Learning Activity #3
In his article, “What Leaders Really Do,” Kotter (2001)  stated,
” Managers promote stability while leaders press for change, and only
organizations that embrace both sides of the contradiction can thrive in
turbulent times” (p. 3).
the fact pattern below Juan Para must make a decision about hiring June
Davies. Keeping Kotter’s ideas in mind complete the following tasks:
- Define the leader’s and manager’s approach (mindset) to solving the dilemma.
- Determine Para’s solution if he used the leader’s perspective and then if he used the manager’s perspective.
- Do you see a difference? If so what differences? If not, why not? Could the outcome be the same and still benefit the company?
Protection Insurance Stays Alive
7:30 a.m., Juan Para hit the snooze alarm for the third time, but he
knew he could never go back to sleep. Rubbing his eyes and shaking off a
headache, Para first checked his iPhone and read an urgent message from
his boss, explaining that Jack Nixon, chief security analyst, had
resigned last night and needed to be replaced immediately. Frustrated,
Para lumbered toward the shower, hoping it would energize him to face
another day. After last night’s management meeting, which had ended
after midnight, he was reeling from the news that his employer,
Protection Insurance, was spiraling toward a financial meltdown.
scratched his head and wondered, “How could one of the world’s largest
insurance companies plummet from being the gold standard in the industry
to one struggling for survival?” At the end of 2007, Protection
Insurance had $100 billion in annual revenues, 65 million customers, and
96,000 employees in 130 countries. One year later and staggered by
losses stemming from the credit crisis, Protection Insurance teetered on
the brink of failure and was in need of emergency government
assistance. Protection Insurance had been a victim of the meltdown in
the credit markets. The collapse of this respected financial institution
sent shock waves throughout the world’s economy.
Protection Insurance’s Manhattan office, Para and his coworkers felt
growing pressure to respond to this crisis quickly and ethically. But
morale was sagging and decision making was stalled. New projects were
on hold, revenues weren’t coming in fast enough, and job cuts were
imminent. Finger-pointing and resignations of key managers had become
commonplace. Strong leadership was needed to guide employees to stay
the course. Para knew his first priority was to replace Jack Nixon. When
leaving the meeting last night, his boss had told him, “It’s critical
that we keep key managers in place as we weather this storm. If we lose
any managers, be sure you replace them with ones who can handle the
stress and can make tough and even unpopular decisions.”
up a sweat as he rushed into his office, Para began sorting through the
day’s priorities. His first task would be to consider internal
candidates to replace Nixon. He pondered the characteristics required
of a chief securities analyst and scribbled them on a notepad:
experienced in security and regulatory issues; strong decision-making
skills; high ethical standards; able to make job cuts; comfortable with
slashing budgets; and respected for calm leadership. Para immediately
thought of June Davies, a senior analyst who had been vocal about her
desire to move up and had recently shown steady leadership as the
organization started to crumble.
had worked her way up through the organization, becoming a respected
expert in her field. She had developed a strong team of loyal employees
and made training and job development a priority. She was likable,
sensitive to her employees, and a consensus builder. While many
managers within Protection Insurance had made questionable business
decisions, June had held herself to a high ethical standard and created a
culture of integrity. Davies was focused on the future—a go-getter who
knew how to get results.
the future of the company at stake; however, Para wondered if Davies
could handle the tough challenges ahead. Although he valued her
team-building skills, she could be soft when it came to holding
employees accountable. A large part of her motivation was to have
people like her. When she reported a shortfall in earnings in the last
company meeting and came under fire, she became defensive and did not
want to point fingers at employees who were to blame. In fact, Para
recalled another instance when Davies recoiled at the thought of firing
an employee who had developed a pattern of poor attendance while caring
for her sick husband. She confessed a hesitation to confront poor
performers and employees struggling to balance home and work life.
stirred his morning coffee and wondered aloud, “Is June Davies capable
of balancing kindness and toughness during a crisis? Can I count on her
to be decisive and focused on top- and bottom-line results? Is she too
much of a people pleaser? Will it impact her ability to lead