business leadership styles in this new century needlessly risk losing their businesses to unhealthy age-old leadership practices.

The pandemic just helped reiterate the need for business leaders to change the way they approach business problems primarily due to the following reasons:

  • New technologies
  • Pace of change
  • Changing demographics and employee expectations
  • Changing customer expectations

The chart below gives you a better glimpse of the reasons why there is a difference in the requirements for the kind of leaders we need to have in this era. The data depicted is from Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Survey .

What are these particular requirements? According to the same study by Deloitte, business leaders need to have the following abilities:

  • lead through more complexity and ambiguity
  • lead through influence
  • manage on a remote basis
  • manage a workforce with a combination of humans and machines
  • lead more quickly

See this second figure below.

According to Forbes , there are three notable leadership skill shifts for 2021 and these are the following:

  • Communication to Empathy 
  • Emotional Intelligence to Emotional Agility 
  • Time Management to Context Management

Leaders are expected to be effective communicators, but the shift is now focused on empathy as a priority for business leaders this year. The Management Research Group found empathy to be the leading positive leadership competency and one of the biggest predictors of senior executive effectiveness . This makes a lot of sense especially now that the recent challenges brought about by the pandemic have highlighted the value of caring while communicating.

Emotional intelligence to emotional agility is another important shift. Susan David , a psychologist and the author of the book “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life” describes emotionally agile people be the type of people who are not only aware of their feelings but also know how to navigate through them.

Now the shift from time management to context management gives emphasis on how the change in the context of how and where we work requires realignment in managing our time and designing our days around how we work. 

While there are several leadership styles and the specific strategies vary depending on the field or industry, the concepts are basically the same. Let’s take note of these leadership skill shifts mentioned earlier in studying how we can better tailor the different leadership styles to suit the changing times. 

The following are six of the different leadership styles we will tackle further:

  • Autocratic Leadership Style
  • Democratic Leadership Style
  • Laissez-Faire Leadership Style
  • Situational leadership style
  • Transactional Leadership Style
  • Transformational Leadership Style

First off, let’s start with the traditional business leadership styles.

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1. autocratic leadership style.

Case Study: Howell Raines of The New York Times

The New York Times under Howell Raines as the Executive Editor decided at one point to only put resources on the stories that he deemed as worth covering. While this led to The New York Times winning a record-breaking seven Pulitzer awards in a single year, several staff members got demoralized.

There is no known theorist behind autocratic leadership so it is considered as an organic leadership style that has developed over the course of time that it has been used. 

Basically, an autocratic leader is the type of leader who would make decisions without proper consultation. You may think that this leadership style is unacceptable for who decides on his own especially if the decision concerns an entire organization, right? 

But, Cleverism articulates three situations where the autocratic leadership style can be used and these are the following:

  • The situation requires fast and immediate decision-making
  • There is no clarity in the process of the procedure and pushing ahead might only lead people to danger
  • There are more inexperienced people in the group and most of them are demotivated

The tendency of most businesses with an autocratic leader is that the subordinates will become passive and mediocre, or conflicts may arise.

In these situations where a business leader must step up and use the autocratic leadership style, it is important to take note of communicating openly and regarding others with respect the entire time.

2. Democratic Leadership Style

Case Study: Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google

Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page hired Eric Schmidt to jump-start the Internet search engine. Blending autocratic, laissez-faire and democratic leadership styles, they allowed someone knowledgeable and experienced into Google which would then lead to more democratic teams composed of experienced talent. 

Also known as the participative leadership style, the democratic leadership style in business management is often characterized as the style that encourages collaboration with fellow leaders and team members. In other words, everyone is allowed to participate in the decision-making process. 

While this style of leadership is very motivating for most people as compared to the autocratic leadership style, it works best for businesses that employ experts in their departments so little supervision is required. 

According to St. Thomas University , the following organizations can take advantage of this:

  • Biotech R&D divisions
  • Housing construction sites
  • Universities
  • Information technology companies

Furthermore, the university lists the following as the disadvantages of this leadership style:

  • Business leaders may become too dependent on their subordinates
  • Getting everyone’s input may take a lot of time 
  • Missed deadlines are possible 
  • Consulting with people who lack accurate data or sufficient knowledge
  • Too much burden for business leaders to oversee collaboration

The democratic leadership style can bring forth massive business growth if business leaders are willing to take responsibility for the decisions made and provide support and expertise during collaborations.

Such requires highly productive leaders who know what they do and will take action.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Case Study: Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett is known for exemplifying the laissez-faire leadership style as he allows people he works with to do their jobs without his supervision or intervention. His great success over several years has been attributed to his style of leadership which allows a culture of motivation and confidence. He, however, sees to it that he only hires people he can trust to do their jobs.

The laissez-faire leadership style emerged from the French word laissez-faire which means “leave alone”. Also called the hands-off approach, this style is based on the concept that leaders can leave their employees or teams alone in coming up with ideas or decisions for the business departments they are part of. 

This used to be a very popular style before the 19th century, but as modernization started, more and more business leaders find the disadvantages of leading teams with no supervision to be detrimental. This is particularly possible for companies that lack expert talent.

What business leaders who employ this leadership style should note is that assuming that subordinates must be free from accountability. This only encourages the company’s people to be complacent.

The business leader must ensure that teams are composed of highly-skilled individuals who can be reliable in achieving business goals under their responsibility.

At this point, we’ve already discussed the three leadership styles that can be highly traditional unless approached with a fresh perspective that takes into account the new leadership needs and skill shifts.

How these three business leadership styles work is illustrated below.

Which leadership style can you resonate with the most?

We now have what we call modern leadership styles or approaches. These styles have emerged as a response to the traditional styles that do not allow much room for innovation. 

Although most of these new approaches are modified versions of the traditional leadership styles, they are identified mainly based on the following types of categories:

  • Situational leadership
  • Transactional leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • Innovative leadership

4. Situational Leadership Style 

This leadership style follows the contingency-based leadership model when responding to situations or making decisions. Business leaders who employ this style are flexible and would normally use varying leadership strategies depending on the situation.

Goleman believes that a situational leader must be able to incorporate the six specific leadership styles given the right circumstances.

5. Transactional Leadership Style

Also known as managerial leadership, transactional leadership is a style that focuses on supervision, organization, and group performance.

Business leaders under this style use rewards and punishments to motivate subordinates in a given task.

According to Verywell Mind , the basic assumptions of transactional leadership are the following:

  • When the chain of command is clear, your workforce performs their best
  • Rewards and punishments are effective agents of motivation
  • Obeying the leader is the most important goal of the subordinates
  • Careful monitoring is a must

When giving assignments, the business leader must be clear when it comes to the instructions, rewards and consequences, as well as giving feedback. 

6. Transformational Leadership Style

Business leaders who subscribe to the transformational leadership style serve as inspirations to their subordinates.

They inspire as they lead by example and as they cultivate an environment that welcomes creativity and innovation. This suits employees who have entrepreneurial minds as transformational business leaders seek to inspire just the right amount of intellectual independence in the workplace.

In a roundup article, Harvard Business Review lists the following as the best examples of transformational leadership:

  • Jeff Bezos , Amazon
  • Reed Hastings , Netflix
  • Jeff Boyd and Glenn Fogel , Priceline
  • Steve Jobs and Tim Cook , Apple
  • Mark Bertolini , Aetna
  • Kent Thiry , DaVita
  • Satya Nadella , Microsoft
  • Emmanuel Faber , Danone
  • Heinrich Hiesinger , ThyssenKrupp

The Harvard Business Review refers to this group as the Transformation 10 for exemplifying transformational leadership.

Strengthening Your Leadership Mindset

About 60% of the executives who participated in the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends said that what prepared them for the unknown is leadership . This is the kind of leadership that takes into account the unpredictable and incorporates strategies surrounding that through coaching, teaming, and fostering.

But did you know that based on the research of the Corporate Executive Board , about 50%-70% of the new business executives or leaders fail within the first 18 months? Unless you have the right leadership mindset and you solidify that mindset, you will become part of this figure. 

Whenever a major business problem happens, you can either succumb to the pressure and give up, or find a solution to the problem . The most successful business leaders try their hardest to never give up.

Most business leaders would rather grind than get back to their regular jobs of 9-to-5.

In 1519, a Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernán Cortés pursued the treasures of the Aztecs with 11 ships and a crew of 100 sailors and 500 soldiers. His army was vastly outnumbered and some soldiers tried to escape. Cortés gave the order to burn the ships and left no choice but to fight until their last breath.

That wasn’t the end for everyone. Part of the army survived and they got a hold of the treasure.

At first, calmness is a myth. People are emotional by nature and react to any deviations from their plans. With time, those who choose to be in the captain’s spot until the end see problems that have to be solved and suppress the emotional part that is dragging them down.

The role of a business leader isn’t easy in the first place. Constant changes and surprises are not abnormal and at some point, they become a daily routine.

Plenty of problems appear to be critical, but in the end, they should be solved. You don’t run away from them. You step up as a business leader and inspire your teams to follow through.

The most effective leadership style for business is the leadership that inspires.

If being a business leader of a successful company is among your highest priorities, work on your leadership know-how, develop your management soft skills , and make it work for your people.

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short case study on leadership styles

Leadership Case Study

Learn about theories, skills, and the impact of world leaders in this case study about leadership.


Leadership theories, steve jobs leadership, skills approach leadership, list of references.

Leadership is one of the concepts in the world, which has received massive coverage and attention. Although there are several reasons behind this trend, the commonest one is the fact that leaders have a significant influence in the society. Not to mention that some people and organizations have become what they are today because of the impact of certain leaders (Grint 2010, p. 1).

Even though there is a wide range of definitions that describe a leader, it has been universally agreed that a leader is a person who gives direction to others in order to attain a common goal (Gallos 2008, p. 1). This is mainly achieved through setting a pace in serving as a role model and creation of a working environment that allows members of the organization or employees to feel honored as part of the advancement process.

Importantly, a leader cannot be viewed as a boss since he or she remains committed to the full course of achieving set goals and objectives. It is noteworthy that there are numerous qualities, which define the character of a good leader. While these factors may vary from one person to another, common traits include being a good listener, focused, organized, available, ready to delegate duties, confident and decisive (Gallos 2008, p. 2).

Twentieth century saw the demand and interest in leadership rise to an advanced stage. While early leaders laid emphasis on existing differences between leaders and followers in terms of their qualities, subsequent leadership theorists approached the issue by considering certain variable like qualifications and situations in establishing an understanding of leadership traits (Grint 2010, p. 1). Some of these theories have been discussed under this segment of the analysis.

The first one is the “great man” theory, which assumes that good leaders are born and that what is considered to be good traits are naturally obtained. In other words, these leaders are born, which is against the notion that favors making of leaders. This school of thought normally depicts leaders to be heroic and ready to take up leadership positions in the corporate world whenever there is need.

It is also paramount to note that the term was developed when the society thought that leadership was strictly meant for males (Bolden et al. 2003). This theory is believed to have been first developed by Thomas Carlyle, a time when gender equality was not being talked about as it is today. Men were therefore given leadership preference as women dominated other domestic areas of society management.

It is also believed that the trait theory resembles the great man philosophy, as it assumes that certain qualities observed among some leaders are inherited, thus making them better than other leaders. This theory generally focuses on a behavior or trait, which is common among leaders. Even though this has been the case, it is hard to explain the existence of some of these qualities among people who are not leaders (Bolden et al. 2003). This is considered as the main obstacle in adopting this theory when explaining the concept of leadership.

On the other hand, contingency theories address certain variables, which are connected to the environment and influence the type of leadership style suitable for a given situation. A very important fact under this theory is that situations in life cannot be addressed by one leadership style.

This is based on a wide range of ways in which the situations are manifested. Basically, success is coupled with leadership styles, different situational aspects and traits carried by followers (Bolden et al. 2003). This leadership theory is closely related to situational theories, which affirm that situational variables are key in influencing the decision made by leaders. It follows that a decision-making process may require several leadership styles to ensure that the best position is reached.

Unlike of the ideas discussed above, behavioral theories of leadership are inclined towards the fact that good leaders are made. It is solely based on behaviorism and the overall manner in which leaders act. In essence, the theory suggests that good leadership can be attained through learning and observation as opposed to being natural traits in human beings (Bolden et al. 2003).

Moreover, participative theories of leadership support the fact good leadership seeks to incorporate the ideas of others in decision-making. They motivate other people to be part of the course of achieving set goals and objectives. Nevertheless, a leader may choose not to consider the input of his or her followers.

Management leadership focuses on concepts of performance, supervision and organization. It is founded on the use of rewards and punishments in ensuring that the course is retained by all parties involved. This is the commonest leadership theory in business, where employees are recognized according to their input.

The last theory of leadership is the relationship theory, which is also referred to as transformational theory. This emphasizes on the bond between leaders and their followers. Through motivation, these leaders show their followers the benefits, which are hidden in the future. As much as they are concerned with performance, exploitation of each person’s potential is always at the heart of their performance. These leaders equally possess high standards in terms of ethics and morality (Bass & Riggio 2006).

The name of Steve Paul Jobs has dominated the world of leadership especially in the 21 st century; at the peak of technological advancements in computer technology. Born in 1955, Steve Jobs was a man of his caliber in terms of innovation of business ideas. Until his death in 2011, Jobs remained an icon of transformational leadership (Peña 2005).

Among other successes and leadership positions, Jobs was well known for as the chairman and co-founder of the famous Apple Inc. Unlike his counterparts who have a clear-cut of their leadership styles, Jobs could not be described by a single style of leadership; he was endowed with several qualities, which helped him to traverse the business world, to achieve such massive success. Importantly, his life experiences right from teenage played a major role in molding his personality, having failed to graduate from college.

In his 2005 address at the Stanford University, Steve Jobs highlighted several life experiences, which had shaped his life and challenged graduates to see success and opportunities in setbacks, which life offers. He believed in having faith, by connecting dots in life even during hard moments and hardly regretted for his decisions, including the selection of an expensive college that became a challenge to his parents in paying tuition fees.

As a result, he dropped out, and registered for calligraphy, which was significant in designing fonts while designing the first Macintosh. The love for his job was unwavering. Together with his friend, they founded Apple and even after being kicked out of the company, he moved on to launch NeXT Software Inc., which was acquired by Apple in 1997, giving a chance to rejoin Apple. His ill-health was a further source of inspiration in life.

After surviving a pancreatic surgery necessitated by cancer, he considered it as a wakeup call; to maximize the use of available time in doing what he loved most (Peña 2005). It is this path that shaped Steve Paul Jobs to become a leader with countless styles and qualities.

Firstly, Jobs was a charismatic leader. He was widely known for his ability to give captivating speeches, a trait that was equally employed in his career. His storytelling skills favored him capturing the attention of not only his audience but also his employees at Apple and other companies (Kramer 2010).

He was able to communicate the benefits of using Apple products as compared to other products by use of metaphors and analogies. His charismatic nature was essential in developing enthusiastic leaders who remained focused towards achieving that which seemed impossible in the eyes of many and convince his customers that his company had the best products in the market.

Jobs inherent and learned traits seemed to define his character and leadership path. Due to this, he earned himself several titles, which mainly described his attachment to perfection (Kramer 2010). His leadership was therefore described as personalized; he sometimes expected too much from an employee.

According to Jobs, he was interested in making people better, a leadership approach that was sometimes misinterpreted as being autocratic and rude especially in meetings. As an autocratic leader, Jobs insisted on being in control and showing people what to do even as a role model. While at Apple, Jobs had over a hundred employees who directly reported to him directly. His degree as a participatory leader was therefore low (Peña 2005).

Importantly, Steve Jobs remains an icon of transformational leadership. Throughout his career, Steve Jobs managed to transform different companies like Pixar. He also led by example, showing employees and other managers what was to be done in order to overcome the challenges of a competitive business world (Kramer 2010). This was essential in bringing out the best in every employee and promoting performance.

He is the founder of Amazon.com, its CEO and chair of the company’s board. Bezos is highly recognized in the money market and was valued at $3.6 billion, according to Forbes’ survey in the year 2006. He was listed as the personality of the year in 1999 by the Time magazine. Besides Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, with an aim of promoting tourism. He is definitely influential and his leadership style is worth studying to understand his success secrets.

Unlike some of company owners who choose to delegate managerial positions, Bezos runs Amazon.com as its founder and CEO. He therefore battles out by transiting from a small company to the head of thousands of employees.

He is generally overwhelmed with fun and innovations, having carried his laughing character to the company. In analyzing his leadership qualities, Bezos has been described using a wide range of approaches (‘Taking the long view’ 2012).

He is a transformational leader. Based on the path he has used to get Amazon.com where it is today, it is doubtless that he has been instrumental in promoting the company’s performance. He has always made choices based on his desire to move to another level, a reasons he gives for marrying his wife. His visionary has definitely landed him to a place he dreamed, decades ago.

He is also concerned in the performance of managers and other company employees. In order to impact his management team, he organizes weekly meeting, reporting on experiences and answering questions from him. The Just Do It program launched by Bezos was highly applauded for promoting participatory management at Amazon (‘Taking the long view’ 2012).

According to the program, managers are promoted for their innovative ideas, which are aimed at improving the company’s performance. His perfectionism in performance means that he has to higher new managers consistently, who are intelligent and highly skilled.

This approach is mainly leader-centered. In other words, it focuses on certain skills, which can be learned and improve the leadership potential of an individual. It is obvious that knowledge and skills are essential for one to be recognized as a strong leader. Furthermore, skills denote what is achievable by a leader, while traits mainly focus on a leader’s identity ( Leadership Skills Approach 2012). This leadership approach requires a leader to master three important areas, which are conceptual, technical and human.

Technical skills determine a leader’s proficiency in performing certain tasks. For instance, Steve Jobs’ skills as a computer scientist were paramount in navigating through the world of computers. Despite his lack of a college degree, he had relevant knowledge in the world of technology (Peña 2005).

He also had innovative skills, which transformed several companies including Apple Inc. Mr. Bezos equally has computer skills in science and business, which have been significant in internet business, marketing and cloud computing. Bezos has experience in garage operations, having been a garage inventor during his early years of entrepreneurship.

Skills approach of leadership further emphasizes on human skills, which are vital in dealing with people ( Leadership Skills Approach 2012). Although Steve Jobs was sometimes considered to be rude autocratic in handing employees, his sense of charisma made him an outstanding leader in handling people. He was a role model and encouraged his employees to exploit their potential. On the other hand, Bezos enhances his human skills through weekly training and hiring of intelligent and smart employees.

The last aspect is having conceptual skills, which are necessary in making long-term decisions ( Leadership Skills Approach 2012). Steve jobs had a long-term vision and remained focused on the course despite his failure to graduate from university. While serving with various companies, he invested in getting higher.

He transformed Apple, making it one of the leading technological companies in the world. Similarly, Amazon culture is dominated with long-term strategies. Since its inception, Amazon always invests its short-term profits for long-term benefits. Bezos takes risks, venturing into fields, which are less considered. These included cloud computing and the Blue Origin.

The question we need to ask is how Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos would lead a conservative industry like banking or construction. As mentioned before, the contingency theory of leadership focuses on external and internal factors, which determine the kind of leadership necessary. In other words, it may require the application of several styles in order to achieve reputable skills.

The success of the two would not be limited, by the fact that their leadership styles are more diverse. For instance, Steve Jobs had several leadership styles, which would be important in taking a contingent approach. However, they would be limited in innovation; their success stories revolve around innovative ideas, which might not have a place in a conservative environment.

While starting a company like Apple or Amazon with five employees, it would be important to apply transformational leadership in order to realize success. This is because transformational approach focuses on having a vision to advance to higher levels in future. It further nurtures talents and skills among employees for maximum performance (Bass & Riggio 2006).

Transformational leadership was highly employed by Jobs and Bezos. This helped in changing their small businesses into multinational companies. Nevertheless, this styles wastes a lot of time since leaders have to share their goals with follower. It can also be misused especially by dictatorial leaders.

From the above report, it is clear that leadership is a major concept in the society. Additionally, the success of leaders largely depends of their leadership qualities and styles. Leadership theorists argue that every leader can be grouped into a particular class of leadership. In this case study, it was revealed that several leadership styles contributed to the success of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, to become world leading CEOs in the 21 st century.

To thrive in this competitive environment, they adopted several leadership styles. Moreover, transformational leadership qualities were key in developing their success story. It is worth noting that different companies may require varying leadership styles for their success.

Bass, B & Riggio, R 2006, Transformational Leadership , Routledge, London.

Bolden et al. 2003, A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks . Web.

Gallos, J 2008, Business Leadership: A Jossey-Bass Reader , John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.

Grint, K 2010, Leadership: A Very Short Introduction , Oxford University Press, London.

Kramer, D 2010, Leadership Behaviors and Attitudes of Steve Jobs . Web.

Leadership Skills Approach . 2012. Web.

Peña, M, 2005, Steve Jobs to 2005 graduates: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish . Web.

‘Taking the long view’ 2012 The Economist (US), vol. 402, p. 1-3.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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Case Study on Leadership Styles

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  • 1. Prepaid by: Rahul Paneliya Case Study on Leadership Styles
  • 2. Case Study: Leadership Styles When it comes to his leadership qualities, Brian Engle has come a long way in the last 15 years. At first, he admits, he probably wasn‟t a good leader at all. In 1992, fresh out of college with an accounting degree, Engle was hired by The Shelter Group, based in Baltimore. His accounting skills got him in the door on the real estate development and property management side of the business, but Engle soon realized he was meant for The Shelter Group‟s senior housing and services component. “I liked working with people and I was really proud of the senior housing product the company was producing at the time,” explains Engle, referring to the Brightview Senior Living communities that came to fruition nearly a decade ago. Engle immersed himself in that rapidly evolving enterprise and eventually took the reins of The Shelter Group‟s senior housing division. “You could say I grew up within the organization,” he says. “As the company grew, so did I and my role within it.” But despite the professional epiphany that led him to serving seniors, Engle wasn‟t as prepared for his first experience as a manager. “I was a young guy, just out of college and probably felt like I had a lot to prove,” Engle recalls. “So when I was given my first leadership opportunities, I probably was more arrogant and defensive than I‟d like to admit. I‟m sure I felt like I had to prove something to the people around me—that I was worthy of being given a managerial position at such a young age.” But those days are long gone, says Engle, who is now Brightview Senior Living‟s vice president of operations. “My management style has changed dramatically since those early experiences,” he explains. “I don‟t feel like I have to prove anything anymore.” Engle says he‟s learned over the years to “respect the folks who work with and for me. I respect the experience and expertise and everything else they bring to the table. “I used to think I had to be the expert,” he adds. “I now understand that‟s not my job. If I surround myself with talented folks, I can be much more effective at doing what I‟m supposed to do, which is help execute the mission and vision of our organization.” So how did Engle get away from misguided to masterful? He became a leadership student of the very people he leads. In other words, he has learned how to become an effective leader—and continues to hone his leadership skills—by allowing for consistent and honest feedback from his employees. On the surface, this may sound like an easy process, but executives and experts alike agree: There‟s nothing easy about opening yourself up to criticism.
  • 3. Checking: Observation Too may leaders lack self-awareness, he explains. “They don‟t know what‟s in their blind spot. It‟s easy for everyone around them to see it, but it‟s not so easy for them to see it themselves. The only way to do that is to ask the people around you.” If you‟re a CEO, that may mean seeking out a member of your board of directors. Other executives may want to talk to a colleague, a mentor, or a spouse. “Ask them, „What am I not seeing about myself that would help me become a better leader?‟” Peck says. “It takes courage to ask that question, but it needs to be asked.” Another option: Talk to your staff. “I often tell clients to get out and talk to their employees,” Peck adds. “When was the last time most of us sat down and talked with everyone in our organization? It‟s so beneficial: You get input, gain insight, and you‟re not just sitting in your office reacting 24/7.” That doesn‟t mean you have to sit down with each staffer individually, Peck explains; focus: ">Lessons in Vulnerability Engle has done all of the above and then some. A strong believer in “peer reviews, 360s, 20/20s—whatever you want to call them,” the industry veteran says he has long “set aside time to talk to the folks who work with me and for me to find out how I‟m doing.” However, that‟s not always an easy thing to do, Engle admits. “It‟s hard to ask those questions and then listen to what people have to say,” he says, especially if you‟re like most leaders and, when asked to rate yourself on a scale between 1 and 10, you give yourself the highest possible score. “Most of us have a rather inflated view of our abilities as leaders,” Engle says. “But you have to be ready for your peers and your employees to not rate you that highly. You have to be tough enough to put yourself out there, hear what people have to say about you, and then follow up with them—to let them know you heard what they said—and plan on doing something with the information you got.” Tiffany Tomasso is also a fan of leadership reviews. Tomasso joined McLean, Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living 15 years ago and has served as COO since 2003. Sunrise works with Gallup to conduct annual employee and customer satisfaction surveys. As part of the employee survey, staff members are asked to evaluate their supervisors, who are then tasked with producing an impact plan. “The end result is that we all learn how to become more effective leaders,” Tomasso says. To
  • 4. escape the process unscathed, she adds, leaders “have to be open to not only soliciting the questions, but listening to the answers. That takes a leader with a certain level of confidence. You have to be confident enough in who you are and your leadership skills to solicit that kind of feedback and then make appropriate changes.” Engle, who says he has learned a lot about himself through such reviews as well as conversations with coaches, colleagues, and even consultants, agrees: “You have to be humble enough to put yourself through these kinds of exercises—to ask the tough questions and then listen to what people have to say—because they can teach you a lot about yourself.” From Theory to Practice During his most recent peer review, Engle says he “looked through the comments and feedback and then stepped back. I met one on one with some of the folks who took the time to fill out the reviews and dug a little deeper into some of the issues they raised.” After those meetings, Engle produced what he calls a mini action plan. “I wrote down some of the highlights, lessons, and surprises as well as some of the things I thought I could do to evolve and grow into a more effective leader.” It‟s a process Engle thinks other assisted living executives would do well to duplicate. “As leaders, we‟re always critiquing our subordinates,” he says, “but we don‟t often let those subordinates critique us.” This is particularly important in the assisted living industry, he adds, “which is all about people. Our job as leaders is to support all of the people working in our communities and in our home offices, and we can‟t possibly know if we‟re doing that effectively unless we take the time to ask them and then truly listen to what they have to say.”
  • 5. Solitary Solutions Not all leadership lessons are learned through the assistance of others. Some lessons leaders must cull on their own from their experiences as the low person on the totem pole. That‟s often been the case for Tiffany Tomasso, COO of Sunrise Senior Living, who has worked in long-term care for 23 years. “I put myself through college by working at McDonald‟s,” says Tomasso. “I was a shift manager at 17, so I‟ve been managing people for a long time.” She also learned a lot as an administrator- in-training at the nursing home she joined just out of school. “I came up through community operations and I‟m well aware of how we run a senior living community,” Tomasso says. “I spent a large part of my career working as a department head, an administrator-in-training, an assistant administrator, an administrator, and so on—so when I moved into more senior roles, I understood everything that went on below me. I brought that first-hand, front-line knowledge with me as I moved up within the organization.” Effective leaders “stay close to the front lines,” she adds. “You can‟t be isolated. You have to be „where the business is,‟ so to speak.”


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