Turknett Leadership Group


Case Study: Responsibility and Courage Lead to a New Profit Center

Developing Leadership Character:

Respect and Emotional Mastery Get Business Results

Joan is an executive in a scientific products firm. She was an “overly aggressive” leader, but highly skilled technically and very valuable to the company. Many who worked for her respected her competence, but saw her as a bully.

Integrity: Joan was honest and highly principled but others viewed her as lacking in integrity. They reasoned that she couldn’t have much integrity if she was willing to treat people with so much disrespect.

Respect: Treating others with Respect did not come easy for Joan and her style in working with people reflected little empathy. She was most lacking in emotional mastery. She would lose her temper in public, at times with her superiors and peers, but most often with her direct reports. Whenever a mistake was made or things did not go as planned, Joan looked for someone to blame. She thought that her way was the right way - the only way to get results. Her behavior often didn’t get results, though. People didn’t want to work for her because they were afraid of her outbursts. She often wasn’t told when things went wrong - a problem with a customer, for example, or a defect in a product - until it was at crisis proportions. No one wanted to be the messenger of bad news for fear of her reaction.

Responsibility: Accepting Responsibility was a strength for Joan. She felt personally accountable for the success of the company, and for the success of any project she was involved in. She would work long and hard to see that any job got done. She was courageous and confident - willing to try almost anything, willing to stand up to her superiors if she thought a decision was being made that would be harmful to the company, and willing to take risk. And she was able to focus on the whole. She was one of the few executives in the company who thought in terms of company-wide processes - how products were developed and readied for market, how customers were acquired and satisfied, and how orders were obtained and delivered. She knew the business and industry well, although her industry knowledge would have been more valuable to the company had she been able to build and maintain relationships inside and outside the company.

Moving Forward: Joan became inspired about developing her leadership and about repairing her relationships and partnerships with her people. She began by apologizing to those she had offended, and made it clear that she was taking 100% responsibility for making the relationship work. She set out gathering input from each of her people on a wide variety of issues, and worked with them to implement as many of these ideas as possible. She worked hardest to “reframe” her thinking so that she could control her emotional outbursts. When people did things that she thought were stupid, instead of saying to herself, “I can’t believe what an idiot she is,” and exploding, she thought, “The person is fallible, and either doesn’t have the information or the experience yet to handle this well. I’ll have to figure out what I can do to prevent this from happening again.” She also worked hard to listen to others and to show respect. Her overall results improved significantly.