Varying Degrees of Leadership: Successes and Failures in Modern Business Structures By Jim Ernst
Public Relations Management
This paper is focused on the differences between good and bad leaders and the deeper issues that affect individuals in the leadership positions. With a basic knowledge of how managers are successful, future leaders can begin to incorporate these skills into their own management style and become better leaders.
The idea for this research project came from an increased need to determine what traits and skills were found in successful managers. Obvious case examples are those of Enron, Worldcom, and Adelphia, but there are many other managers and CEO’s that let their companies suffer and fail just from their lack of devotion to their respective companies. Research
In today’s business environment, there are many types of organizations and leaders who run these organizations. Great leaders help shape and grow the company while a bad leader can allow the company to go stagnant or even fail. What makes a leader great or bad? This all depends on the characteristics of their own personality. We often see a bad leader as one who embezzles as we have seen with companies like Enron or Adelphia. We can also view bad leadership as CEOs who let their company remain stagnant. One example of this type of leader is Jim Keyes, former CEO of Blockbuster, Inc. He continued to run the organization as it was in its heyday instead of keeping up with the times. He refused to change to the demands and ease of digital rental companies. Even when faced with change, he chose to stay with physical dvds instead of adapt to the digital download market. In such a wide array of leadership types, how can we begin to predict if a leader will be successful or a flop? One area that we can use as a litmus test to see if a new CEO can succeed is by determining if they live into the corporate culture. Corporate Culture is defined as “A blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals, and myths all companies develop over time” (www.entreprenuer.com). We need to be leery of CEOs that want to leave their stamp on an already successful company. This can disrupt what makes the system successful and cause it to loose market share. A similar outcome can be expected if the CEO just sits back and lets a struggling culture continue without change, as has been seen with companies like Kmart.
Joseph Antonini, former CEO of Kmart, was forced to resign as CEO due to his lack of leadership of the failing company. Antonini took control of Kmart in 1986, when the majority of the stores were already failing due to lack of maintenance as well as from fierce competition from Wal-Mart and Target. Antonini tried to revitalize the company by launching new initiatives such as his targeted stock proposal. “Targeted Stock” is the name given by Wall Street bankers to a separate class or series of a company’s common stock with returns tied to the performance of a certain subsidiary or other division of the company1. He also set a goal of trying to open 2000 stores by the year 20002. Even with these attempts to save the company he still was unable to build a business strategy that worked and couldn’t make the shareholders happy. He refused to look at what would work best for the company and what would be needed to have a buy in from the employees and shareholders. With this lack of understanding and thought put into what would be needed to get the culture back on track and an obsession on making his own initiatives successful that it lead to his dismissal from the company. His leadership has also been attributed to the ultimate downfall of Kmart.
Another area that shows if a leader will be successful or not is how the employees and stockholders buy into the company culture and their leadership. Want uses the example of Whole Foods Inc. and their CEO who keeps his own paycheck at a reasonable level in order to remain true...
Bibliography: 1. D. Gordon Smith, “Corporate Governance and Managerial Incompetence: Lessons from Kmart,” North Carolina Law Review Vol 74 Number 4 (1996):1037 – 1139.
2. Jerome Want, Corporate Culture: Illuminating the Black Hole. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006.
3. David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man. London: Southbank Publishing, 1963.
4. Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York: Business Plus (2010)
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