3.1 Case Study—Several Different Styles Vanessa Mills was recently hired to work at a branch of Lakeshore Bank as a personal banker. The branch is very busy and has a large staff, including three on-site managers. As a new employee, Vanessa is trying to figure out how to succeed as a personal banker while meeting the expectations of her three very different managers. Vanessa is paid a salary, but also receives a commission for activities including opening new accounts and selling new services to customers such as credit cards, lines of credit, loans, and stock accounts. Personal bankers are expected to open a certain number of accounts each month and build relationships with customers by exploring their various banking needs and offering services to meet those needs. Marion Woods is one of the managers at Vanessa’s branch. She has worked for Lakeshore Bank for 10 years and prides herself on the success of the branch. Marion openly talks about employees’ progress in terms of the number of accounts opened or relationships established, and then commends or scolds people depending on their productivity. Marion stresses to Vanessa the importance of following procedures and using the scripts that Marion provides to successfully convince customers to open new accounts or accept new services with the bank. As a new banker, Vanessa has not opened many accounts and feels very uncertain about her competence. She is intimidated by Marion, believing that this manager is continually watching and evaluating her. Several times Marion has publically criticized Vanessa, commenting on her shortcomings as a personal banker. Vanessa tries hard to get her sales numbers up so she can keep Marion off her back. Bruce Dexter, another manager at Vanessa’s branch, has been with Lakeshore Bank for 14 years. Bruce started out as a teller and worked his way up to branch manager. As a manager, Bruce is responsible for holding the bank staff’s Monday morning meetings. At these staff meetings, Bruce relays the current numbers for new accounts as well as the target number for new accounts. He also lists the number of new relationships the personal bankers have established. After the meetings, Bruce retreats back into his office where he sits hidden behind his computer monitor. He rarely interacts with others. Vanessa likes when Bruce retreats into his office because she does not have to worry about having her performance scrutinized. However, sometimes when Vanessa is trying to help customers with a problem that falls outside of her banking knowledge, she is stressed because Bruce does not provide her with any managerial support. The third manager at the branch is Heather Atwood. Heather just started at Lakeshore Bank within the last year, but worked for nine years at another bank. Vanessa finds Heather to be very helpful. She often pops in when Vanessa is with a customer to introduce herself and make sure everything is going well. Heather also allows Vanessa to listen in when she calls disgruntled customers or customers with complicated requests, so Vanessa can learn how to manage these types of interactions. Heather trusts her staff and enjoys seeing them grow, encouraging them by organizing games to see who can open the most accounts and offering helpful feedback when customer interactions do not go as planned. Vanessa is grateful for the advice and support she receives from Heather, and looks up to her because she is competent and kind. Vanessa is coming up on her three-month review and is very nervous that she might get fired based on her low sales record and the negative feedback she has received from Bruce and Marion regarding her performance. Vanessa decides to talk to Heather about her upcoming review and what to expect. Heather assures Vanessa that she is doing fine and shows promise even if her numbers have not reached that of a seasoned banker. Still, Vanessa is concerned about Bruce and Marion. She has hardly had more than two conversations with Bruce and feels intimidated by Marion who, she perceives, manages by running around barking numbers at people.
Based on the assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y, how would you describe each manager’s philosophy and style of leadership? In what way do the managers’ attitudes about Vanessa affect their leadership?
In this type of customer service setting, which leadership style would be most effective for the bank to meet its goals?
From the bank’s perspective, which (if any) manager exhibits the most appropriate leadership?
Discuss. What advice would you give to each of the managers to enhance his or her leadership skills within the bank?
What do you think Vanessa can do to prepare herself for her three-month review?
3.2 Case Study—Leading the Robotics Team Anders Dahlgren is the mentor for a high school robotics team that has spent the past three months designing, building, and programming a robot for competition. The team is composed of 14 boys and one girl, and the students range from freshmen to seniors. With the first competition in three weeks, Anders needs to designate a team captain so the team can get used to working under a new leader. During the competition, the team captain is often called on to make crucial team decisions. The robotics team is divided into groups: Mechanical, whose members design and build the robot, and Programming, whose members develop the computer code that tells the robot how to complete its tasks. During competition, the team captain will have to work with both groups to tweak the robot’s design and programming on the fly to improve the robot’s performance. It can be a high-pressure job for any teenager, and with emotions and stress levels of other team members running on high, the captain will not only need an understanding of both the mechanical and programming aspects, but must also be able to keep 14 other personalities and egos working toward a common goal. There are three members of the robotics team that Anders is considering for captain: • Pria is a junior and the only girl on the team. This is her second year on the team, and she is in the Programming group. Anders describes her as being very serious and a whiz at coding, and she has offered some great design ideas. Pria is very organized—after the team’s first meeting of the year, she developed a schedule with tasks and deadlines and wrote it on the large whiteboard in the workshop so team members could follow it. Pria doesn’t have a lot of patience with teenage boy shenanigans and will admonish her group members to “focus, please” whenever she thinks they’ve gotten off task, such as when they start talking about YouTube videos or music. Pria is very rule-bound and will point out when team members try to cut corners or haven’t adequately followed instructions or the schedule. Anders has noticed that when the other programming group members have a problem or obstacle, they defer to Pria for a solution. He suspects it’s partly because they respect her opinion and partly because they know she’ll tell them how to fix it regardless. Once, though, when Pria was home sick, Anders overheard several of the boys from both groups call Pria “bossy” and say she “stressed them out” with her deadlines and rigidity. • Justin, a senior, is also in his second year on the team. An upbeat, congenial kid, Justin is a member of the Mechanical group. He isn’t much for planning, however; he has a tendency to pick up a power tool and use it before he has actually thought out what he is going to do with it. The other Mechanical group members call him “MacGyver” because he is great working with his hands and often comes up with fixes to mechanical problems by just fiddling around with different pieces and parts for an hour or so. The group members are also pretty forgiving when Justin makes a mistake because his sense of humor keeps them all laughing and he always finds a way to fix it. Anders notices that the Mechanical group is the most creative when Justin is at the helm, but that work sessions can devolve into chaos pretty quickly if Anders doesn’t step in and set parameters and establish goals. • Jerome, also a member of the Mechanical group, is quiet, respectful, and polite. He is a senior and has been on the robotics team since his freshman year. He is a veteran of robotics competitions, and what he has learned over the years has informed a lot of the team’s efforts this year. He is most happy working on the computer-aided designs for the robot and helping those building it to understand and follow the plans and schematics. When group members question elements of his design, however, he will ask, “How do you think we should do it?” He listens to their ideas, and if the other group members agree, they will implement an idea even when Jerome personally doesn’t think it’ll work. Jerome’s method of allowing for trial and error often slows down progress; when the group realizes an idea won’t work, the team members will have to take apart what was built and start over. Anders asked Jerome why he isn’t more assertive in defending his plans, and Jerome answered, “That’s just not my style. How do I know I have all the right answers? We are all supposed to be learning, right? And if I insist they do it my way all the time, how will we learn anything?”
How would you describe the individual leadership styles of Pria, Justin, and Jerome?
Based on the assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y, how would you describe Pria, Justin, and Jerome’s individual philosophies of leadership?
The robotics team will be asked to compete in a situation that sounds like it will be intense and stressful. Do you think a democratic leader would be as effective as an authoritarian leader in this situation?